Rasberries were waiting for my return from holiday!

Yes.  It’s true….Alex and I might be the worst bloggers on the internet.  The regularity with which we update is downright AWFUL.  But……we are vigilant, in a belated way.

To start off, look at the delicious rasberries that were growing at the end of my driveway!

I hadddd to harvest the ripe ones.  There weren’t many that hadn’t been picked at by the birds, but I found a couple dozen.  Yessssss.

Now, the question is…..what to make with them?  I’m thinking just as they are?  Do you readers have any recipe suggestions?

 

 

One Day Without Shoes

Have you ever wondered what kind of shoes people in third world countries wear?  If you haven’t, think about it and go a step further!  Take a stroll in their shoes, or in many cases, lack thereof.

Consider trying One Day Without Shoes!  The official date for the event has already come and gone (it was on April 5th, 2011), but why not CONTINUE shoe-less events! Even better, go shoe-less all by yourself, whenever you feel like it!  See what it feels like to have no other choice and more importantly, spread awareness of the hardships of those people who have to go without a simple pair of shoes.

Milkweed dinner?

Tonight, Alex and I prepared the Milkweed Alex found on his most recent foraging trip.  As was described in the last post, Milkweed has qualities that require a great deal of boiling prior to ingestion.

The way in which we prepared the Milkweed wasn’t anything special, but there was a specific amount of boiling that is necessary.

Boiled Milkweed

  1.   Clean and cut Milkweed.
  2.   Keep 1 large and 1 small pot on hand.  Boil water in the large pot and begin boiling the Milkweed in the smaller pot.
  3. Boil Milkweed in smaller pot for 1 minute and then drain and continue boiling the milkweed with water from the big pot.  Over the next 4 minutes, change the water 4 more times.  Do not use cold water in the changes as they will set a strong bitter taste in the Milkweed. You should let the 5th change of water cook the Milkweed for the last 10 minutes.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
Opinions? 
Alex liked them.  They were bitter, but not bitter enough to make him dislike them.  The smaller shoots weren’t bitter at all and he loved them!
As for myself, I was not a fan.  Maybe I tasted the more bitter shoots, but either way…they were too bitter for me!  We decided it was the leaves that caused the unfortunate taste. After also tasting the bottom of the shoots, I agree with that conclusion.
Apparently, Alex might have found them a little late in their growth cycle which could’ve contributed to their bitter taste.  That also might explain why the smaller shoots we tasted were less bitter.
Overall, they smelled delicious (like Asparagus) and if you like a bitter vegetable, MILKWEED IS FOR YOU!
– Sam

The Common Milkweed

What a gorgeous Thursday! I have the day off and the weather has cooperated splendidly. What else could I do but take a walk with my Edible Plants field guide and see if I could find something to eat. I thought I would walk from my parents house in Cascade up to the new Cascade Burton Park and see what I could find.

My afternoon stroll had only began before I was bent over examining the leaves of a whole bunch of Common Milkweed growing alone the slope of a drainage pond behind The Family Fare strip mall. I had remembered Milkweed coming up in my perusing through the pages of my field guide. Sure enough Common Milkweed is an edible plant and is considered to be very tasty.

The Common Milkweed

Milkweed is very easy to identify with its big broad meaty leaves and tall stem. It also bleeds a milky white sap wherever broken much like watery glue. The white liquid is very bitter tasting and mildly toxic so before Sam and I eat our Milkweed we’ll have to Boil it in several changes of water.

Just like the Cattails we’ll be eating the young shoots of the Milkweed plant before they reach 6 inches in height. When I came on the large group of Milkweed most had already surpassed the young tender stage and could not be picked for eating but I managed to root through the grass and find a good number for our meal.

Now even if I would have come across a whole bunch of Milkweed shoots I would have left a majority alone as Sam and I aren’t the only folks who will be eating Milkweed. Milkweed is the only food for Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars. In fact by eating the toxic sap the worms themselves become poisonous, pretty clever. Also the flowers and seed pods of the Common Milkweed are edible as well so Sam and I will be able to return later in the year and have a second harvest.

