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Food Foraging Movement Taking Root In San Diego

June 3, 2013 1:03 p.m.


Caron Golden, Food Writer, author of the blog San Diego Food Stuff

Trey Foshee, Executive Chef and partner for George's at the Cove

Related Story: Food Foraging Movement Taking Root In San Diego


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The farm to table movement is so popular in San Diego you've even seen chain supermarkets showcasing locally grown food of San Diego's best reference restaurants and chefs have began crying as themselves to include in their menu so what is next, what about foraging in the wild? Chefs and foodies are learning about the bounty of food that grows wild in San Diego. They say from pine nuts to dandelions, Rosemary to radish blossoms. If you learn to pick and choose correctly, forging can add a unique and savory touch to your meals. I'd like to introduce my guests, Caron Golden is a food writer, she is author of the blog San Diego foodstuff and has a story in the newly released summer issue of edible San Diego Magazine. Caron, welcome to the program.

CARON GOLDEN: Always fun to be with you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Trey Foshee is executive chef and partner Georges at the Cove and welcome back, Trey,

TREY FOSHEE: Great to be here.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Caron, most of us don't go to the park and think what do I take him to eat? Most of us really would not know where to start, what is inspiring vistas are to find food in the wild.

CARON GOLDEN: I think Trey could probably answer that, but I've been talking to various chefs and, what they seem to be enjoying about it is that it creates a very unique stamp on their food, ingredients are ingredients and if all chefs here have the same access to the same ingredients, then it comes down to technique but for a lot of chefs they can go out foraging along the coast as straight as, or England in some of the riparian areas and they can find things that maybe nobody else is looking for and putting on their tables.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you then, Trey, what inspired you to start I guess pulling things up from the ground? And include them in your menu?

TREY FOSHEE: I think there are a couple layers to it but the main reason is that we are doing at the restaurant what we are doing with the cuisine is trying to distill it into something that can really only happen here in San Diego so if you're going to start from that premise, then the natural plaque that you are going to go down is one gross here in San Diego naturally without being on a farm so that is kind of where we started.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are there any books are things that you can find to tell you what grows here naturally, or do you have to just go out and look?

TREY FOSHEE: I'm definitely far from being an expert on it. There are a few books that we've used as resources not really related to our area, but just overall edible plants and those kinds of things and a few things a few friends of mine are interested in the same things, we share information and that's really where we are, we are very careful in the things we poll we make sure we know what they are and where they are from and that they are safe.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now in your article for edible San Diego, Caron you went out on one of these foraging excursions.

CARON GOLDEN: We went on a few foraging expeditions.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Where did you go what did you find?

CARON GOLDEN: My first trip was with Trey and a friend of his, Chris Ahearns and we went along the coast of the North County and he was really enlightening, because I spoke to an expert forager, Hank Shah who I think has been on the program and one of the things that he mentioned was that most of us have what he calls green blindness. You're basically, it's like everyday living you walk around the house and you don't notice that something needs to be painted in your house. We go out into our yards or along the street or the parks or the beach and there's all of this wonderful foliage that is editable around us and we do not even see it. You know, we are blind to it. Once you start being exposed to this insert plates, then you cannot help but see it everywhere. And that was the big day going that I had. I went out with tray, then I went out with a survivalist named Jeremy Jackson who teaches these classes out in some of the regional parks. And I took Chad White with me who is a chef in town and he taught us about all the things that you can find in some of the canyons and some of the drier areas, then I went to Rancho Valencia resort which is in Rancho Santa Fe and mentor Ben, who is the chef de cuisine there took me out and on the grounds that they have about 9 acres or something, and showed me all of the things that he forages on a daily basis. And it was just fascinating, right after that I went to a dog park, trailed behind my dog bark with my dogs and it was March, and all of a sudden all I saw all over were stinging nettles. Everything I saw was stinging nettles and wild Sage. Once you are exposed to it, you see it everywhere.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Trey, you brought in a beautiful little salad made out of fortune produced and there's also a far here can you tell me what is on display?

TREY FOSHEE: Sure, all those ingredients were harvested about a mile from my house, so we have nasturtium blossoms, nasturtium leaves, I took the path of the nasturtium and pickled them so there are pickled nasturtium pods, there is wild fennel, there's reddish blossoms, there is New Zealand spinach, which is what you have right there.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's fabulous. Just outside your house you found this?

TREY FOSHEE: Yeah, and the natal plums, which a lot of those things are not native, but they do end up growing wild here, the natal plums I think have a really interesting acidic flavor profile, so we threw a couple of those in there as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's absolutely delicious, I mean it sort of blows my mind, I'm a very urban sort of a person and I don't think I've actually eaten things, in fact if your mother always tells you, spit that out

CARON GOLDEN: That's the thing, for instance, the natal plums, as soon as Trey and I walked to this park and saw the Bush with them growing we started picking them and I thought wait a second, I CDs everywhere. I would never have thought to pick anything from them and it turns out they are the most delicious berries and absolutely gorgeous, look at how I mean this vibrant magenta they almost look like little beads, and they are delicious.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the pine nuts here we were talking a little bit before the show began and I sneaked a pine nut, and the flavor is so intense as are all of the flavors. Why is that they would be more intense and perhaps the pine nuts you get interest from a store?

