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Foraging Your Own Food - In San Diego County!

Forget about Farmers' Markets and organic, how about hunting fishing and foraging your own food-right here in San Diego?

Forget about Farmers' Markets and organic, how about hunting fishing and foraging your own food-right here in San Diego? The author of Hunt, Gather, Cook is in town this week with some tips for the beginning forager.


Hank Shaw, author, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast

Shaw attends a book signing and feast at Sea Rocket Bistro, Thursday at 4 p.m.

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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.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. The wick movement in sustainable living these days is farm to table or garden to table eating. That new experiment in urban farming will be the subject of a series on Midday Edition later this month. But what about taking the whole do it yourself food sufficiency thing up a notch is and regaining the skills of the hunter gatherer? If you say that's impossible in today's world, I'd like to introduce you to my guest, Hank Shaw, author of the book hunt, gather, cook. Hank will be in San Diego later this week it talk about his book. And hello, welcome to Midday Edition.

SHAW: Thanks for having me.

CAVANAUGH: You're very welcome. Now, your book argues that no matter where you listen, you can be active in gathering your own food. How do you go about doing that?

SHAW: Well, it depends on where you live. Some places are kind of a target rich environment, and some places you have to be a little bit more restrictive. But down in San Diego, I would start on the seashore. It's such a beautiful place to just walk up and down the beaches, and the beaches are a greater area for local edibles.

CAVANAUGH: Doesn't just about every piece of land, maybe not every piece of seashore, but when you get on terra firma, every piece of land belong to someone now? Either private ownership or the government? How do you know which land you can forage on?

SHAW: The easy evaluate way is to start on public land. No one is going to bust you for picking berries in public land. If you're starting to get into deeper foraging like digging roots, you do have to know where you're going to be. And bureau of hand management land is fair game, national forest land is fair game, national preserves or state parks, those are a little iffy. But the short version of this would be just if you think you want to go foraging in a place, just look it up online and look at the restrictions. And most state parks and other places will have a list of what you can and can't do. And that's kind of what I do when I go to a new place.

CAVANAUGH: How do you go out for a walk? Do you carry a basket with you just in case you see something good along the way?

SHAW: It depends, like, if I'm in a brand-new place, I often will just go for a walk. But if I spot something I may come back there with my trusty backpack. And in there, I've got plastic bags, paper bag, I've got a little digging trowel. I've got a little Tupperware thing for berries. So yeah, I kind of do have my little rucksack this I carry with me wherever I go.

CAVANAUGH: And what is the point? Is it to save money?

SHAW: Well, it does save money. But that's -- there's a funny thing that people talk about, fly fishing. The goal is to catch fish, but that's not the point. And foraging is kind of the same way. Of the goal is definitely to bring home a wonderful meal for the table. And the ancillary benefit is that you do save money. But the point is really to connect closer to nature. So many people walk around, and I bet you most of the listeners of this program, if you walk around, how do you identify all the plants that are all around you? It's -- if you walk by oh, well, that's a tree. But you don't know what kind of tree it is. So you're kind of more living on the world rather than in it. And my goal is to get people to open their eyes a little bit more to see about what is around them in San Diego, in the deserts of San Diego County. There is some unbelievable edible plant life that's just right there. And you could walk past it your whole life and not notice it. And then when you notice it that one time, you'll see it everywhere, you'll never forget it.

CAVANAUGH: My guest is Hank Shaw, he's the author of the book hunt, gather, cook. And it sounds like you're talking about this like it becomes sort of -- it grows on you.

SHAW: It really does.

CAVANAUGH: You like the connection between being able to find something just growing somewhere and actually having it show up on your dinner plate.

