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BOOKS: Pacific Feast: A guide to foraging coastal edibles

Jul 12th, 2011 | Category: Books

by Jessica Harbert

If one was to wander into their back yard and expect to find ingredients to whip up a delicious dinner, would it be possible? With recipes incorporating anything from dandelion root to sea kelp to rose petals, Pacific Feast: a Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine showcases local ingredients that can be foraged throughout the coastal Northwest and used in delicious and simple meals. Author Jennifer Hahn is a professor at Western Washington University as well as a writer, illustrator and wilderness guide who partnered with ethnobotanist Mac Smith to bring this plethora of knowledge to print.

The cookbook offers a wealth of information about foraging and identifying edible plants and also includes essays highlighting Hahn’s adventures foraging along the West Coast. The book is filled with more than 60 recipes to guide readers through preparing tasty dishes post-forage, many from famous Pacific Northwest chefs including David Tanis and Tom Douglas. The simple-to-follow recipes are also great inspiration for adaptations and spur of the moment ingredient additions that are sure to mix up the satiating flavors.

But the learning doesn’t stop there as Hahn leads local workshops about foraging and cooking. These classes lead on foot or by sea kayak, help educate the participants on what is edible, proper harvesting methods and what flavors can be used to concoct some delicious flavors.

As for current favorites on the foraging front, Hahn said oyster mushrooms are currently a good pick.

“Oyster mushrooms are blooming on the dead alder trees like crazy right now,” Hahn said. “The wet spring and the warming weather has brought the flush on. Oyster mushrooms are easy to identify. They are floppy, whitish to tan to grey and yellow with age. They lack an obvious mushroom stem. But you should never pick and eat them unless you are 110 percent sure!”

Recently, Hahn taught a foraging class at the Washington Northwest Stream Center in Everett. On a rainy afternoon in June, 13 locals got together to trek through the trails on a search for edible foliage. The feast created after the expedition was absolutely mouthwatering. Nettle hazelnut pesto, Nootka Rose petal salad, fresh salmon in sorrel sauce (the salmon was one of few non-foraged ingredients) and roasted dandelion root ice cream to name a few. The satisfied students were able to proudly enjoy their meal which they were involved in the making of from the beginning to the end.

First experiencing the joy of wild-foraged foods, Hahn spent her childhood touring the country on food adventures, reeling trout for breakfast in Yellowstone, picking blue berries in Maine and digging razor clams in Washington.

“Throughout my childhood summers, my wanderlust, windowed father, a welding teacher at a Technical College, packed us four kids into a VW camper and headed for the wildest country he could find,” Hahn said.

Since that time, her passion for the proverbial plant hunt has continued, to say the least.

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Guide and recipes

The book includes a color guide to wild edibles (it comes laminated as well) and a number of recipes, including:

• Nettle Martini from Willows Inn, Lummi Island
• Huckleberry and Port Wine Sorbet from Lynn Berman of Pastazza, Bellingham
• Nootka Rose Panna Cotta with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote and Blackberry Spot Prawns with Creamy Polenta from Gretchen Allison of Duck Soup Inn, San Juan Island
• Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding from Kristine Kager and Lance Bailey of Fools Onion catering,  Bellingham
• Wakame “Fettuccine” from Jessica and M. Mataio Gillis of Ciao Thyme, Bellingham
• Creamy Sea Vegetable and Smoked Salmon Chowder, and Chocolate Ocean Pudding Pie from author Jennifer Hahn
• Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Torte with Raspberry Puree

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