Foraging is the first & last food frontier. Here’s what Chef Blaine Wetzel, chef at Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Washington, picked one day out West.
GOOSEFOOT: This spinach relative grows on sandy beach soil. “It tastes like spinach with tougher leaves,” says Wetzel, who cooks it with stinging nettles and pairs it with fresh cheese.
THIMBLEBERRIES: ”They’re very flavorful, almost like a reduced red wine with fruit punch.” Wetzel uses them for sauces and serves them with other berries and with duck.
SALAL BERRY: Tastes like a blueberry-blackberry mix. Wetzel serves them fresh with other wild berries.
WILD BLACKBERRIES: These lack the added water of their cultivated counterparts, making them intensely flavorful. At Willows Inn, they’re served in a wild berry dish with wheatgrass–wild herb broth.
SHEEP SORREL: The tangy herb “has a nice acidic flavor to it,” Wetzel says. “So if you have a dish that’s a little rich or sweet, you just throw a few leaves in there and it helps balance it.”
WILD BEACH PEAS: This delicate plant tastes slightly bittersweet, like pea tendrils. Wetzel lightly stews the tendrils and serves them with razor clams, then garnishes with the fresh purple flowers.
PINEAPPLE WEED, aka wild chamomile: Wetzel pairs this minty herb with strawberries in fruity desserts.
CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS: Prolific in the Lummi Island region for six weeks, these sublime mushrooms get plated with venison on Wetzel’s menu.