Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wild Late Summer Harvest

Inspired by the book The Flavors of Home, which I wrote about in a previous post, I decided to try and find a few of the things that are available in August or September.

First I decided to look for some California hazelnuts which are ripe in July and August.  While hiking in Huckleberry a few weeks ago I was unsuccessful.  But this last week in Marin I was, though not very.  Although there were many hazelnut bushes along the trail, I found only two, count them, two California hazelnuts.  I ate one on the trail and saved the other to take some pictures.
The book warns that they are a favorite of squirrels and so hard to find.  It tasted kind of like a walnut to me.  I don't think I've ever had hazelnuts outside of chocolate though, so I'm no expert.  The green sheath below surrounds the nut when it's not yet ripe.  And then dries to brown as the nut ripens.  Be careful though.  There are a lot of tiny hairs on it that will stick in your fingers and hands.  Felt kind of like nettle.  Peeling the first one, I only got a couple, the second a handful of stinging hairs.  The first seemed drier.  I wonder if that made the difference.  Then you've got to crack the nut to get to the meat.
Next up was madrone bark.  This is the time of year when sheets of the bark starts to dry and curl on the tree and is easily removed.  It's used to make an infusion (i.e. tea).  I haven't tried it yet, but will definitely blog about it when I do.
And last up were rose hips of one of our native wild roses.  Much like the hazelnuts, I've seen lots of wild roses lately, but almost no hips.  That is until I stumbled upon a small group of bushes covered with hips.  They are very tiny in comparison to the domesticated varieties.  I'm not sure I took enough for more than a cup of tea, but when I have it I'll blog about that as well.
I was trying to dry them whole, but then decided to cut them in half and dry them in a low oven for about 30 min as per the book's suggestion.  Rose hips are high in vitamin C.  And rose hip oil is commonly used in parts of Latin America to minimize scarring and as an anti-aging cream.  I tried one on the trail.  It was pretty mealy.  Not so great.  The book does say that some bushes have better tasting hips than others and if you find mealy ones, to move on.  But those were the only hips I've seen in weeks.


  1. I love hazelnuts! We used to have a grove of hazelnut trees in our garden in England. Yes, the squirrels do love them, and used to bury them all over the yard! I didn't realize you could make a tea with madrone bark. We have quite a bit littering some of our paths at the moment. We have a few rosehips here, on the Rosa gymnocarpa, but not very many. Not sure if the birds are getting to them. I remember rosehip syrup being very popular when I was a child, but I think I'd need a LOT more roses to make it here!

  2. "I've (n)ever had hazelnuts outside of chocolate" -hilarious! Seems like a hard time for foraging despite all the rainfall this year. I'm dying to know what Madrone tea tastes like! "nippon sopa" or rose hip soup is very popular in Sweden for colds, although it's a powder you buy in a box and not foraged.

  3. My son and I tried wild rose hip tea a while back. We just picked the rose hips and steeped them in hot water without benefit of further drying in the oven. The overwhelming flavor was Vit C. I don't remember another compelling flavor reason to revisit this preparation, but maybe it's all in the time of harvest and extra drying.

  4. I second Christine re: madrone bark tea curiosities. Please make sure to blog about it when you do make it. I've never done it but have always wanted to.... (and am obviously assuming I'll STILL be too lazy to do so). Happy foraging!

  5. Thats interesting. Rosehips grow wild here in Central Otago, New Zealand. I have been trying to find where they come from. So many of our local plants are from California, and seemd to have come here with the miners of the gold rushes, which started in 1862. In those years there was a wash of people around the pacific and many of the local familes here were originally from California.
    Kerry Hand