Gourmet Dinner for Free
Foraging in KitsapCounty
Creamy mushroom soup followed by sweet, steamed manila clams and crunchy sea asparagus. Or maybe you prefer salty, tender oysters with sautéed baby nettles and blackberries with cream? How about if it was FREE and you had the pleasure of gathering it yourself on a sunny afternoon? Be thankful that you live in Kitsap County because all of this is outside your door!
Foraging is a term used that basically means “good free food”. We’ll explore a few items that are all within a short trip of our home and some of the guidelines for finding and collecting them.
Clams and Oysters
Amazingly some of the easiest delectables to find. You’ll need a little bit of organization for this harvest, but it is well worth the effort! First, you’ll need a season or day shellfish gathering license. Easily bought online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses.html
and they are very inexpensive. Next, you’ll want to choose a beach that is allowing shellfish harvesting. Use this handy link to look that up http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/beachreg. Lastly, you’ll want to go at a low tide. The lower the tide the better since that will open up more beach.
Now for the fun part. For clams get a shovel, hand spade or hand rake and a bucket. Go to the part of the beach with the most sand (not rocky) and walk until you find a spot with air holes. You shouldn’t have to dig more then a foot or so for manilas and steamers. And there should be plenty in one hole. Put them in your bucket (with some sea water), fill the hole back in that you just dug and move on to another spot. When I have all I need I usually take the bucket down to the water and try to rinse out as much sand as possible and then partially fill the bucket back up with water.
The clams will need to purge their sand before you can eat them. Let them sit for at least 4 hours in their water in a cool place and then they should be ready to go.
Oyster gathering is even easier! Go to a designated oyster bed (links provided above) with an oyster knife and bucket. At low tide you can walk to the water’s edge and see the oysters clinging to the rocks. You’ll literally be walking on them! Oysters must be shucked and the shells discarded where you found them. This is because the next generation of oysters uses the old shells for growing. All you’ll be taking home is the freshly shucked oyster meat.
It looks some what like normal asparagus with a firmer texture. Sea asparagus likes tidal ponds and mid tidal range. You can find them on Bainbridge in Blakely Harbor, Wing Point and Eagle Harbor. Take only the newer shoots or pinch off the tops since the rest can be woody. Blanch it until it turns bright green and then sauté it and serve while still crunchy. You might also see this plant referred to as "sea beans" or "pickleweed."
Shaggy Mane Mushrooms
You’ll probably never find them in the store since they are so delicate. Many consider these some of the best mushrooms to eat and they require very little searching for. In our climate they come up when the weather starts to cool from October through Thanksgiving. They make for easy mushroom hunting since they appear out in the open in lawns and grassy areas. Their distinctive look makes them easy to spot even for a novice ‘shroom hunter. They must be cooked immediately! Don’t even let them sit over night. Just boil them
about 12 minutes in the very smallest amount of water and then they can be chilled for a few days before cooking up in your favorite dish. They also make wonderful soup for a cold fall day. There are some reports of people having a bad reaction if they drink alcohol within 24 hours of consuming shaggy manes, so best save the wine for another dinner.
Here is a recipe that requires about 2 cups of Shaggy Mane Mushrooms:
Gifford Family Shaggy Mane Soup
- Mince 2 shallots and sauté over medium heat in 1/4 c butter
- Add shaggy manes and cook a few minutes to soften
- Add 1 clove garlic – finely chopped
- Sprinkle 2 tbsp flour over, stir in and cook about 3 minutes
- Here's where you get to choose! It's time to add 2 cups of liquid. #1 choice is goat's milk, adds a distinct earthiness that is just GREAT with the mushrooms. Also can use a combination of 1 cup rich chicken stock and 1 cup whole milk, or just 2 cups whole milk
- Finally - cook over very, very low heat for 10-20 minutes and season to taste
Other foods to find
Our ever-present blackberries. Don’t take them for granted and really finish off a meal with a bang by having a bowl of these covered in cream.
Get back at those awful nettles by eating them! Put on a pair of gloves and pinch off the top young part or new growth. Sauté them like you would spinach with butter, garlic and salt. Eat them before they flower in July, as they become very high in oxalic acid later in the year.