Wild in the City: Foraging Fridays

this week:

earlier in the week, fern, leo and i went to lake merced, in search of chokecherries. i have a romantic notion to make syrup out of them and they do supposedly grow in the bay area, near streams and bodies of water. we traipsed around, passing an elderly gentleman who was dragging along a suitcase on wheels and taking a walk with a cat. “come on mac. come on. jump up on the bench now. it’s dinner time.” the man and the cat sat down on a bench as we passed by, and the man then procured from his suitcase a bowl of kitty kibble. smiling, i said, “i think you just made our day”.

following a sweet scent, we left the paved path and a ways into the brush we found pearly everlasting…the pacific west’s version of echinacia. i plan on going back in the next few days to pick some. but i was still obsessed with finding chokecherries before fern’s window of good humor began to close. i heard a hawk cry, piercing the sky in front of us and thought it was as good a sign as any, so we walked towards it. following the shriek it let out every few moments we found blackberries, which fern crammed into her face despite their being tart. finally, we stopped beneath the tree where the hawk sat…and lo and behold…chokecherries.

5 chokecherries, to be exact. just enough for the mice to make jam. so we left them. and instead, picked these…

the fruit of the sea fig (also mistakenly known as ice plant)

remember this post?

it was my unsuccessful venture to find hottentot figs. what i didn’t know is that while the sea fig flowers in spring (primarily, but also all year) the fruit is not fully developed until the fall. what i also didn’t realize until after i picked the ones shown above is that the fruit is ripe when most of the body is rusty colored. still, i made my first attempt at sweet and sour fig syrup.

hidden within my tough thick skin is a tender heart
first, cut off the bottom, to where the inner end is revealed
then cut off the spikey top, all the way past the wilted flower stamens
slice down the middle and then peel off the outer skin. this is how i figured out ripeness. it was hard to removed the skin from the mostly green ones, and the skin fell away on the mostly red.
oh hai. i'm a teeny tiny fig...
...full of teenier tinier seeds
i quartered them and put them in a saucepan
added water and brown sugar. enough water to cover and equal amounts sugar to figs. and boiled and boiled and then simmered and simmered and simmered.
voila! syrup. actually, i ended up straining out the seeds from the flesh, since the flesh sucked all the water out of your mouth and was basically disgusting. the seedy goo inside the figs is salty and slightly sweet. the syrup had a lovely tropical fruity scent and was quite tasty. i made jeff taste it without telling him what it was. he gobbled it up on toast.

as a forager and a gardener, the melancholy of the end of summer is tempered a bit by the activity of seed saving. i have just begun to save a few here and there…heirloom beans, red poppy seeds, spinach, chard, peas. one of the pearly everlasting flowers i brought home dried out and shattered its seeds in fluff piles all around it…so i saved those too.

red poppy seeds, with three cornered leek bulbs and cranberry beans in the background
the glamorous orca beans
cranberry beans. so shiny!
fern thinks the best way to seed save is to keep it in her stomach. here i offer evidence of a zinnia that was devoured.

are you honoring all your hard labor this weekend? time to rest our squirrely selves, before the final dash to prepare for winter. even though we often think of ourselves out of touch with natural cycles, do you ever notice the fevered pitch that starts up in september and october before winding down in november? we still store up our nuts and seeds, literally and metaphorically. oooo…and speaking of which…it’s acorn season soon. can’t wait!

have a great weekend!


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