After the success of the drainage ditch I must say Cascade Burton Park had a high bar to beat and sadly I couldn’t top my Milkweed discovery. I found many beautiful sections of woods and some great little clearings but nothing to eat. I did find a pretty little white flowers that could become wild strawberries but I can’t be sure until they bear fruit. Either way I’ll have to return to the quaint little park and find out.

 

-Alex

 

For more pictures of my forage check out our Facebook page

The waiting game.

Better late than never right?   Right!

Last Friday, Alex, myself and three of our friends went in search of fish out on Murray Lake (near Cannonsburg).   Now, I’m not going to lie and say I wan’t pessimistic going into this fishing outing.  Last time Alex and I tried our hand at fishing, together that is, we caught zilch, null, nada, nothing.  Nor did we receive anything remotely close to a nibble.  So you could say I was slightly pessimistic going into this trip; even though I was trying to be a happy camper.

Getting onto the lake at 8am, Alex and I in canoe and our 3 friends in rowboat, we dropped anchor off shore of cattails and weeds.  Fishing in the shallow and deeper water, we began our day.  Not 20 minutes later, our friends had caught a fish.  As time went on, they caught another, and another and another.  Yes, by the time they had 10 fish, we had none and had been out on the water for 1.5 hours.  It’s sufficient to say I was bummed out.  Trying to stay positive, we moved to the other side of the lake hoping for better luck.

To my amazement, and relief, we caught nibbles right off the bat.  Unfortunately, we still weren’t catching these nibbley fish.  Moving once more, we set our lines.  Two nibbles later and wham!  I got a juvenile sunfish and before long, I had caught juvenile everything!  Sunfish, Rock Bass, Blue Gills and Perch.  I felt like an incredible fisher, no thanks to my fishing skills.  I think the fish were doing me a favor.  I ended up catching 12 juvenile fish all by myself and  we weren’t able to keep any of them.  As for Alex, he switched lures and caught a Large Mouth Bass, definitely the biggest fish of the day!  Too bad it isn’t the season for them, so we threw it back as well.

Returning to shore around noon, our party’s total keepable fish count was 5, including Rock Bass and Blue Gill.

The happy fishing party.

Returning home, I was taught how to descale, fillet and cook what we caught.  Man, was it fun!  Just like dissecting cow eyes in elementary school.  Not to mention DELICIOUS.  I’ve decided I like anything and everything better than catfish.  They are toooooo fishy for me!

Inspection.

Pre-descaling.

In the process of descaling a fish - for the first time nonetheless!

This one's a female, with Roe!

Ready for lunch.

As for the cooking of our catch, we put the fish right in butter and fried them up in a pan.  Nothing fancy and boy were they delicious!

As for the Roe we harvested along with the meat from the female, we fried that up about 10 seconds with a tablespoon of butter.  We then proceeded to eat it on a cracker.  Not quite like raw fish eggs, caviar (yummy), but the roe was GREAT cooked. It tasted nothing like fish really.

Raw roe.

Overall, all the fish and the constituent parts that we ate were delicious.  Alex and I will eat them again FOR SURE.

Thank you fish!

-Sam

Garden State

I spent this past Sunday May 22nd with my dear mother Betty preparing and planting our garden. We planted Corn, Carrots, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Radishes, Spaghetti Squash, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Romaine Lettuce, Peas and String Beans. I can’t wait to begin harvesting our vegetables! We also have Raspberries, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Basil, Rosemary and Oregano.

It is amazing how much variety you can plant in such a small area. Our garden is only 50 feet long and 20 feet wide, yet all the veggies, fruits and herbs listed above fit quite nicely inside its boundaries. I think having a garden is one step away from foraging. Honestly on a small scale having a garden is just as close an interaction with Earth as foraging. Each thing has its season and must be taken care of. On a small scale there is no need for pesticides or fertilizer and really being organic isn’t tough at all.

As Sam will tell you from an environmental stand point small local gardens and farms is a way better system for food supply. It always boggles my mind when I hear the statistic that food travels up to 1500 miles to get the super market! Yet you drive through neighborhood after neighborhood and past house after house without any food gardens. Sure they have Geraniums and Daffodils blooming throughout their extensive lawns but not one Tomato plant our herb garden. In my opinion the convenience of the super market does not outweigh the hazards of climate change.

