Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hunter-Gatherers

Somewhere in our past, our ancestors were all hunter-gatherers, living in the land, traveling with the seasons and available food. Whether it was following the migrations of bison or wildebeest, meeting the salmon runs at strategic places, or catching the berry crop at its peak, people were in tune with the rhythms of life around them. What was once a matter of life or death has now faded into a quaint and distant past.

Somewhere deep inside many of us, the old hunter-gatherer genes are still alive and well. You can see it in the jogger stopped by a roadside blackberry bush, filling her water bottle with berries, or the steelheader perched on the bank of a river in the freezing sleet and mist, waiting for a strike. One of our friends knows every neglected fruit tree and vine in her neighborhood and always seems to have a steady supply of grapes, quince, apples and pears as the season progresses.

While we often get odd looks, my wife and I are both avid gatherers, and our free time schedules seem to revolve around the changing seasons. In April, if the weather gods smile, we’re on the east side of the cascades, looking for Morel mushrooms, July starts the berry season with wild blackberries from the secret patches away from traffic, dust and spray while August is huckleberry season on the slopes of Mount Hood. September brings the walnuts and hazel nuts, not exactly wild, but kind of feral. The first rains of fall bring on a flush of meadow mushrooms, and October means trips to the coast range for Chanterelle mushrooms. Any time is a good time to head to the river or lake to dunk a line and we can’t pass the old chestnut tree on our evening walks without Betsy filling her pockets with nuts like a crow finding something shiny.

If you haven’t met your inner hunter-gather, take a moment in your travels to look around and you’ll find that there are amazing, edible treasures to be found all around the northwest in nearly every season.

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