Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Foraging in the Gold Coast

The weather has reached the point where it was time to put on one of those smart fleece jackets even while running around outside.


Highbush Cranberries


Today, we had a walking tour of an array of foliage.

The questions the group were asked at the start included: "Why did you attend?", and "We are in Chicago, so what on earth are we foraging for?".

There were three groups that the leader asked us to consider assigning ourselves to:

  • We forage because we are interested in connecting to our environs, even if they are urban.
  • We forage because the Rapture, um Apocalypse, means we need to know what the heck we can count on.
  • We forage purely for the taste of it, and it had better be good.

The overwhelming majority fell into the PC group of foraging to be connected to our environs.

Yep.  I placed myself there.  My husband, erroneously,  thought I would place myself in the “taste good” camp.

We laughed a lot, he and I, like two school kids who were passing notes in class.

The group was too large, but we stayed with it and our guide.

We smelled sumac (nope, it wasn’t poisonous).  It smelled herbaceous and citrusy.  As if you would want to snip some as a chiffonade over a light broth or pasta.


A kindler & gentler sumac


We tasted hawthorns.  They were like tarter teeny, tiny crabapples.
These were really, really tart

We heard about the medicinal weeds associated with dandelion and the ubiquitous yellow flower.  Move over aloe, there are the cooling properties of plantain.  Then the cure-all for wounds found in yarrow, it grows like a weed and doesn’t intend to be contained.

There was one winner.  The kind of thing you could see Achatz putting on the menu at Alinea.  It was a berry that didn’t look edible; a hackberry. Tiny and brown and hard, more like a coffee bean than a berry is how I would describe it.
The hackberry is a sweet & pleasant surprise

The group re-convened to freshly pressed pear cider, dried pear, and fresh pears.  All of the pears were foraged (with permission from the owner) in Chicago.

It was a lovely day in the Gold Coast.

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