Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bay Area Foraging Successes?

So I've tried a couple of things I foraged or wrote about a while ago.  I left you all hanging with my last post, but I still haven't tried the laurel nuts.  I'm thinking I'll try and roast them this weekend.  I did however try the fruit.  Hmmm? How to describe it?  As you can see in this pic, it looks like a tiny round avocado.
 Pretty cool looking really.  The flesh was much firmer, so I'm not sure it was ripe.  I read you're supposed to wait till the fruit turns purple before eating.  Most of the fruit was purple, but maybe it wasn't long enough.  I think I've lost the opportunity to try again this year, but it was hard to motivate after tasting it.  What did it taste like?  I only tried tiny nibbles.  One was hard and didn't taste like much.  The other was like chewing on a fleshy bay leaf.  A really strong bay leaf.  Blech.  It took me a while to get the taste out of my mouth.  Here's hoping the nuts are tastier.
I have had some better success with some infusions, or teas.  I tried both a fresh and a dried rose hip tea, made from hips of Rosa californica. There didn't seem to be much difference between fresh and dried.  It tastes like vitamin C, if that makes sense.  Not bad, a little sweet.  I also tried adding a couple of hips to other teas.  The taste definitely powers through, but fortunately I like the taste.

I also tried an infusion of madrone (Arbutus menziesii) bark.  I really like this stuff.  I've had it a couple times now.  In Flavors of Home, Margit Roos-Collins describes the flavor as "a little like Chinese green tea mixed with the fragrance of bark or wood.  It's flavor is homey and a little musty, like the smell of a room full of books that has been closed up for a season by the ocean."  I don't know about that last part, but I do know I had forgotten how she described the flavor and after my first couple of sips, I thought to myself that it tasted like green tea.  But an earthy green tea.  It's very pleasant.  I've mixed it with rose hips and white sage.  So far I think I like it on its own.

And last, but not least, I tried madrone berries.  I don't know if I've never paid attention before, but I have seen tons of madrone berries this year, both in the East Bay and on a trip up north to Mendocino.  The hills along one section of 101 south of Ukiah was blazing red with all the berries.  I finally spotted a tree with low-hanging branches on the side of a small road, and picked some.  I don't think they were ripe.  They were kind of hard and astringent.  Ms. Roos-Collins did say in her book, that fruits vary in taste from tree to tree.  I'm supposed to hike on Thanksgiving, so I'll look for some more.


  1. I agree, it seems like the Madrone berries are much more profuse this year. We only have a few healthy madrones left on the property, but they've been ablaze in red berries. I didn't think of eating them, but have set some aside to try propagating.

    As for the laurel nuts, the only ones I found had already been robbed by the squirrels this year, just the fleshy fruit casings were left. I'll have to see if I can beat them to it next year. Let us know how they turn out!

  2. You are so adventurous! Have you tried toyon berries? I nibbled one and it was just kind of mealy.

  3. Whoa. I'm just trying to imagine the full-on flavor of the bay laurel terrorizing my mouth. Lovely scent though as long as you're not too close. I love the description of the Madrone tea- old books have such an amazing smell, although I'm not sure how that would translate to flavor. Can't wait to hear about the bay nuts!

  4. @Barbara: I did try them last year, but really late, so they were mealy as well. I was hoping they would be better if the right time of year. I'm gonna try and find some this year.

  5. Laurel nut sorbet maybe? The madrone tea sounds great. I'm sipping some tea made of guava leaves--which someone described as tree bark. So the madrone bark might be perfect for my taste buds.

  6. Thanks to your post, I actually tried a madrone berry. It wasn't too bad. I wish I had remembered about the tea. Do you chop up the bark before adding it to boiling water?

    Hope you have a great holiday!

  7. @katie: you peel the very thin slivers of bark that naturally start to come of the tree. they are very thin. I did break it up a bit though before throwing it in the hot water.