CARON GOLDEN: I think part of it is the growing location, they were in an intense area, you know we are a very dry community, so all these plans have to work extra hard to survive, which means everything they produce is more intense. And so I think that's part of it. I think also the freshness of it, the pine nuts that you get in the store you really have no idea when they were harvested or where they were harvested. So freshness has a big impact in the flavor of everything. There is no point for me as a chef there's no point in going out there and doing this just for the sake of putting on the menu or saying we are out there foraging. If it doesn't taste great, then what is the point. What I find especially when we turn them into silence number one you taste each ingredient separately and they are so intense and so interesting that they really stand on their own. There is no salt in there, no ascetic element other than the fruit they just have the slavery and they taste really of what San Diego is paired

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Caron, what are the caveats to this?


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Obviously we all know there can be hazards if you picked the wrong kind of mushroom you need to know your stuff when you go out and forward forage mushrooms.

CARON GOLDEN: There are certain things I would never do without someone who is expert I would never recommend that you just go cavalierly along picking things and putting them in your mouth for a few reasons. One is, one plant that (INAUDIBLE) look very much like inedible plant that you've also seen in a book but it may be a variation on that that you do not want to eat, so you should go out with somebody who's really expert on this, so look a lot, pick little and eat less than that. The other thing is that you want to look to pick in places that are not in compromised environmental, environmentally compromised areas. So you do not want to pick off the side of a busy road necessarily because you are getting all of the exhaust fumes and stuff that's landing on these plans. You don't want to, you want to Washington before you put them in your mouth. One of the things that Matt Barber told me even at Rancho Valencia which is a sound quiet little oasis there is that he does not pick things right after a rainfall because you don't know what effluents have come down and gone through, and he does not pick necessarily and eat without washing several times a lot of the greens that he gets, because snails will go through these areas and they can leave bacteria that can be lethal. So you make to wash things carefully even if its nasturtiums. Most of us go through canyons in the spring and we see nasturtiums everywhere and those are easy to find a spot and paper just make sure you get them home and wash them well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us a little bit more about the snails because this great delicacy, we see snails all the time just walking. Around our gardens. And, now the idea with foraging these snails are being taken by the chef and actually fed and served to the public.

CARON GOLDEN: It's not an uncommon thing to do, but probably not among most people, I think maybe if we were in France, most of us would be doing it, but not necessarily in the US. They're basically things like when I find in my garden I pop them and throw them over my fence. I do not want them around. But if you are a chef you may want to collect these and like Trey and I were talking about before the show traditionally the way you prepare them before you eat them is to feed them corn meal, and that basically cleans their digestive tract. What Matt (INAUDIBLE) does is feed them greens and carrots for several days and I don't know how much detail you want me to going to for a few days he purchased them and then can use them for cooking so it takes about a week to get them to the point where they are ready to be prepared.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Trey you have to be careful about also where you're going to be doing this, are their property issues involved and things of that nature?

TREY FOSHEE: Absolutely, and I think like this indicator look, you're not supposed to forage in there, and you know there's a lot of homes, you're not going to go traipse into somebody's yard and start making up whatever is going there, so you for sure I think common sense as far as that goes. One of the things I think is that as people talk about the safety of it, that is definitely a concern and something to be concerned about the people grab stuff off the shelves of supermarkets all the time not knowing who touched it, where it came from but because it's in a bag with a label on it, it gives them a sense of security. At least with this you can make the decision on your own weird came from where it was picked and handled.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How do you use these items in your menus??

TREY FOSHEE: We use them mostly as garnish items because they are so intense that we have something called table 3 which is a multicourse meal the available 21 table and I get we usually include a salad or someone – that really utilizes the concept of foraging.


CARON GOLDEN: I was going to say one of things you find in common with most of the chefs I know who are foraging is that they are using them as salads or garnishes mostly because you don't want to be stripping the land. I mean, we don't want all these people now going out and picking everything that they see. We want to make sure that the environment still stays healthy. So you want to be modest in terms of what you collect, because we do not want to see the environment now, you know, torn down because people all of a sudden think that foraging is a great idea?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But it is a new way to look at the environment.

CARON GOLDEN: Absolutely

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering there is this idea of course that I'm eating this now, it's delicious and as you say the flavors are very intense. Is there any idea that the actual attrition of value when you do this correctly surpasses the plaintiff attrition that you could get out of producing a supermarket?

CARON GOLDEN: Well the New York Times just did a piece on the 25th, a woman, writer named Joe Robinson did a piece called greeting the nutrition out of our food and one of the things that has been looked at is that over the centuries, beyond that we have been stripping the phyto nutrients out of our food and that has happened through agriculture. Mostly because it is farmers to go growing things like corn and variance of corn that are the sweeter he dear easier to digest foods, truth is that a lot of the phyto nutrients are things that a lot of people may not find us attractive in eating as they'd like in other foods for instance, there are seven times more fighter the transcendent spinach and reconsider spinach to be a superfood. But, the thing is that a lot of those plans are very better in various stretches because that's where the fighter nutrients are. So we spread that a lot of the a lot of the things that we cross on your picking plants here like Trey has put together here it's possible that they will have more nutritional value than what we grow.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have to ask you really quickly, Trey for anyone who just wanted to get started in foraging, any quick tips?

TREY FOSHEE: Just pick up a book first file and make sure you are familiar with our growing area, what grows naturally here and what is safe to eat and do not take a chance on anything that you are not absolutely 100% sure about.

CARON GOLDEN: Take a class, look at this guy Jeremy Jackson. You can look up on meet up and he takes people around some of the parks. Also, get books, look in your own backyard, first.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Take a look at what is going on there.

CARON GOLDEN: That you are usually picking and throwing out

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Caron Golden, her book is gone wild and Trey Foshee chef at Georges at the Cove, thank you both very much.

BOTH: Thank you.