For a while when I was a kid, my dad kept a couple burlap bags in the trunk of the car. He never knew when he might drive past a nice-looking patch of dandelions, or day lilies, or elderberries, and he wanted to be ready to gather them. It was the 70s, he had read Euell Gibbons, and although he cultivated an enormous garden in our front yard, he also liked to make food out of what he found growing locally. Initially, this foraging delighted me, but of course as I got older I would shrink down in the front seat when Dad pulled over, wishing I were invisible, praying that none of my friends would see me as they went by. Now, I’m back to admiring his foraging impulses, grateful that he still gathers hickory nuts for our cookies and pies every winter.
Apparently, the foraging instinct skips a generation. Last week, Ben spent his school’s Day of Service with his teachers and classmates in Golden Gate Park, the latest in a series of terrific 3rd grade field trips. They learned about the resident birds from local ornithologist Josiah Clark, they learned about the park’s plants from a couple Park & Rec employees, and then they did some weeding to help restore a bird habitat. At dinner that night, Ben told us all about the weeds they’d pulled and the plants they’d tried to protect — one of which, miner’s lettuce, I’ve seen (and purchased) from the farmer’s market for over $5 a pound. The following day at Eli’s baseball game, he spotted a patch of miner’s lettuce, and picked a few leaves to nibble. A couple days later, at Eli’s baseball practice, he found a great big patch of miner’s lettuce:
I didn’t have anything to collect our harvest in but my purse, but we filled it up:
And then made a delicious foraged salad to accompany our dinner that night:
miner’s lettuce or other salad greens
a handful of dried cherries
a handful of toasted, slivered almonds
a sprinkling of ricotta salata
Toss all the ingredients in a salad bowl and serve.