Forager Langdon Cook on Rediscovering the Outdoors this New Year

Start—and finish—the year with fresh ideas for discovering our local bounty
Langdon Cook  |   January 2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Discover Yellowfeet mushrooms on the Olympic Peninsula in November

In the spirit of another new year (and that endless drumbeat of time), I offer a few resolutions for the would-be wild-food forager (and anyone who wants to feel rejuvenated without buying $90 facial creams on late-night cable).

Make this the year you turn over rocks like you did when you were a kid. It’s never too late to rediscover the charms of the outdoors. Do what my friend Colleen does and call the park service the day it reopens after the New Year’s holiday and reserve camping spots all over the state for the course of the year. This is a good strategy for nabbing a spot in the most popular campgrounds and ensuring that you get out of town. (Bonus: These places are often good mushroom habitat.)

Oh, and if you’re nervous about identifying those mushrooms, this is the year to join the Puget Sound Mycological Society (or one of the many other fungi clubs across the state). Mushroom hunting is like a treasure hunt in the woods. (See paragraph above about being a kid again.)

Or dig a hole at the beach. And find a clam. Never tried digging for razor clams? It’s your year. Never tried digging for geoducks? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves….

Make this the year to put up quantities of good healthy food. In another month or two, the first tender young stinging nettles will be emerging. Go out and get some and make this delicious super food a part of your diet. My personal favorite recipe of late? Indian nettle paneer. It’s creamy, spicy and jumping with flavor. Or blanch your nettles and freeze them for later. In the summer, take some hikes, and load up on huckleberries. (You can freeze those, too.) All those antioxidants do a body good.  

Once you have a freezer filled with mushrooms, clams, wild greens and huckleberries, it’s time to take inventory and do some cooking. Don’t let those carefully packaged treats gather an igloo’s worth of frost—spend time in the kitchen mastering your grandmother’s old-timey recipes. Remember how much you loved those chowders and stews and cobblers as a kid?

This is the year, in other words, to hit the woods…the mountains…the shore…with the boundless curiosity of a schoolkid.

The forager’s to-do list
Spring: stinging nettles, fiddleheads, morels
Summer: blackberries, huckleberries, geoducks
Fall: Manila clams, chanterelles, porcini
Winter: truffles, oysters, razor clams


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