Plus growing you own food just appeals to a side of human tradition that seems to be slowly disappearing. There is something about getting your hands into the soil and watching life and food sprout from the ground that puts things into a greater perspective. Food is something we should try harder to create and capture ourselves. That is what our whole foraging experience embodies. Knowing where your food comes from and being highly involved in it builds the respect and love for nature that our concrete jungles keep diminishing.

– Alex

Every fisherman starts out as a boy or a girl.

My love of fishing, or at least of watching fishing, started as a toddler.  I would wake up on Sunday mornings, 6am and watch fishing shows on TV.  Later on I got a little more participative and I remember having the best experiences of actually fishing.  Waking up early, rowing out with Grandma, Grandpa, and parents in tow.  Yes, I was so strong then I rowed them.  Well not really, but I was so enthusiastic it seemed to me we were powered on that enthusiasm alone.

I’ve been fishing with Alex once since we began this project and the successful outcome of today’s meal was NOT due to my fish whispering skills.  All the fish we ate for this meal were the product of Alex’s last trip to the Thornapple River and a generous donation from our friend John.  The menu was as follows.

Breaded and Fried Catfish/Blue Gill

  • All the Catfish and Blue Gill fillets
  • 2 eggs
  • Breading made from Veggie Chips
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Heat the vegetable oil until at frying temperature.
  2. Dip fish fillet into eggs, into breading and place gently into the pan with oil.
  3. Fry until fish is cooked and breading is crispy and brown.
Sauteed Cattail Shoots
The Cattails were as always, DELICIOUS.  As for the fish, we were amazing at how good the breading turned out!  Veggie chips are definitely a new twist on breading for fish.  The fish was cooked to perfection also.  Who would’ve thought Alex knew how to cook fish so well?

-Sam

Friday the 13th, 10 Kilometers and a Fish Fry

Friday the 13th began not unlike many of the days before it. I awoke, ate breakfast, and prepared myself for a day off work fishing on the Thornapple River. The night previous I had watched the red Wings loose game seven and had wallowed in suffering with a few of my friends; so as memory serves I did wake up much later than usual.

With my late start I was afraid my great plans of fishing were dashed as I had slept through the great fishing hours of the wee morning. However, I had the day off; if I didn’t go fishing what else was I going to do? So at the bright hour of eleven o’clock I began to prepare my affairs for a day on the river.

Thursday night I had arranged a fishing spot at my friend Del’s mom’s house who lived on the river. Finally at one in the afternoon I had my line in the water. My plan of attack was to go after Catfish. Her house is situated on the right bank of the river at the beginning of a long slow left curve meaning the current and depth of the river are right along her side of the river. Perfect for bottom fishing for Catfish. I was fishing with a (guesstimated) size 5 hook with half of a big juicy night crawler impaled upon it and a large split shot sinker about 3 feet back on the line. I cast it out into the current and waited.

The sun was approaching its zenith and the fish were jumping all over the place, needless to say I felt real good about my location. Sure enough it wasn’t too long before my bait was hit. I love the way Catfish take bait. Not a nibble nor a half assed bite, no Catfish take the bait strong. With my first fish on my smile grew from an inquisitive smirk to a full grin as I felt the familiar slow, strong pulses of fighting a Channel Catfish. When I got the fish to shore I was surprised by how big it actually was, nearly 17 inches! I dispatched the hook from his mouth with my pliers making sure to avoid his spurs and placed him in my waiting live-well.

With my first fish on land I prepared my hook again and cast back into the same hole. It wasn’t 5 minutes later that I had another fish on! It seemed I had found where they were hiding faster than I had thought I would. After another battle with a fish I pulled up a 12 inch Catfish. Things were really looking up. By now the sun was high in the sky and the fish had stopped jumping it was the perfect time to drink a few beers and soak up some sun as the full heat of the day came to bear.

At three o’clock I was joined by my friend Del. We fished together for quite some time with neither of us getting as much as a snag. Finally Del broke the spell and brought in a nice 15 inch Catfish. Like a gentleman he practiced catch and release.

Not long after Del’s success I too had my third fish on and landed a 15 inch Catfish. My live-well was now quite full of fish. With the hour approaching six in the evening and dark clouds rolling in Del took his leave and I prepared to take off. But just as I was preparing my things I decided to toss my line in and see what happened, and Bam I had a forth fish on!

