Sunday, April 20, 2014

Edible Plants of Seattle -- the cycle of giving

Edible Plant Tour 

with Arthur Lee Jacobson

Plant Expert Arthur Lee Jacobson is giving a personalized edible plant tour! Supporters who make a tax deductible donation to City Fruit at the $200 level and higher through my Razoo fundraiser campaign, between now and the end of April will receive this exclusive offer.

Donate now: and help me meet my fundraising goal. 

More importantly, support the work of City Fruit in harvesting neglected fruits, and getting nutritious apples, pears, plums, cherries, and more to local food banks and senior and youth meal programs. 

In addition to a 2 hour personalized one-on-one edible plant tour in one of Seattle's neighborhoods, donors at this level will also receive an autographed copy of one of Arthur Lee Jacobson's celebrated and useful plant books:

Wild Plants of Seattle 

or Trees of Seattle

Don't miss this excellent opportunity to take your edible plant I.D. skills to the next level, or simply to learn about a few seasonal edibles --whether it be a nut tree or an unusual understory plant-- from one of Seattle's greatest plant teachers. 

About Arthur Lee Jacobson: 
"My whole life has been about learning and sharing what I have learned about wild plants, garden plants and trees." 
A lifelong Seattle resident, plants have been Arthur's passion since age 17. Arthur earns a living by freelance writing, consulting, teaching (lectures, tours), hands-on work (gardening, pruning), and plant photography. His plant expertise is rare in that it straddles the two realms of wild plants and garden plants. 

About City Fruit:
City Fruit promotes the cultivation of urban fruit in order to nourish people, build community and protect the climate. We help tree owners grow healthy fruit, provide assistance in harvesting and preserving fruit, promote the sharing of extra fruit, and work to protect urban fruit trees.

Friday, April 11, 2014

NOCINO? No way! A one-of-a-kind opportunity to support City Fruit

Don’t miss this chance to support City Fruit and join a one-of-a-kind class on: 

The Art of Making Nocino, a walnut liqueur from fresh-harvested Seattle walnuts 

Nocino is a dark brown alcoholic beverage, traditionally brewed by Northern Italian monks as far back as the late middle ages. Now you don’t have to do any time- or space-travel to learn how to identify the tree, harvest and make nocino from the unripe green walnuts growing right here in Seattle. In this class, two of Seattle’s celebrated food experts, chef Becky Selengut and food writer Jill Lightner, will take you through the process from harvest to preparation to the sweet earthy walnut liqueur. You and five lucky others will collect backyard walnuts, learn a traditional recipe, and prepare a bottle of nocino to take home. 

Here’s how to jump on this opportunity. The first 6 people to donate to City Fruit at the $50 level or higher through Melissa Poe’s Razoo campaign will secure a spot. The class will be scheduled during the green walnut season in late July/early August.

To donate to the City Fruit razoo campaign and secure your spot, follow this link:

About City Fruit:
City Fruit is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes the cultivation of urban fruit in order to nourish people, build community and protect the climate. We help tree owners grow healthy fruit, provide assistance in harvesting and preserving fruit, promote the sharing of extra fruit, and work to protect urban fruit trees.

About the instructors:
Jill Lightner is a veteran Seattle food writer, committed to telling the stories about the people, places, and products that make up our region’s sustainable food system. Jill served as the editor of Edible Seattle for its first 6 years; she wrote the cookbook by the same name, along with the Edible Communities Recipe App. Jill is currently a staff writer for PCC Natural Markets and serves on the board of the Northwest Cider Association. City Fruit supporters will want to check out Jill’s story on the history of hard apple cider.

Becky Selengut. When she’s not squid jigging, fishing, or cavorting through the woods picking wild things for her next meal, Becky Selengut is a private chef, an author, a humorist, and a cooking teacher. A regular instructor for PCC Natural Markets since 2004, Selengut is also an adjunct professor in the culinary/nutrition department at Bastyr University. Selengut is the author of Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast and Shroom (September 2014). Her wife, sommelier April Pogue, contributed the wine pairings. In the near future, Selengut hopes to clone herself so she can find the time to do more fun things that other people call “work.”

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Rights to Wild Foods and Medicines

Between 2009-2011, I led an anthropology study on urban foraging. The first set of results from that project are now published in the academic journal Human Ecology (full article here: Urban Forest Justice and the Rights to Wild Foods and Medicines in the City).

The structure of the article is fairly straight forward for an ethnoecology and science publication. We present the findings within a larger discussion of forest justice and food sovereignty. Both of these topical fields have developed in non-urban areas, so we're pretty excited to shine light on the issues as they unfold in a city. Although it's rapidly changing, the thought that cities have forested ecosystems and that food is produced there is still quite new. In many places, legal codes do not recognize that wild food and natural medicine are at home in the city.

