Thursday, August 7, 2008

Island Time

My apologies for the paucity of posts lately—FOTL has been on another summer sabbatical, this one sponsored by Mrs. Finspot (she of the Blue Positive blog) and her deathless poetry, which has landed us in Washington's San Juan Islands for a stint at a writing residency. Whether in the tropics or more northerly latitudes, Island Time is a peculiar warbling of the solar clock that is most accurately expressed in the procrastinator's maxim "why do today what you can put off until tomorrow."

That and the fact that wi-fi here is next to non-existent. Those are my excuses and I'm sticking to 'em.

In any event, traveling offers a chance to tap into the local forage, putting a new spin on what otherwise might be old hat. Yesterday we explored English Camp on the northern tip of San Juan Island, where the shooting of a pig in 1859 nearly provoked war between the U.S. and Great Britain.

On the trail to Bell Point we browsed on the seldom-seen native Pacific blackberry (Rubus ursinus), also called the California blackberry. Less vicious (and less prolific) than the Himalayan blackberry (R. armeniacus), our native blackberries are ground-hugging creepers; conversely, all stout, self-supporting cane-like brambles are non-native exotic weeds.

Nearby Oregon grape was also in full berry mode. These are seriously sour berries, although some foragers (not FOTL) will make jams and jellies with them and even pies, given enough sugar.

At the point we knew right away we were in the right spot: several other clammers were working the shoreline, all of them sporting little inflatable rafts that they'd used to motor over from boats moored in the harbor. There are more boats than people in this neck of the woods, which means the clams are big and plentiful.

Mostly we got native littlenecks, Manila clams, and mussels, but we saw lots of geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) shows. Some people, notably the Japanese, are partial to geoducks. Digging down five feet to recover a clam with meat the consistency of shoe leather is not part of FOTL's repertoire at this point, but maybe it's all in the cooking.

Finally, in a little bay near Roche Harbor we found what I'm pretty sure is known colloquially as "sea beans," a member of the Salicornia genus of salt-tolerant plants that live in marshes, mangroves, and along beaches and are supposed to be edible and delicious. If anyone has experience cooking or eating sea beans, I'd like to hear from you.


Mrarfarf said...

Ni Post, To cook Geoduck, I think you drop it into a boiling pot of water and count "1 geoduck, 2 geoduck, 3 geoduck", then pull it out, peel the skin off and discard the "Ball" of muscle. slice it up like sashimi and it's really good. cooking it longer than a few seconds makes it hard like rubber. Seabeans are REALLY good. I've always had them raw, but there is a lookalike that is poisonous. I cant remember the name. Good luck!

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Sea beans? Raw in salads with a Japanese dressing, or steamed quickly or blanched in salty water. They are a little like saltwort on the East coast, which is fabulous pickled. Maybe try pickling the sea beans?

goffish said...

I wonder if anyone has tried preparing Geoduck in a simular fasion to the way Conch is prepared in the Bahamas. Beat it with a hammer, cut it in strips and fry it. Your post has made me a bit homesick as I have traded San Juan for Montana long ago and I miss me mussels. Thanks, dg.