Author. Poet. Teacher. Naturalist. Forager. Jennifer Hahn packs an impressive resume after more than 25 years as a wildlife adventurer whose travels span hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Northern California to Canada and kayaking solo from Ketchikan, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington where she now resides. Along the way she’s also led tours throughout the Pacific Northwest, Baja, Mexico and the Galapagos Islands.
In person, Jennifer is petite, vivacious and down to earth – literally. Her passion for sustainable foraging fills her conversations and writings.
After publishing her first book, Spirited Waters: Soloing South Through the Inside Passage, Jennifer began a second book about the foods in the wild that had kept her alive on her kayaking adventure. But as a steward of the environment, she felt morally responsible to include only those foods that wouldn’t be decimated by greater consumption, resulting in her book, Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine, and companion laminated guide, Pacific Coast Foraging Guide: 40 Wild Foods from Beach, Field and Forest. Included are her harvesting guidelines like the 1-in-20 rule when it comes to sustainable foraging. If there are more than 20 plants, you can dig one up and leave the rest for reproduction. If not, take none.
With Jennifer in the lead, we’re off for a day of our own foraging adventure to discover the diversity of tasty edibles found in our own backyards.
Hiking with Jennifer through the six acres surrounding the home she shares with husband, sculptor Chris Moench, is a walk on the wild side. She cautions us to watch out for stinging nettles before describing their diverse uses in cooking, fiber production and medicine. Nearby we discover wood sorrel, a shamrock-shaped plant with a lemony flavor that grows in moist, shady places.
Further along Jennifer points out huckleberries, purslane, a plant high in omega 3 with a crisp, lemony bite that’s perfect in stews, and the licorice “many-footed” fern root, good for soothing sore throats. A self-described spiritual eater first, she demonstrates how to harvest mindfully and says “Thank you” to the plant for giving its life after breaking off a piece for closer inspection.
Our picnic lunch at nearby Lake Padden begins with Jennifer’s recitation of Rumi’s poem that starts, “Lord, the air smells good today . . . ” Newly inspired and satiated, we continue our day of foraging fun with an afternoon hike, gathering native trailing blackberries, salal berries and strips of madrona bark we find on the ground along the way.
But our day of sustainable food discoveries is not quite finished yet. Still to come is dinner at Ciao Thyme, a popular Bellingham kitchen restaurant, where restaurant owners Jessica and Mataio Gillis will show us how to create cooking magic with the fruits of our labors. I can hardly wait . . .
What about you, Wanderboomers? What’s your favorite recipe using locally sourced foraged food?