During the course of the research project, our team was honored to hear the stories and experiences of many foragers, some who have gathered wild foods and medicines in the city for over 50 years. There are so many amazing quotations that capture the depth and importance of this practice. Below, I share a few anonymous comments from the participants.
You can go out and you can appreciate [nature] and say “oh, my isn’t it pretty” and people can show you and you can learn by that. But when you interact on this level, when it becomes part of your pantry, when it is part of which you eat, now you have a relationship. You’re not an outsider observer. It’s not this “other” thing. It’s part of you and you’re part of it.
 [Foraging] has a lot of potential to shift a lot of things for a lot of people. And for our environment. If we’re eating from our environment, then we’re tending for it and caring for it. ... everything we do is with a mindfulness of our connections to life - whether it be the life inside of us, the life inside of a plant, the life inside of an animal, another person.
Making your own medicine empowers you to be honest. Knowing that you have control. They can tell you what not to buy. They can restrict things. But no one can stop you from taking a walk in a park and finding herbs.

Our main theoretical and applied contribution is to create a theory of "Urban Forest Justice." An urban forest justice framework recognizes the rights of local people to have control over their own culturally appropriate food and health systems, including access to edible and healthful wild resources, participation in decision-making about how these are managed, and the fundamental ways that cultural identities and social relations are embedded in forest systems provisioning wild goods.       

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Foraging in Crow’s Backyard

The fermenting smell of Concord grape takes me back to one of my earliest childhood memories. The wild grape vine on the property line between our home and the neighbors’ opened doors to the adventure and abundance of late summer in Northern California. I remember walking around the block, visiting with neighbors, and gleaning fruits such as plums, pomegranates, lowquats and crabapples, and exploring the morphology of acorns and walnuts that had fallen to the ground, never quite figuring out how to process them for their promise of nutmeats. I come from a family of sporadic foragers, shellfish harvesters, and dumpster divers. Many of us doIn fact, it may be a very long line of foragers and hunters.

a feral & hearty 50+ year old grape vine behind our house on Beacon Hill, Seattle WA

To my child’s mind, it made little sense for food to waste on trees, or on the ground for that matter. Foraging was a way to explore my environment and engage a sense of wonder. It still is. Edible plants like wild mint and lemony sorrel offer the adventurous tastes of nature. Reclaiming wild, neglected and discarded food is my family ethic; and I hope it might also once again become a wider species ethic.

Perhaps more subversive than simply diverting edibles from the wasteshed back into the foodshed, however, I’m interested in foraging as a way to more deeply embed ourselves in the environments where nearly 80% of Americans now live: cities. What’s so subversive about urban foraging? First, it pushes us to consider that anthropogenic landscapes (such as cities) are also natural landscapes where wildness thrives. Second, it challenges tired narratives about modernization and human evolution that make ongoing subsistence invisible.

This is where the idea of Crow’s Backyard comes into greater perspective. Crows are emblematic of this wildness and our interconnectedness with urban nature. The habitat perhaps most closely associated with this native corvid species is the urban habitat. Crows are birds of the city. They’re adaptive, inventive, and resilient. In her book Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, Seattle naturalist Lyanda Haupt writes (p. 13):
Crows remind us that we make our homes not in a vacuum, but in a zoöpolis, a place where human and wild geographies meet and mingle.
The idea that modern post-industrial cities are devoid of wildness, and furthermore that people who live in cities are disconnected from nature, may well be based on a myth that allows us to ignore the intricate dimensions of wildness in cities, and the ways in which human dwellers engage with plants, mushrooms and diverse urban habitats through the gathering, tending and consumption of wild foods. 
Any landscape marked by human intrusion is, in ecological parlance, disturbed, and as a habitat-type, the urban landscape can only be called highly disturbed. The word disturbe has a Latin root, turbare, which means “to agitate” or “to confuse,” “to pour together,” “to mix utterly.” How fitting! Wild and domestic. Native and introduced. Rare and invasive. Pavement and pathway. Human and wild. The extraordinary and the commonplace. (Crow Planet, Haupt, p. 177)
Urban foraging forces us to reconcile with another myth: that the lifeways of so-called hunter-gatherers were either long ago sealed in some cave, or else relegated to isolated human populations who have yet to evolve into modern “homo economicus” –the hominid species who supposedly gave up inefficient and suboptimal foraging for the convenience and cheapness of agroindustrial food. What I know from my family experience, and confirmed in greater detail and complexity through my work as an anthropologist and ethnoecologist, is that foraging is an ongoing and thriving contemporary practice that brings great meaning to people, connecting them with their homelands –whether urban or remote– and to one another.

