foraging & grazing

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08.08.2013 by Andrea

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bushwick open studios

Growing up as the daughter of a conservation agronomist, topics such as erosion, top soil, and different crop rotation methods were a norm at our supper table. My brothers and I found that our mom enjoyed putting a fruit and vegetable serving on our plates at each meal. This led to not having much trade leverage with anyone at lunchtime [carrots and apples slices, anyone], during the school week [surprise, surprise]. At dinner my little bro and I had a barter system, I didn’t like fruit [and still really don’t to this day] and he wasn’t a veggie eater, [which has since changed], so we would attempt to subtly swap these delightful dinner components. I tend to think we were successful in thinking we fooled our mom, because to this day I still try to wiggle out of some of the fruit she wants me to eat and luckily my brother is still happy to receive my fruit portions.

We were fortunate, in that we grew up with both sets of grandparents having lush gardens in their backyards. Our childhood memories are filled with eating fresh raspberries, canning peaches, and sinking our teeth into sweet corn that took only moments to cook. Flash forward several decades and my brother, with his wife, have raised beds in their backyard, regularly enjoy making their own salsas, and utilize fresh herbs and produce in their cooking. I occasionally try to make a round through the local farmers markets seeking those farm fresh tastes that pepper my memory. Here’s a birds eye view into some of my more recent adventures.

grandkids and grandma's benefited from gardening

grandkids and grandma’s benefited from gardening

Back at the start of spring I went and listened and then sampled some of the items Tama Matsuoka Wong gathers on her foraging hunts. Renowned for being a leader in the natural collection arena, this mother/wife/lawyer/weed connoisseur definitely broadened my spectrum of what’s worth plucking and throwing in the compost pile and what’s good for consumption.

An advisor to high end restaurants Tama has taken items such as wild fennel and sumac and been able to partner with mixologists to incorporate them into cocktails.

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mocktail hour

Ms. Wong served to be a very passionate and hands on lecturer. Her tangible and insightful teaching style allowed us the experience of tearing off and sampling some of the leaves of roots that she had dug up just that morning from a field trip in her backyard. It was also nice to be able to see the final outcome of how she can take a weed from it’s leafy stage and make it the center stage darling of a dish, or mute it’s flavors a but still provide a bits of pop and pizazz.

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a lil’ taster

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from weed to in demand kitchen cooking component

It was equally fascinating to see a weed, such as artemisia, in it’s raw form and then moments later be downing a soup shooter. How Ms. Wong paired the flavors made it cool and refreshing and would rival any summer soup I’ve ever tried. photo 2

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the educator extraordinaire, Ms. Wong

Tana used sumac to rim cocktail glasses but also paired a guinea hen appetizer with these seeds. Just when you think you can’t be surprised any more by weeds in your own backyard, a mixture of stinging nettles married to a sumac puree and presented as a sort of deviled egg will blow your mind. When did stinging nettles become so hip? photo 2-1

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It wouldn’t be difficult to continue touting the talents that Tama displays. I think the best part of her story is that she is willing to take risks, she walked away from a corporate job to pursue her passion and you can see, hear, touch, and taste that evidence in her work. If any of this sounds like something up your alley I recommend visiting the Meadows + More website, picking up her book Foraged Flavor, or considering an actual afternoon of weed foraging and gathering with her.

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No sleep till Brooklyn might be what the Beastie Boys rapped about but I will tell you that the Bushwick Open Studios weekend is a magical event. My friend M and I love prowling around her neighborhood in general to see what kind of spontaneous and carefully crafted art might be shared with us streetwalkers. Bushwick Open Studios is a unique opportunity to see artists in their creative space and arenas. It allows for viewing works in-progress, as well as finished. Walking through apartments, workspaces and street vendors for several hours was not enough time. I could prattle on and on about how wonderful this is. My only wish was that I had truly blocked out the entire weekend to see more that was being offered.

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There were several different highlights during our stroll in Bushwick but one that was the greatest surprise was walking through the Bushwick Starr, a theatre, out to the rooftop to one of the most urban growing experiences I have witnessed firsthand. Boswyck Farms is a hydroponic, soilless growing method, educational well. This multi-person team has taken on wanting to feed their community with their produce and is most generous in sharing their knowledge and passion with everyone. They were very much encouraging to their rooftop visitors to tear a leaf off and taste a hybrid lime basil plant. It felt imaginary, much like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, to be told the flavor profile that was going to tickle our tongues and have vivid tastes that were exactly as described fill our nostrils and tastebuds with a stunningly sharp accuracy.

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My rosemary starter is currently being housed in M’s apartment and I can’t wait to see how we can twist this little gem into a sparkler all in it’s own right. Anyone and everyone who wants to see the evolution of modern growing methods should consider visiting Bosywck Farms. Just writing about the team, their quest to teach and share their abundant knowledge and fruits of their labor makes me excited to dig in deeper and partner with them in the future.

Swinging to the other side of the country. My eating took me from gardens to farm-raised and fresh caught and freshly plucked. I’ve mentioned that in my opinion it’s hard to compare any other place to the Northwest during the summer. My thoughts on that will probably never waver and it’s due in part to our topography and naturally the access to amazing local foods. Throwing out pots, catching our own crab, cooking it, cracking it and dropping the shells back in the water might just be the epitome of fresh. Foraging, by definition, is searching for and and achieving food resources. I might have exploited foraging a bit when I was in Roche Harbor recently and went on a 4 day crab eating bender. My thoughts on all that is delicious and what Roche has to offer will be featured on 24 Dollar Burger later this week. Sorry little crabbies, and thank you all at the same time.

fresh crab, ready for my belly

fresh crab, ready for my belly

A couple of weeks ago when I was in Lake Chelan area we had the chance to eat breakfast at Blueberry Hills. This down home barn dining experience is definitely owning their farm fresh mantra. You can pick your own blueberries, and various other in-season berries for a nominal charge. The food is delicious, ham tastes like ham and doesn’t have a fake pink tinge, and the blueberries are as plump and as juicy as they should. Seattle food critics have raved about this joint, and it was well worth standing in line and waiting for.

manson, washington

manson, washington

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blueberries that taste like blueberries

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While it’s easy to be biased about what the Northwest has to offer in terms of harvesting and utilizing sustainable methods, when I was in Atlanta recently dining at the 5 Seasons Brewing I was impressed with the depth of their menu and willingness to showcase locally grown and in-state gems, such as the peach, in their daily rotation. My server informed me that in all of the years he has worked there, the beauty of their menu lies in their daily specials and the utilization of Georgia’s fresh products. I fell in love with peach salads last year, and this one was better than the Seahawks pre-season win against the Chargers and their depth chart combined.

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Georgia, your peaches are on my mind, and I can’t wait to revisit 5SB.

Eating clean has become a trend and lifestyle that most people are familiar with, and in the next post, I will share what the W’s have done to change their eating, but not affect the flavors. They’ve been making gourmet meals for us all summer, and this next one is sure to be the pinnacle of seasons dining extravaganzas. Finally, the countdown is nearing single digits for when the Huskies to retake Montlake. August 31 can’t be here soon enough.

Until the next bite, cheers.

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