Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Taste of Place

"Naturally then, the mountains, the creatures, the entire non-human world is struggling to make contact with us. The plants we eat or smoke are trying to ask us what we are up to; the animals are signaling to us in our dreams or in forests; the whole Earth is rumbling and straining to let us know that we are of it, this planet, this macrocosm is of our flesh, that the grasses are our hair, the trees our hands, the rivers our blood, that the Earth is our real body and it is alive.” David Abram"

Indian Tea aka Labrador Tea (Ledum palustre)

The world is not as big as it used to be, in 2 weeks time we can buy a flight to anywhere. At the touch of our fingertips, we can be in contact companions across the globe, skype with friends in Australia without delay. We are citizens of the world, a global nation. Yet, with all this ability to travel and connect with one another, there is something lost, our sense of place. A sense of where we are, what the season is, what birds or insects are migrating here, the time of sunrise, and how much fruit the cherry blossoms promise?

Eating local food is one way to regain a sense of place, to be in touch with the season. It allows our cells to be built on the world we surround ourselves with. It supports the local economy, and helps preserve and protect the land we choose to call home. When we harvest our food, be it wild harvesting or eating from the seeds we sow, we are strengthening that connection by becoming part of the process. We broaden our taste and honor the season with heightened gratitude. Mostly, we connect with the earth on a molecular level. We literally become of the earth.

On a recent trip through the Inside Passage, I got to experience the forest and the sea – alive. A place where there is no Scotch Broom, English Ivy or Himalayan blackberries. Where the food and the medicine are One, and each have been remembered and passed on. The Douglas firs tower above, the sundews pull you to your knees, the Indian tea leaves brush against your fingers, and the huckleberries are plump at mouth level. The native plants remain in harmony. Even if you don’t recognize skunk cabbage or bunchberry, you can’t help but notice the complimentary shapes and textures that naturally landscape the forests.

As the days went by, our bodies began to move with the rhythms of the tides. High tides for traveling, slack tides for fishing and low tides for feasting. Sea algae, seaweed, and sea vegetables are synonyms for the abundant microalgae along the shores of the Northwest. Because all but one are edible, I chose to call them, sea vegetables. These green bits that annoyingly get stuck in your bathing suit are likely edible, delectable, and highly nutritious. They clean the sea of toxins and heavy metals and they do the same to our bodies, while providing rich amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca) and Bull kelp drying (Nereocystis luetkeana)

Sea vegetables have been harvested on coasts across the globe since the first days. Most can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried, and are a wise addition to any diet. Sea vegetables are well known for the disease prevention properties and are therefore becoming increasingly popular, and expensive. They are easy to gather and prepare, but please learn the proper etiquette to help prevent over-harvesting. In Washington State you must possess a license for gathering seaweeds.

Bladderwrack (focus gardneri) in front of the Kurt's cabin.

In Alaska, I used a book to build my gathering confidence, to inspire a recipe, and to show to the other table attendants, “yes, it’s edible, see.” Self-sufficiently, we spent two weeks in escaping reality. Yet maybe we had it backwards, maybe THAT was reality.

Here is one of the harvested favorites.

1 T oil

½ onion, diced

1 T raw ginger, grated

2 carrots, cut in strips lengthwise

¼ cup raw almonds, chopped & toasted

1 ½ cup sea beans (salicornia virginica)

1 ½ cup bladderwrack (focus gardneri)

1 cup sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca)

1 T tamari

4 cups cooked brown rice

Heat oil in skillet. Sauté onion on medium heat until soft. Add carrots and ginger, sauté 3 minutes more. Add bladderwrack and stir until bright green. Add sea beans sauté a few minutes more. Mix together with rice, chives & almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature. Wash it down with a warm cup of Indian tea (Ledum palustre).
Sea Vegetable Rice Salad with Baked Flounder & Roasted Potatoes


  1. It seems like a dream-state. Reach out and taste. Maybe this reminds me of my childhood and living a life in the forest. I'm inspired to try to go back there and find out...

  2. hucks plump at eye level ... a hillside of bladderwrack. Good stuff! Thanks for bringing it into my office ;)

  3. when's the next issue?!?!?


Please leave comments!
If you have any burning nutrition questions, leave those here too, and you may be the next blog entry.

gardenhouse tenants