Category Archives: Foraging

Midwinter Merriment: Be classy!

Here it is – a countdown til spring. From now until the first day of spring, I will post ways to make the dreary days of midwinter a little more merry.

Day 21: Take a gardening class.

21_Take_a_ClassThis is the best time to learn something new. Put your pent-up gardening energy into learning some new skills for your garden this spring. I’m enrolled in a 10-hour beekeeping class through the Puget Sound Beekeepers’ Association. I may not be able to start my own hive this year, but I’ll be able to learn some new skills and get my beekeeping fix in this class and at the association’s apiary work parties. I can hardly wait!

Here are some classes that have caught my eye:

Spots are filling up fast for my upcoming Spring Fling! In fact, March 30th is almost sold out! There are two more spots available that day and a few more on Sunday, April 7th! Sign up and bring a friend! There are even a few mother-daughter garden nerds that are coming! I wish my mom could be at my class! Love!

Day 22: Plant bare root.
Day 23: Sign up for Seattle Seedling’s Spring Fling!
Day 24: Plant primroses.
Day 25: Get yourself a doughnut and make it “for here.”
Day 26: Frequent the Farmers’ Market
Day 27: Eat Root Vegetables Disguised as Cake!
Day 28: Be a Garden Show Goer.
Day 29: Drink more hot chocolate.
Day 30: Create a springtime “advent” calendar.

Video: Good Fish

I met Becky on one of the foraging adventures she taught and I’ve been hooked on nettles ever since. Later, I had the privilege of buffing up on my kitchen skills some more in her Thai Street Food class and Rabbit cooking class at the Pantry. I finally bought her cookbook, Good Fish, at the last class. I don’t know why I never bought it before. I’m looking forward to my good fish cooking adventures, which I’m sure will keep me inspired and satisfied this winter.

Becky’s super down-to-earth and fun. She is a private chef and cooking teacher, but is also a lovely writer – her column in Edible Seattle reveals a bit of her fun sense of humor. She wrote a great article last week for October Unprocessed on choosing sustainable seafood, which I thought was totally approachable and informative. She also has a ton of neat videos on how to do all things seafood. Since it’s video Monday, I thought I’d share them with you. You can check out all of them here, but I’ve embedded one in today’s post to pique your interest. I learned this technique on the foraging/cooking adventure I mentioned before. So cool!

If you haven’t met already, consider this a formal introduction. Friends, meet Becky. Becky, meet my friends. I hope you get to know each other!

Ripening Pears

If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me if I use the pears that hang over the fence into my yard, I’d be rich! And I don’t blame people for asking. My neighbors have a beautiful pear tree (Comice, I think?) and I’m grateful to have almost half of its branches grace me with their presence. They add as much character to my patio as if the tree was on my side of the property line. But the truth is, I’ve never figured out how to properly harvest and ripen the damn things! I’ve tried before. When the big, beautiful pears started dropping onto my patio last year, I plopped a bunch of rock-hard fruit into a brown paper bag and waited hopefully only to end up with still rock-hard pears or mush. This year though, the site of the potential bounty was just too much. I needed to do some research and make this happen. I made that my intention, asked my neighbors for permission to pick with the promise of reciprocating the love in canned goods and proceeded to harvest 35 pounds of beautiful pears. They just gave me another 8 1/2 pound bag of them, so that makes over 40 pounds! I found this super informative article from the OSU Extension and I most definitely learned a thing or two. I’m going to give you the gist. Leaving the pears to ripen on the tree won’t work – they’ll ripen from the inside out. There is a process, but it’s not that difficult. Here are the big ideas:

  • Pick ’em when they’re ripe – which means, if you lift the pear up so it’s horizontal and it snaps right off the tree, it’s ripe for the picking.
  • Cool ’em down – Pears need to be cooled before ripening at room temperature. Commercial growers bring them down to 30 degrees. So since my freezer is too cold and my fridge is 38 degrees, that is where they went – into the fridge. Barlett pears only need a couple days in the fridge, but others should stay cool for 2 to 6 weeks. Since I’m not exactly sure what type mine are, I’m going to keep mine in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.
  • Ripen in a bag – Once they’ve gone through a chilling process, then you can ripen them as you would most other fruit. Most pears will ripen to perfection in about 5 – 7 days, but must be watched closely so they don’t get too mushy. To speed up the ripening process, the pears can be put into a paper bag with a ripe banana or apple.

