We want everyone to enjoy their wild foods! We're collecting recipes for native and invasive wild species, and you are welcome to send us your favorites.
Recipes for wild greens:
Harvest your greens responsibly! Make sure you have identified what you plan to harvest; know the rules for where you plan to harvest; know what your target species is eaten by and check for caterpilars; harvest in the least damaging way; only harvest what you are ready to eat, preserve, or share right away; leave some for others (including wildlife).
Nettles (Urtical dioica):
Responsible wild harvest includes knowing the ecology of what you're harvesting. Stinging nettle are the larval food source for Milbert's tortoiseshell and red admiral butterflies; please check your patch for caterpillars, frass (caterpillar poop), and buds stuck together or leaves rolled up by sheltering caterpillars. Nettle stings are not harmful, but can be painful, so wearing gloves to harvest is recommended. Nettles should be harvested before they bloom, and only take the top 3-4 leaf whorls so the plant can regrow and bloom. Versatile nettle greens can be used like spinach in many cooked dishes. For full nutritional value nettles should be eaten with oil, fat, or butter, since they are rich in fat soluble carotene (pre-cursor to Vitamin A) and Vitamin K.
Pickleweed (Salicornia virginica)
Pickleweed is variously known as sea asparagus, marsh samphire, glasswort, and sea beans. A native relative of spinach, it grows in salt marshes and along low-energy sandy shorelines. Perennial but deciduous, pickleweed often turns red in the fall before its succulent leaves die back.
New shoots are best picked before they bloom; flowers are at the tips of stems, tiny and inconspicuous, with white anthers covered in pollen. Salt marshes are fragile habitat for birds so responsible harvesters avoid trampling surrounding plants, approaching pickleweed patches from the water’s edge or bare sand.
Salty and crunchy, new shoots can be enjoyed raw, or pickled, blanched and served like green beans or asparagus. They can also be dried and used as a seasoning, either crumbled or powdered.
Recipes for Seaweeds:
You can harvest kelps (brown seaweeds), red seaweeds (including laver), and sea lettuces (green seaweeds). Seaweeds are rich in minerals, but can accumulate heavy metals and other contaminants; chose harvesting sites with good circulation away from sources of pollution. Unless you are under 15 or excercising Tribal Treaty Havesting Rights you need a Washington State seaweed and shellfish license to harvest seaweeds in the islands. Use a knife or scissors to cut the seaweed above its holdfast or attachment point and take care to avoid disturbing the intertidal habitat. Seaweeds can be eaten fresh, dried, frozen, or pickled.
Winged Kelp (Alaria marginata)
Recipes for wild fruits:
Harvest your berries responsibly! Invasive species like Himalya blackberry and English hawthorn can be freely harvested, be more judicious with native species. Fruit are how these plants reproduce, so make sure to leave plenty for the next generation. Make sure you have identified what you plan to harvest; know the rules for where you plan to harvest; harvest in the least damaging way; only harvest what you are ready to eat, preserve, or share right away; leave some for others (including wildlife).
English Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna):
Invasive English hawthorn berries can be harvested by picking whole clusters. Remove seeds before consuming.
Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca):
Berry-sized native crabapple make up in flavor what they lack in size. Crabapples can be harvested when they are ripe but still firm, or after they have turned brown and soft (much like bletted medlars or persimmons). Harvest by removing whole clusters (leave plenty for birds and other wildlife), sort hard fruit from soft, and remove any spoiled, damaged, or very green crabapples. To cook hard-ripe crabapples: cover with water and bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, pour off hot water and add cold water to cool. Crabapple sauce may be made from cooked hard-ripe crabapples or the raw soft brown ripe crabapples (hard crabapples make a bright yellow tart sauce, while soft-ripe crabapple sauce is an orange-yellow with a mellower tart flavor). Carefully pull the stem from each crabapple, rechecking for any bad ones. A twist may be necessary to remove stems without slipping the skins (and much of the pulp) off the apples. Remove seeds by putting through a food mill. Crabapple pulp freezes well.
Salal (Gautheria shallon):
Salal fruits abundantly in late summer, and ripens over a long period of time, harvest large ripe berries (you can take the whole raceme and destem the individual berries at home). Salal is important late summer food for birds, harvest only what you need. Berries can be preserved by mashing and drying, freezing, or canning in preserves. Salal is high in antioxidant anthocyanin pigments. Kwiaht botanist Madrona Murphy demonstrates and talks about harvesting salal berries in this video.
Recipes for fish:
Surf Smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus)
Don't discard eggs when cleaning salmon! You can make them into fresh salmon caviar.