borderlines of industry & healing plants 

Gathering wild foods, medicines and craft material in “Crow’s Backyard” connects people to the wildness of the urban landscapes in ways that bring us more fully into nature. Urban foraging deepens our relationships with plants and ecosystems in the city. In doing so, it breaks down the false dualisms that separate humans from nature, and nature from cities. 
All living things together. All eating, breathing, drinking, spawning their seed, raising their young, leaping, crawling, questioning, thriving, just ever so barely getting by. No wonder most of us are mystified about our proper relationship to wild life, when our substrate itself is so thoroughly confounded. No wonder we are unprepared for this remarkable banquet. No wonder we close our eyes, toss birdseed, and hope for the best. (Crow Planet, Haupt, p. 177)
Like crows, people are adaptive, creative and resilient. And the nature in cities, where many of us make our homes, offers a tasty, nutritious, and in some places abundant, wild buffet.

from wasteshed to foodshed

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Urban Harvest: a multimedia science story produced by University of Oregon journalism students

A collaboration with the Science Stories journalism class at the University of Oregon. They produced a  a multimedia series on science stories in the Pacific Northwest. Here is the clip they put together about our Urban Foraging study.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sharing the Magic of Black Cottonwood Bud Salve

One of my favorite things about foraging and wildcrafting is the culture of sharing that exists between practitioners. Foragers often share their bounty, wildcrafted goods, knowledge and friendship. This past winter, a new foraging friend shared her knowledge and techniques for harvesting and making Black Cottonwood Bud Salve (aka “Balm of Gilead”).

photo credit: Joyce
Black Cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp trichocarpa) is a native broadleaf tree that grows in the wet regions of the Western Washington lowlands (including Seattle). The tall tree with its furrowed bark and a yellowish hue is a member of the willow family (Salicaceae), and like other poplars, contains resins and cambium with medicinal, food and material uses. When processed as a salve, cottonwood can be used to relieve pain and is known for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Honeybees also use derivatives (propolis) from poplar trees to protect their hives.

The best time to gather Black Cottonwood buds is December to February when leaf buds are beginning to form. Gathering in the winter is a quiet and meditative pleasure and a great excuse to get outdoors for exercise and fresh air. The most recent winter solstice, I went to a few spots in Seattle where I know Cottonwood trees grow. A recent storm had littered the ground with windblown branches of plump leaf buds. I plucked off and collected about two pocketsful of buds from the fallen branches.

At home I processed the buds, wiping off bits of dirt and dried leaves, placing the resinous buds in a clear jar and bathing them in olive oil, covering the opening with a cloth to allow air circulation. I set the jar in a sunny window and let the oil slow-extract the resin from the buds for two months, stirring occasionally with a wooden chopstick. The air and the oils smelled like a delicious walk in the woods. 

After two months, I strained out the leaf buds, leaving the cottonwood infused oil.  To make the balm, I needed beeswax. I offered the cottonwood bud salve in exchange for some locally produced beeswax from Seattle’s beekeeper extraordinaire (Ballard Bee Co). I melted the wax and mixed in the resinous oils then poured the liquid salve into small jars.

Each jar of cottonwood bud salve contains within it the magic of winter poplar, the hard work of bees, and the generosity of a community of foragers who continue to pass down generations of medicinal plant knowledge.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fungi Foraging in Seattle and Beyond

Seattle has a diverse mycota – or fungi community – linked to its mild climate and biologically diverse plant community. Of the many hundreds of species of fungi in Seattle, there are at least 40 known mushrooms with edible and medicinal properties and another handful used for fiber dying, artistic purposes, and ecological restoration. Safe harvesting and consumption of mushrooms requires expert knowledge and when done with care can be a rewarding and sustainable way to find foods and materials in our local urban environment.
Turkey Tail Necklace photo by Joyce 
The foraging that takes place within Seattle is primarily for personal use. Most of the folks who forage wild mushrooms have spent years learning the art of identification. Anyone interested in getting started should get involved with the Puget Sound Mycological Society (PSMS). PSMS offers identification classes and organizes mushroom forays for learning more about fungi ecology, identification, and related soil issues (which may render an otherwise edible mushroom unsafe for human consumption – a concern in urban areas with industrial land-uses). Knowing your mushrooms is essential and some edibles have poisonous look-a-likes. Among the choice edibles found in Seattle are: Leccinum scabrum (“birch bolete”); Agaricus agustus (“the prince”), Pleurotus ostreatus (“oyster mushroom”), and the occasional Morel.

While there are valuable mushrooms to be found in the urban ecosystems of Seattle, many mycophiles set their eyes towards the mountains where the abundance and variety may be greater. Prized edible mushrooms that can be found in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains (within a couple of hours from Seattle) include: Boletus edulis “King bolete”, a variety of morels and chanterelles, Tricholoma magnivelare “matsutake”, and Sparassis crispa “cauliflower mushroom” among many other edible species. Check with local jurisdictions about harvesting permits and regulations. The usual cautions around identification apply here as well.
With the proper skill set, mushrooming can be a safe, rewarding, and sustainable way to interact with our environment.
This post originally appeared on Urban Farm Hub, where Melissa Poe is a contributing writer.