SHAW: So much of what we eat in north America doesn't come from north America. And we have so many fundamentally awesome ingredients that are everywhere around us. I think a lot of your listeners know that San Diego is one of the world hunts for sea urchin. But there's some people who may not know that. People come from all over the world to eat sea urchin in San Diego. And you've got Manzanita all around you in the chaparral. That's one of the finest berries in California. A lot of people don't even know you can eat it. And the cool thing about it is when you kind of know this information about plants and fish and even hunting, you feel like you're more complete. I can walk around and it's cool. Because you're like oh, I know how to eat that, I know it's useful. And I know how to fish the bays. Upon and it's just -- you feel more capable and a little more in control of your own existence.

CAVANAUGH: What kind of level of knowledge do you need to start doing this?

SHAW: To start, it's not that -- everything is a curve. And I talked about the beaches before, but I would suggest start with your yard. Learn the plants in your own yard. Buy a good guide book, my book is less of a guide book and more of a book that makes you want to go out and get guide books and learn the plants in your yard. And once you know them, you'll find out that half of them are edible. And that's sort of a good place to step out. And the difference between knowing what is and what isn't edible is really not much more difficult than knowing the difference between iceberg lettuce and a head of cabbage. You and I both know, we can spot the difference at 20 feet. But the difference between a dandelion and a chicory is not much different.

CAVANAUGH: What might put people off is not necessarily the gathering part, but maybe the hunting part. Do you have to be a lifelong hunter or fisherman to enjoy this?

SHAW: Oh, no, not at all. In fact, I had never met a hunter until I was 24. And I didn't start hunting at all until I was 32. So yeah, I've been fishing my whole life. But all of this is -- the book is separated into three parts. It's plants, fish, and hunting. You can choose to read all three or you just focus on the plants or focus on the fish. The point is not to do all of it. The point is to do some of it and find something that really, really resonates with you. And then go from there. And I'm not asking people to do the whole lifestyle, although there's a lot of people who do. What I'm really hoping is that people just do something. Just picking black berries in the, pa. That connection to the natural world is important to us as a society and as a people. And it doesn't have to be this all encompassing thing. You can live a normal life and still know that, hey, let's go big clams once a year. Or hey, let's go take the kids out fishing. That sort of thing.

CAVANAUGH: As you mentioned, San Diego is of course -- has a long coastline and lots of fish. What kinds of fish? How can we experiment with different ways of hunting them or -- and also cooking them?

SHAW: There's as many ways to cook fish as there are fish. And San Diego is known for things like calico bass and rock bass, and yellow tail, and some of the best tuna fish in the world is down there. Some of the best Mako shark fish you go in the world is down there. You have spiny lobsters, some really spectacular wild fish that live along the coastline there. And maybe if I were to give one quick tip of a different way to cook fish, take some olive oil and heat it to about 100 and 50 degrees, use a little term meter, turn off the heat and just a fish filet in there. And the residual heat and olive oil will perfectly coat your fish, and it's just a wonderful, silky, beautiful texture. That's something that not a lot of people do that I will tend to do with a new fish, because it brings out the inherent flavor within the fish without really sauteing or frying. Which is all good, but sometimes you want it different.

CAVANAUGH: Do you run into some problems, I'm thinking now in the ocean, but I guess this is on land too, about protected species? And do you have to do some investigation on not perhaps eating something you shouldn't be eat something.

SHAW: Oh, this is especially true with duck hunting. I live in northern California. And it's one of the best duck hunting places in the nation. And you have to know which duck you're shooting at. There's lots of different kind was ducks, and some ducks you're only allowed one, some kinds of ducks, you're not allowed to shoot at all. So yes, you do have to know what your identification is especially with hunting. But even with plants, for example, there are lots and lots of Manzanita species that live in California, and a few of them are endangered, but most of them are not. The trick with something like that is if there's this gigantic stand of it, go ahead and pick berries. If there's just a few of what you're looking at, you probably should leave it alone.

CAVANAUGH: Going back into the ocean now, I know that you recommend leopard sharks.

SHAW: I love them.

CAVANAUGH: I don't think that would normally occur to someone to catch a leopard shark and perhaps cook it up.

