Planning for a Year of Foraging

For everything, there is a season—and a forager can make the most of each one with a little planning
  • Plan now for seasonal foraging, like a chanterelle mushroom hunt in the fall
Plan now for seasonal foraging, like a chanterelle mushroom hunt in the fall

Enough with the resolutions!  It’s time to eat. This is the year to get outdoors and find some wild foods. Of course, with so many possibilities in our bounteous region, a would-be forager might feel overwhelmed. But it’s easy to come up with a game plan for 2017 by breaking down the foraging year into the four seasons: spring greens, summer berries, fall fungi and winter shellfish. 

Let’s look more closely at each season.

You'll find crisp and tender fiddlehead ferns like these in the spring

Spring is the great awakening. The woods change their drab winter clothes for a vibrant new suit. This is the time to head for the foothills in search of the intense flavors and off-the-charts nutrition provided by wild greens. Just the way our backyard gardens are cranking out peas and spinach, nature’s garden right outside the city—on Cougar Mountain in Issaquah, for instance—is alive with green goodness: stinging nettles, fiddleheads and miner’s lettuce. Nettles in particular are an essential part of my spring foraging. I pick and freeze enough to last me the whole year. Nettle pesto, anyone? 

Summer = huckleberry time!

As spring gives way to the heat of summer, look for the sweet, sun-splashed fruits of the season. My berry picking begins right after the solstice in sea-level woods, when the first red huckleberries and trailing blackberries start to ripen. But it’s the end of summer when my favorite dessert staple, the mountain huckleberry, is in its prime. Mark your calendar now and plan to make an alpine excursion in August or September. Every year for Labor Day weekend, our family gets into the high country of the Cascades or the Olympics on a three-night backpacking trip, which also happens to be a great time to stock up on huckleberries—as well as a chance to watch our ursine friends, preferably at a distance through a pair of binoculars. This past Labor Day, from our campsite on the Olympic High Divide, we watched three different bears picking their fair share of huckleberries while we did the same. 

With the autumn rains comes a strange and wondrous crop, full of color and odd shapes: fall fungi. If this is the year you plan to learn about mushrooms, then start early by first learning about trees, because many of our most delicious wild mushrooms—from porcini to chanterelles to matsutake—have symbiotic relationships with specific types of trees. Learn how to distinguish a Douglas fir from a Sitka spruce and you’ll begin to unlock the secrets of finding the umami-filled mushrooms that grow alongside these iconic Northwest conifers. Next, if you really want to hunt fungi, join the Puget Sound Mycological Society in Seattle (or one of the state’s many such clubs near you) and go on a field trip. Nothing beats seeing a mushroom in its habitat and having an expert on hand to offer identification tips. 

Look for razor clams in winter

And finally, as the landscape goes to bed for the year, it’s time to look to the water: Shellfish are at their best in winter. Razor clams, oysters, crabs and the rest are putting on fat for next summer’s spawning. (Check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website at for regulations and other details.) Put some elbow grease into digging your limit of razor clams and you won’t be rushing to the scale after a hearty dinner of pasta alle vongole. As any experienced forager knows, the hunt is just as rewarding as the meal that follows—and it won’t jeopardize any of those more mundane resolutions you might have. 

Razor Clam Chowder

2 cups chopped razor clams
4–5 strips of thick, quality bacon, diced
1 large onion, sliced into wide half moons
2–3 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
¼ cup white wine
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 quart chicken stock
1 pint heavy cream (or half and half)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

» Sauté bacon in heavy pot, then remove with slotted spoon. Sauté onions 1 minute in bacon fat, add potatoes and cook 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove onion-potato mixture for later use, and deglaze pot with a splash of white wine. Next, melt butter and mix in flour to make a roux. Slowly add stock over medium heat. Return onions and potatoes (and bacon, if desired) and simmer until potatoes are tender. Add thyme and seasonings. Slowly add cream and clams and cook over low heat. Serve “piping hot,” as my dad always says, with good bread.