My pears still need another week or so in the fridge, but once I complete the ripening process, I’ll let you know how I fared. I see pear butter and pear sauce in my future!

Our Neighborhood is Our Orchard

Going back to school means reconnecting with friends and colleagues I haven’t seen since June. It means repeatedly answering the question, “How was your summer?” to which I repeatedly reply, “It was amazing!” I am always grateful for this time we get to recharge, but this summer was especially rewarding. I learned to take better care of me this summer. And because of that, I’ve been including in my response, with confidence and a smile, “I am refreshed and ready for the new year!” I put on my own oxygen mask first this summer, so now I can focus on the children.

One of the most important routines I put into practice this summer was taking a walk. A walk – not for exercise or to get to a specific destination. I’ve been calling them “meditation walks” –  a walk to clear my head, calm my body and mind, and take in the beauty around me. Never before this summer did I realize how beautiful the neighborhood trees look in the setting sun. I slowed down and tuned in to the simple details around me and felt like I was seeing for the first time.

It was on one of these kinds of walks that I noticed the plums. I can’t remember what grabbed my attention – the shriveled-up purple skeletons hanging on to their pits on the sidewalk or the canopy above me that seemed to reveal more purple orbs inside the tree than on the outside. I reached up to feel one perfectly ripe plum and a light bulb went off in my head – I should pick these. I continued my walk home only to notice more fruit trees all around me, ready for the picking. When I got home, I grabbed a notepad and some tape and went back up the road.

At the risk of looking crazy, I left a note on my neighbor’s door. This led to our connecting, me bringing my ladder over and harvesting 20 pounds of delicious, ripe plums, which I’m still preserving. I can’t wait to share my gratitude with my neighbor via a mason jar. And I can’t help but think of The Alchemist, one of my favorite books.

My sister recently reminded me of a scene from the book where the main character is told by a man to walk through this palace carrying a container of oil. He is warned not to spill any of the oil, so he walks through the palace, dead set on his task. He emerges, proud of himself for accomplishing his mission. No oil was lost. But when the man asks him if he saw the beautiful tapestries and decorations on the walls, he hadn’t seen them at all. He was so focused on the oil, his objective and destination, he missed out on the journey. As we speed walk through life, what bounty are we passing by? More than 20 pounds of plums, I’m sure.

So, I guess that means I’m a gleaner now. Did you know there’s a name for this type of urban foraging? And I wonder why there aren’t more of us. I’ll admit I felt hesitant to presume that my neighbors might want the help, but then I remembered that we’re all just trying to keep up. If I am willing to pick and preserve the harvest for both of us, doesn’t that serve us both? And yes, I’m trying to grow as much food in my yard as I can, but I can’t grow everything. I saw a quote recently that said, “Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.” It reminds me of the power of community and I remember that there’s no need to try and do everything. I’m in the process of shifting my focus from the oil to the tapestries around me and as I wipe off the plum juice that drips down my chin, I think to myself, it’s time to slow my gait. With so much gratitude, I realize our neighborhood is our orchard. And here in Maple Leaf all I see is abundance. So, what’s growing in your neighborhood?

Seriously, The Alchemist is one amazing book! I highly recommend it if you’ve never read it. We’ve found though that the book calls to you when you’re ready to read it. I’ve recommended it to many a friend, including my sister, and they never got around to reading it. And then, when they finally picked it up, it was exactly what they needed to hear. It’s cool like that.