foraging in maine

august in maine makes for a multitude of foraging opportunities.  fruit is the most obvious.  i was feeling  a bit like a bear wandering about and eating anything that struck my fancy.

blackberries

blueberries

raspberry

raspberries and blackberries were plentyful, but it was the blueberries that i really gourged myself on.  maine is known for it’s tiny, sweet, wild blueberries.  they are quite different from the high bush blueberries that we have in michigan, not better just different.  i find them a bit sweeter, with a little less bite to them.

the apples were also in great abundance – but none of those that i tested were ripe yet.

but i also looked wishfully into the surf – knowing that there were plenty of edibles just under the surface.

price's beach

just two doors down from the house we were staying at, a gentleman named price lives, and he is kind enough to let everyone on the lane have access to the beach in front of his house.

ma and i spent hours poking around the tide pools looking at the crabs, anemones, sea urchins, and starfish.  i noticed the mussels and gave thoughts to eating them, but really knew nothing about how they should be harvested and if there were limits of when they could be gathered.

a gentleman was out gathering mussels and i asked him about it, and he was kind enough to explain the method of collecting as well as preparation.

mussels

empowered with this new knowledge, ma and i went to work quickly and with great zeal collecting mussels as the tide was coming in.

the collected mussels

it was recommended that we collect mussels on the small size and most of the ones we found were monsters – it required a good amount of hunting to find any of usable size.

of course i couldn’t just cook something simple up, i had to make these few fresh mussels as fine a meal as possible.   so with that i present my recipe for little deer isle mussels.  this is for about two dozen mussels.

1.scrub mussels well, soak in cold brine solution for one half hour.  remove beards, this is the part they use to cling to rocks.  use a pair of pliers and grip them tight and twist the beard off.  if you miss part of it, you can remove it once the mussels are steamed.

2. saute 2 cloves garlic and a quarter onions chopped finely in a large deep saucepan with 1 tablespoon butter for about 4 minutes.  add 3 small carrots, chopped finely– in this case i used one purple, one yellow, and one orange carrot – cause i’m fancy. saute another 3 minutes.

3. add about 3/4 cup of white wine and bring to a boil.  add mussels and cover with a tight-fitting lid.  shake occasionally, check them after 4 minutes and remove any mussels that have popped open and place in a bowl.  cover back with a lid and check again ever minute or so.  discard any mussels that don’t open after 8 minutes.

4. keep cooked mussels covered while you finish sauce.  to finish sauce continue cooking liquid until reduced by about half.  add about a tablespoon of cream and then pour over the finished mussels.  serve immediately.

viola! i think they were the finest i’v ever tasted.

finished mussels

i’m looking forward to reading up on other foraging opportunities for our next trip to the coast – maybe some clams next time – the steamers we ate were wonderful.

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5 responses to “foraging in maine

  1. Pingback: best of 2010 | little house on the urban prairie

  2. Thanks for your post. We live in the Cascades of Washington state but are making a move to Maine next spring. We are avid foragers, gathering everything we can but have a special passion for berries and fungi (especially chanterelles). We love mussels and look forward to the day we can repeat the adventure you had gathering and cooking mussels. Thanks again,

    Mark Nicholas
    Snoqualmie, Washington

    • i think you are gonna love maine – i saw tons of lovely fungi when i was out last. what part of the state are you moving to? my sister used to live in snoqualmie, so i know it to be lovely. and i’m a big twin peaks fan so i was very geeked to visit all the twin peaks locations.

  3. What a hoot Patrick! Just so happens that the opening scene of Twin Peaks that shows the Twin Peaks sign with Mt Si in the background was taken about 1/4 mile from where we live. Each year during the Twin Peaks Festival they put up the original sign and people flock to have their picture taken next to it (especially folks from Russia and Japan where it is very popular). Small world eh? We think we are headed for the Bangor area. We have the choice of where to live. I want to do serious veggie production with a hope to do the farmers market scene. We’re also getting dairy goats and I plan to plunge head first into cheese making. We can’t wait, plus our family is in various spots in New England so that adds a nice bonus. Anyhow, I am impressed by your blog. I wrote the outdoor column for ten years for the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper (“On the Trail”), and did a column every September on foraging. I’ll send you a note once we get to Maine and if you find yourself out there again, we’ll have you over for dinner!

    Best Regards,

    Mark
    marknich2@comcast.net

    P.S. Next time you do mussels, add some finely chopped fennel, celery leaves, and jalapeno to your recipe and you have our recipe. A little crusty bread to soak up the juices and oh my…

    • i find myself in maine with some regularity – as my mother and 2 aunts vacation there, though we have been there for the last couple of summers, and I think we might be due for a trip to upper peninsula of michigan – so might take a summer off. best of luck on all your plans and look forward to hearing more about it.

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