A Foraged Friendsgiving: Part One, the Wild
Beige mushrooms pop out of the earth like buttons on a fat man’s vest. Nearby, wild onions and sheep sorrel form a wilting boutonniere. On an autumn nature walk with friends, with crackly leaves underfoot, delectable vegetation is everywhere—if you look for it.
A growing number of foodies go to local woods and waters, instead of the grocer, for mushrooms, ramps, seafood, berries and herbs. Hitting the trailhead has become de rigueur for restaurateurs and recreational cooks. Like a scavenger hunt for foodstuffs, foraging resembles an outdoor game—and is the perfect way to prep for a Thanksgiving meal with friends.
Ambra (left) wears the colorblock border scarf over the oversize v-neck sweater. Katie Joy (right) wears the turtleneck sweater dress and casual hoodie blazer.
We took a group of Nordstrom employees out to forage (and for a photo shoot) in the Washington woods. Dressed in Treasure&Bond clothing, our crew hunted for items to include in a homemade meal. We also spoke to foraging experts and enthusiasts to learn where to go and how to score big in the Puget Sound.
Our menu included chanterelle, oyster and maitake mushrooms, all wild and forageable in the Pacific Northwest. Onions, herbs and wildflowers were also on our wish list. Mushrooms are the most popular edible to scout for and, of course, make a tasty autumn side dish. Kylen McCarthy, a former Seattle resident and a current chef at New York’s Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, has experience uncovering buttons on both coasts. They are his favorite foraged ingredient to cook (he recommends adding juniper berries for an earthy, elegant fragrance). “The fall [foraging] season in the Northwest is comprised of mushroom predominantly, matsutakes from Oregon and a small window for porcini and black trumpets,” he says. “The East Coast follows a similar pattern with the end of summer transitioning into a mushroom-dominant fall.” For McCarthy the pleasure in foraging comes in how it relates us to the environment. “Although I’m an avid supporter of any foraged mushroom or wild edible, I think the enjoyment is found in understanding the ecology of your environment and allowing those influences to translate a particular place in time,” he says.
On a brisk but sunny fall day, dipping your hand into shallow seawater can feel primitive and thrilling when you clutch a gnarled shell. There are several public oyster beaches throughout the Puget Sound area. Many oyster farms will let you collect your own in their waters too. We needed oysters for a refreshing but light appetizer before the main meal. Plus, bivalves are natural conversation starters.
Wood (left) wears the regular fit henley sweater and diamond stitched hooded jacket. Jillian (right) wears the honeycomb long cardigan over the western pocket shirt.
Jim Henkens is a photographer based in the Pacific Northwest who has worked on numerous cookbooks, including one apiece on oysters and crab. Searching the waters around his Lummi Island home in Washington state for delicious sea creatures is plainly, in his words, “one of my favorite things to do.” Henkens even named his delightful Seattle kitchen shop Marine Area 7, after the state designation for the San Juan Islands waters.
“There are a lot of reasons,” Henkens says, when asked why he is such an avid crabber and prawner. “One of the main reasons is that Dungeness crab are really delicious and if you buy them they are expensive, like $30 each. But you can catch 15 of them at once. Being on the water with friends is also a reason. You put the pots out then have a picnic and a beer on another island.”
People crab in the San Juans beginning in the summer months through the end of the year. One simply needs a crab pot (the trap), some bait (Henkens favors salmon heads), a boat and a rope. Ask the locals or look around for buoys in the water to learn where the prime spots are.
Salmon fishing in West Coast waters is also popular in the fall and winter. “The blackmouth or king salmon doesn’t go out to the ocean, so fishing it is a really popular winter sport around here,” says Henkens. “They have blackmouth derbies. People are nuts: they put on their rain gear and sit out on their boats for hours.”
A lot of laws address fishing and foraging. Gleaning edibles on private property without permission and in some wildlife areas is illegal. But most public lands and parks allow foraging so long as it’s for personal consumption. Before you forage, crab, prawn or pluck, check with your state’s Fish and Wildlife Department for the seasons and regulations around these activities. Mining the waters for seafood requires a license and is “super regulated,” says Henkens. Random checks on the waters around the San Juans are common. So take heed. We wouldn’t want you to be late to dinner.
Photography by Matthew Sumi
Copy by Britt Olson
Styling by Tamala Ayres
Production by Jeff Powell & Andrew Matson
Our model employees: Wood Brownlow, Jillian Jacobitz, Ambra Washington & Katie Joy Blanksma