Friday, December 03, 2004

The Forager

Grape harvest. Photo Credit: Angelo Garro

Check out "NPR: The Forager: Hunting & Gathering with Angelo Garro."

The NPR documentary reminded me of my Dad, who was also big on foraging in Southern California. He would pick wild mustard greens after the spring rains in the San Gabriel Valley; green olives from South Hills homes that only used the trees for landscaping; a laurel tree in the Sears parking lot provided bay leaves for decades; leftover grapes from the Cucamonga vineyards after they were machine-picked; there were sweet prickly pears in the local hills; the oceanside rocks of early 60's San Diego Bay provided all sorts of seafood like mussels, clams, urchin, sea snails, abalone and other tasty mollusks. I remember that he cooked the seafood with fresh sea water claiming that it was already salted and seasoned! There was an endless bounty before tract homes took over the valleys and hillsides, and the coastlines became polluted.

My Dad's backyard garden also provided a great addition to the bounty with fruit that included: apples, 5 varieties of figs, 3 varieties of peaches, locquats, kumquats, sweet lemons (that tasted like lemonade), oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, raspberries, thin-skinned avocado that could be eaten without peeling, custard-like sapote, 2 varieties of grapes, 3 varieties of cactus apples; homegrown vegetables included broccoli, fava beans, green beans, several varieties of squash, including cucuzza; fennel; black and green olives, sweet basil, Italian parsley, capers; and there was also fresh eggs (kept a few chickens for a while), backyard snails were saved and purged with stale bread before eating; rabbits, homemade wine and liqueurs; one year my Dad even crushed his own olive oil! -- All from the backyard of an average American tract home!

Foraging, living off the land and sea, home gardening are Sicilian traits and talents - none of which I inherited. Maybe I'm a late bloomer.

[Thank you Anneliese of Northern California sending the NPR link.]

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