Not every vendor at farmers' markets grows the food they sell. Jeremy Faber certainly doesn't. He finds his wares. From stinging nettles along creek beds in the spring to chanterelles and local truffles in autumnal forests, Faber forages the rich lands of Washington state for culinary treasures.
From Forest to Kitchen:
Faber started off as a forestry major but transferred to culinary school after just a year. When he started working in restaurants he realized that his two interests overlapped in a most delicious way. "I always went out picking," says Faber, "and we'd use what I found in the kitchen, especially when I was working at Herb Farm [a Seattle-area restaurant known for its use of local and foraged ingredients]."
And Back to the Forest:
"Then I started finding more and more stuff," he explains, "so I quit my job and started selling at farmers' markets." From March through November he and partner Christina Choi sell the Washington bounty at Seattle-area farmers' markets and restaurants.
What the Seasons Bring:
They start with fiddlehead ferns in March, add morel mushrooms and miners' lettuces through the spring, explode with wild huckleberries, black cap raspberries, Pacific dewberries, lobster mushrooms, chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms, and matsutake mushrooms through the summer months before the berries start fading out and more mushroom varieties come to market in the fall. Come winter, Faber makes weekly trips down to California to pick mushrooms for his restaurant clients.
Know What You Pick:
"Identification is easy for me," Faber explains, "because of my forestry background. It's pretty straight-forward once you learn it."
But, you do need to learn it first, particularly when it comes to mushrooms. Luckily, most mycological societies hold guided foraging trips and identification seminars for neophyte mushroom gatherers.