Wild in the East Bay: Foraging Fridays

What in tarnation is going on ’round here? This week has been, hands down, one of the most…what’s the word here…crazy, intense, traumatic, all of the above…that I have ever experienced. Don’t fret, we are all very ok and perhaps even fortunate. I’ll be able to share some of the story next week, but I’m also still in the thick of preparing for our conference. So here is a short and sweet foraging post to send you off into the weekend. (Woo Hoo Bay Area…it’s going to be a warm one!)

I sure do wish I had taken this bay native up on her offerings when I saw her last weekend. I could use some of her magic and protection.

Artemisia Douglasiana

Artemisia Douglasiana, also known as California Mugwort, thrives in the hills of the East Bay, and can often be found hob nobbing with Bay Laurel and Poison Oak in our scrubby woodlands. She is related very closely to Artemisia Vulgaris, or common mugwort or wormwood, which has centuries of use in folkloric and medicinal herbalism.

I have never felt called to use her medicinally. However, as a dreamtime companion, she is unparalleled. Putting a few fresh leaves (highly recommended) or even a satchel of the dried, under your pillow, makes for a visceral and vivid experience while dreaming. Don’t be surprised if your adventures in sleepland take on a prophetic quality. Even if you scoff at such ideas, her wonderful scent is reason enough for sweet dreams.

My little satchel for keeping leafy friends under my pillow.

Finding Mugwort in the wild always gives me an X Marks the Spot kind of feeling. Pay attention to this place right here. Perk up your ears…both the literal and the metaphorical ones. Be still. Be blessed.

I saw this convention of artemisia hanging out near the Alameda Creek in the Sunol Wilderness last weekend. While Fern fought with Jeff for her right to get swept away by the muddy groundswell of water, I sat down near the mugwort and had a chat. Actually, I did a lot more listening than talking, only opening my trap to say “thank you”. Mostly what I experienced was her presence, her song, her vibration. It was blissful.

You dig?

Later that day, as we slumped along in heavy traffic, we made a detour into the Berkeley Marina.

The trail was puddliscious, so somebody was able to get her sploosh on.

Fern and the Puddle of Infinity.

While Fern had her baptism, I ran into some curious friends…

Salicornica. Also known as Marsh Samphire (what a great name!), glasswort, pickleweed or…

Sea Beans!

Sea Beans are a type of succulent that is tolerant of briney water. These little beauties were growing all along the edge of the marina. Succulents have a high water content and as such…Sea Beans, while highly edible, are also incredibly salty. They can be eaten raw (I was thinking they would be a perfect little nibble with a cold pint of beer) or blanched to remove some of the salt and then eaten with butter and pepper. I’ve never had them cooked, but I hear they taste like asparagus. Sadly, since the bay has varying levels of pollution, it didn’t feel safe to forage a large quantity.

We also felt dubious about some of the mud that Fern got on her feet, so Jeff made toe tea.

It’s the height of spring here, so I expect all you Best Coasters to get out there this weekend and forage. Report back, stat.

The Disclaimer

Think with your stomach! Do not ingest wild plants unless you are sure you have identified them correctly and are willing to take responsibility for using yourself as a guinea pig. It is SO not my responsibility if you eat the wrong thing and get poopy pants, or die. You’re an adult. you can make your own choices.

Happy Earth Day!!


3 thoughts on “Wild in the East Bay: Foraging Fridays

  1. A raise my imaginary beer to you and say here is cheers(!) for a better week next week! clink! Mugwort has a rich history indeed, thanks for the links. It’s warm here today too, it started off about 44F and is now about 70F, crazy weather.

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