Picking Dinner

Expert on foraging for wild plants to speak in Ridgefield on Sunday

By Erin Middlewood, Columbian special projects reporter



If you go

What: Second Sunday Series: Traditional Foods

When: Noon to 4 p.m., Sunday. John Kallas of Wild Food Adventures will speak at noon; sturgeon and other traditional food will be available for sampling at 1:30 p.m.; Kallas will lead a nature walk at 2:30 p.m.

Where: Cathlapotle Plankhouse on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 28908 N.W. Main Ave., Ridgefield.

Cost: Parking costs $3 per vehicle.

Information: 360-887-4106 or http://www.plankh...

John Kallas, who will speak in Ridgefield on Sunday about wild foods, gives out recipes reluctantly.

Kallas, director of Wild Food Adventures in Portland, wants people to forage for new foods and explore ways of preparing them, not lean on recipes.

Nonetheless, his forthcoming book, “Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate,” does include some recipes, as well as nutrition information — if only to show people that it is possible to prepare wild foods and benefit from them.

“If people know what they’re doing, they can expand their food choices,” said Kallas, who has a doctorate degree in nutrition. “These are valuable foods. These are some of the nutrients hardest for people to get in a typical North American diet without supplementation.”

He will speak about the traditional wild foods of the Pacific Northwest at noon Sunday at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 28908 N.W. Main Ave., in Ridgefield. The event, part of the refuge’s Second Sunday series, is free, but parking costs $3 per vehicle.

Kallas said the economic downturn has spurred interest in self-reliance, which includes foraging for wild foods. Many of the wild foods that flourish today differ from the ones American Indians ate, however. His Sunday talk will focus on native foods.

At 1:30 p.m., visitors can sample baked sturgeon, as well as a seafood stew with oysters and clams. Other traditional foods will be available to taste, but which ones will depend on availability, said Katie Harrison, the event’s organizer. Cattail shoots are difficult to obtain in large quantities, and its too early for wapato, she said.

Wapato, camas and some other traditional foods are not as readily available today, Kallas said.

“You can find it and consume it, but the amount of labor involved means you’re only going to do it because it’s religious or ceremonial or fun,” he said.

Other wild foods, some which may not be traditional, are easier to come by, including spring greens, smooth yellow violets, waterleaf, lady fern, fiddleheads.

His book, which will be in local stores after June 1, focuses on European plants that have proliferated in the United States — plants some might call “weeds,” a term he eschews.

“Because people are getting so alienated from the environment, even native plants are called ‘weeds,’” he said. “It demeans the plants. They are really useful. As soon as you call them weeds, you demote them. These foods are amazing.”

Chicken Mumbo Gumbo Soup

Makes 3 hearty or 4 small servings

John Kallas shared a recipe that uses “peas” from the mallow plant, which grows wild. The recipe is from his forthcoming book, “Edible Wild Plants — Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate” (Gibbs-Smith, $24.99). Served with some fresh baked bread, this soup would please even the most persnickety Louisianan.

½ cup mallow peas

2 cups water

2 cups chicken stock (salted stock or bouillon)

½ medium onion, chopped

½ celery rib, chopped

½ green pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup shredded cooked chicken

½ cup chopped tomato

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil mallow peas in water and chicken stock for 10 minutes. Separately, sauté the onion, celery, and green pepper in the olive oil until soft and transparent. Add the sautéd vegetables, chicken, and tomato to the pot. Simmer for 15 minutes covered. Salt and pepper to taste.