SHAW: Well, the thing with sharks, sharks are tricky. The front page of my website right now, I just wrote about the shark fishing 'cause I was up in the San Francisco bay last week doing it. And you have to know which shark you're fishing for. Some of them have been pretty hard hit, and some of them you want to leave alone. We've all heard about the shark population, and shark finning and awful things. But when caught by hook and line, you're catching one at a time, and the limit is three. And I usually only keep two because they have a lot of meat on them. And it's just -- you will not hurt the fishery by doing that. Commercial fisheries are really the damaging thing with sharks. But the thing with the meat is, it's very, very firm, a little bit like swordfish, it's very, very white, and there's no bones because the shark doesn't have bones. They're all cartilage. And it's an under utilized species that I am really, really fond of. And I kind of focus on -- I call them misfits, but the under utilized fish like sardines, grunion. I heard you just had a grunion run. Have you ever eaten them?

CAVANAUGH: No, I never have.

SHAW: Oh, they're great. It's like a little smelt.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Hank Shaw, he is the author of the book, hunt, gather, cook. Do you find much resistance, Hank, from animal activists at install.

SHAW: I don't. One of the things that -- and in fact, I've had long discussions with a friend of mine who works for the humane society in the states, and they're very big into animal protection. And their issue is mostly poor treatment of animals, factory farms, and that kind of thing, and obviously they don't really like hunting. But the whole key is that do you eat what you hunt? Do you eat what you fish for? And the answer is absolutely. I would never go and hunt anything that I wasn't planning on eating. And that is a big difference. Because I do it because this is what I eat. I haven't bought meat or fish for the home since 2005.


SHAW: And I live off of this stuff. And I think what people get up in arms about is trophy hunting or when they fish for marlin and they filet the fish for an hour and a half, and the fish is super tired, and they let it go. And they hope it goes well, but there could be a shark waiting for that marlin right there. And I think people get up in arms about that and less so about subsistence hunting and fishing. Every time I'm out there, I'm aiming to put something in the freezer or on the dinner table.

CAVANAUGH: One thing I think probably everybody can get behind is the idea of going out and finding special berries and maybe some nuts. And special herbs and spices found in San Diego. What can you tell us about what we might be able to pick up that can make an impressive San Diego meal?

SHAW: I think there's a few things. You definitely have prickly pairs out there. And the prickly pear fruit, I think it's coming ripe in Arizona right now. And in the interior San Diego County they're starting to come ripe. And you can get those in super markets even. But that's a spectacular local fruit that you have available to you. Manzanita is another one. You have manzanita everywhere. And I've got a recipe for manzanita cider in the book. You take the berries and crush them and pour water over them, and it's a very sophisticated drink like a dry cyber or a pino grigio from this. And you can use the ripened berries and make almost like a sugar. When they get totally ripe and red, they get sweet. Then you cyst out the hard seeds, and you have a very interesting local product. Another one is you have a sumac variety that's down there. Not poison sumac. But it's a ruhs species, R-U-H-S. That's called lemonade bush. Of and it's got these red fuzzy hairy berries that are very sour. But you make, like, a lemonade out of those. And those are really, really interesting. We don't have them up in northern California. Upon they're only in the Southern California region. Another -- you have a very special California black walnut that lives down in Southern California as well. And they're a little small, the nuts. But they're so flavorful, they're worth the effort to bring them out. And that's just sort of what I'm thinking off the top of my head. I suppose we could find some more if we dug for them.

CAVANAUGH: You're actually making me hungry. Let me tell everyone that your book, again, is called Hunt, Gather, Cook, finding the forgotten feast. And Hank Shaw will attend a special book signing and dinner at sea rocket bistro. And that dinner is going to feature some things that can be found right here in San Diego. The event starts at 4:00 PM this Thursday. Hank, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

SHAW: Thanks a lot for having me.

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