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Clean and Serene, This Point Roberts Home Is One Light House

Clean and Serene, This Point Roberts Home Is One Light House

A Point Roberts family home emphasizes fresh air and natural light
Facing south towards the Strait of Georgia and the San Juan Islands, the Point Roberts home of Sonya and David Liu is laid out around a long, L-shaped plan to best angle major spaces, like the large trellised terrace, towards the southern sun

When Sonya and David Liu bought an open, south-facing property (just shy of 1.5 acres) in Point Roberts with a water view and a scattering of mature maple trees, they were clear about one requirement for their future house: It would need to capture every scrap of daylight, even in winter. “Light all day long as much as possible really helps the mind and body feel good,” says Sonya. The couple had previously lived in a rental in the woods and were ready to emerge from the gloom. 

They also wanted their home, built in 2010, to fit into the rural community of Point Roberts, population 1,314, where the architecture tends to be agrarian and fairly humble. Located on the peninsula south of Vancouver, British Columbia, Point Roberts falls below the 49th parallel and is an anomaly: part of Washington state, though not connected to it geographically. Living only 40 minutes from Vancouver, where David is an interventional radiologist specializing in cancer therapies, the family can enjoy the rural lifestyle—including horseback riding—while remaining within commuting distance. 

Interiors designed by Rhodes Architecture + Light  create a bright, sophisticated interior featuring wide plank flooring, exposed wooden beams, and well-insulated window-walls to allow an abundunce of natural daylight to combat seasonal depression during the fall-winter seasons 

Seattle architect Tim Rhodes, of Rhodes Architecture + Light, responded to their needs with a long, low design for the 5,253-square-foot house, which features an L-shaped plan he describes as “a series of wings, expanding laterally into the land,” with major spaces situated on an east-west axis, and secondary spaces—a laundry room, mud room and additional storage space—forming a supporting wing. Light pours in through large glass-windowed walls, which also provide David, Sonya, and their 5-year-old twin daughters with views of the Strait of Georgia and the Gulf Islands from most rooms.

A form of metal solar shading built into the home structure, called a brise-soleil, was designed for this latitude, to protect the interior from too much direct sun in summer, while allowing winter sun to warm indoor spaces. Deep trellis overhangs allow the family to keep doors and windows open even in the rain. “The house feels like it’s part of the outdoors, and allows the outdoors to come in,” says Rhodes. Basic forms (think kids’ building blocks) on the upper story reflect simple agrarian themes, a nod to Point Roberts and to the American farmhouse style of Rhodes’ Kansas City childhood. 

While David says, “There’s still a lot to learn about how materials in our homes could be affecting our longevity,” he and Sonya wanted to create a salubrious environment for their family. This included using healthy home finishes in the interior, which was also designed by Rhodes Architecture + Light with abundant client input. Specifications included natural and low-VOC materials, such as prefinished reclaimed oiled oak flooring, porcelain tiles, no-VOC cabinet box construction, natural counters of quartzite and Caesarstone, and water-based paint finishes. 

The Lius’ farmhouse kitchen features open cabinetry and modern appliances combining rustic and contemporary elements

The wine room on the ground floor

A master-bedroom bathtub with a view


“We tried to choose materials that were very natural but still clean and modern,” says Sonya. 

The house is heated with an in-floor radiant heating system, fans and fresh air ports, which eliminate areas of differential temperature; reduce air circulation and the resulting distribution of dust, allergens and pollen in the house; and significantly reduce the use of energy to heat the house. 

It’s a bright, clean space for an active family—but with beguiling views to the outside, no one stays indoors for very long. 

A peaceful scene in one of the home’s five bedrooms, painted in healthy water-based paint


Rhodes Architecture and Light 
Planning, architecture, interiors and landscape architecture
Tim James Rhodes, R.A., AIA, lead architect; Mark Vaughan, associate architect; 206.933.1257

Swenson Say Fagét 
Ryan Reichman, lead structural engineer; 206.443.6212

LightWire Lighting Design
Susan MT Rhodes, lighting designer; 206.292.8177

DeBoer Construction
Joey deBoer, general contractor; 360.815.6279