This fish was no Catfish. It hit my bait in a very similar fashion but it acted very different in the fight. Catfish keep constant pressure and pull in slow rhythmic pulses against you. This fish however, was swimming left then right, giving slack and then taking out line and finally jumping clean out of the water. I had hooked my first Bass of the summer!

I tell you, sport fish are sport fish for a reason. They are so much fun to catch. The 12 inch Small Mouth fought twice as hard as my largest Catfish and was half the size. Sam and I won’t be able to keep the Bass we catch until after Memorial Day but it is a great pleasure to catch one. With my grin a full on jovial smile I released the Bass back into the river, re-baited my hook and cast again. Not too long after I caught the fifth and final fish of the day and my second Bass of the summer.

With the clouds looking meaner by the minute I released the Bass and began gathering my affairs and loading them into the car. Before long I was home and it was time to begin the process of turning whole Catfish into Catfish fillets.

The process begins by cutting the skin back just behind the gills and then using a vice-grip pliers to pull off the skin from head to tail.

Once you have removed the skin it is as simple as cutting down the spin on either side avoiding the guts and taking the fillets off.

This was my first time in a long time filleting a Catfish and I was bit rusty, but even though the fillets look rough they should taste great just the same.

Now, I know what your saying. For such a long winded story Sam and I didn’t eat a foraged meal yet this week. That is true and false at the same time. Saturday morning I ran the 10k in the 5/3 River Bank Race and then had the work in the afternoon. Fortunately we had been invited to a fish fry being put on by my boss at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus so we decided to let him do the foraging for us this week. Saturday night we indulged our selves in fried Blue Gill, Perch, Crappie and Salmon as well as…. MORELS!!! That is correct Sam and I finally ate Morels this season though on someone else’s labor.

All in all it was a great weekend. Sam and I are still clinging onto the hope that we may find Morels on our own. Until then we may have to keep mooching off people who are generous enough to share their morels even though will never divulge where they found them. Until then we’ll be eating Catfish and telling more stories of our time spent outside.

– Alex

The rain came and went.

We finally got the rain we had been waiting for last night.  According to WOOD TV 8, areas around West Michigan got up to 5.05″ of rain!  This is great growing weather for the Morels we are STILL looking for signs of.  Unfortunately, now that we have enough water, it’s a little too warm (80 degrees).  All the stuff Alex and I have read say that Morels always seem to surprise you though, so we are hoping for one of those.  While these hot temperatures might not be the very best for morels, let’s hope the fish love it!  If the weather behaves, we’re going to try fishing again and hopefully we’ll be serving up some fillets tomorrow or this weekend.

After all the storms last night, it really got me thinking about our watershed (the Lower Grand River Watershed).  Most people think of where their homes/property are located based upon street intersections, latitude and longitude, county, town etc.  I think it’s more important to realize and understand what watershed one is apart of.  It seems especially important when trying to forage for certain flora and fauna in an efficient and effective way as Alex and I are trying to do.  On top of this project Alex and I have put together, I’ll be interning all summer with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) as their Water Quality Intern.  In addition to doing whatever they ask of me, I’m going to be learning a great deal more about the lower grand river watershed and can’t wait to put some of the knowledge I gain to use when we go foraging.

Praying For Rain

After talking with a few people with more experience than myself about Morel mushrooms I am praying for some rain. I have learned they like moister soils but not wet soil and prefer to grow at higher elevation than I had previously expected. The conversations have backed up all I have learned on the web like looking around dead elm trees, old burn areas and logging areas. I also picked up some pointers from my cousin who told me they seem to prefer sandier soil (the white morels that is) and if I could find an old apple orchard that I would definitely have better luck. With the White Morel season in full bore, Sam and I should hopefully be able to find some morels before seasons end come Labor Day.

Not only has the warmer weather spurned my desire for Morels it has also brought fishing back into my vocabulary. Eating the Ribbon Snake was interesting and certainly some resourceful foraging but there is no substitute for a good ol’ fish fry. I have the evening off Thursday and the whole day off Friday; perhaps I’ll be telling a fish story later this week.

– Alex