Urban foraging is not a new topic for Bay Area Bites readers. It’s actually not that new, period, since foraging is one of the original ways people found food. But, what was once the domain of cave people is now the hottest trend for hip food-lovers. And, the Bay Area has become the hot spot for top chefs crafting five-star meals from what they found in the wild.
Of course, there’s always more to learn about the best places to find foraged food, the best recipes for your finds and the secrets of crafting delicious, healthy meals from what others might ignore.
Friday afternoon, KQED Forum host Rachael Myrow sat down with Connie Green, author of The Wild Table and owner of Wine Forest Wild Foods; Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast; Iso Rabins, founder of ForageSF, Forage Kitchen, Underground Market and Batch Made Market; Kirk Lombard, fisherman and forager, and operater of “Sea Forager,” a tour business; and Kory Stewart, chef at Americano Restaurant and Bar.
Before you head out on your own, check out the Falling Fruit app that identifies locations around the world where fruits and vegetables are available for the taking. Clicking on pinpoints on the map brings up information like what can be found there and when the best time to forage is. The map is done through crowd-sourcing, so if you find any particularly good spots, consider sharing the information with your fellow foragers.
Along with foraging tips, the guests on KQED’s Forum also shared recipes for your foraged food, including a nettle soup recipe from Rabins. Nettles, Rabins says, are nutritious and easy to find around here.
River nettle (diocea) is much more intense in both sting and flavor. Whereas farm (urens) will give you a bit of a prick, river nettle will bite you, a searing pain that, instead of going away after several hours of throbbing, actually seems to turn into a general numbness/tingle for as much as 48 hours (hint: use vinegar to get rid of the sting). If you’re using it in soup, river nettles are really the best. The intensity comes through in the soup in all the best ways.
See the rest of the recipes — mushroom soup, candy cap crowned sidecar, Turkish washcloth raspberry chocolate pudding and candy cap mushroom ice cream sandwich — on the Forum page.
Recipe for Nettle Soup:
-1 lb nettle (collect it, or you can often find it at farmers markets in season)
-1 lb russet potatoes
-1 lb leek
-6 Cups chicken stock
-2 Tbsp butter
-Salt/pepper to taste
-Small tub crème fraiche
-Heavy gloves (seriously. If you’re using the thin latex kind, so popular in restaurant kitchens and the nether regions of the airport security line, wear double, or even triple. A good thick pair of dishwashing gloves works perfectly)
-Heavy bottomed soup pot
-Stand up or hand (immersion) blender
1.First, you’ve got to deal with the nettle. Put a pot of salted water on to boil. With your gloves on, use scissors to cut the leaves from the woody stem, discarding any brown leaves. Wash under cold water. Get a mixing bowl, and fill it with iced and salted water. Throw nettle into boiling water for 5 minutes, drain, then immediately place in ice water. This is called blanching and shocking. The boil gets rid of the nettle sting, and the ice water helps it retain its vibrant green color. Once they’re cold, squeeze water out of nettles, and reserve.
2. Cut off the white section of the leeks, slice them lengthwise, and wash very well. Tons of dirt likes to get stuck in leeks, and it’s the last thing you want in your soup. After they’re clean, chop them and reserve.
3. Dice potatoes.
4. Melt butter in pot over medium heat, making sure not to let it burn. When it begins to bubble, throw in the leeks, cook 5 minutes (if they start to brown, turn down the flame, you want them to sweat). Add potatoes, cook 5 minutes. Add nettle, cook 5 minutes.
5. Pour in chicken stock, mix, turn up heat until it comes to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
6. Allow to simmer 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Turn off heat and either blend with you immersion blender, or if using a stand-up, blend in batches with a ventilated blender (take that little plastic thing out of the middle of the lid), and a towel on top. With the danger sounding too much like you dad, BE CAREFUL! Hot soup on the face is not fun.
7. When its blended, add two spoonsfulls of crème fraiche, mix. Serve hot with a drizzle of crème fraiche on top. This soup will taste quite ?green?. Crème fraiche will balance it to your liking.
8. Enjoy! And regal your friends with your daring tales of nettle foraging, they’ll be impressed.