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Dec 27, 2011 05:29 PM

Anyone foraging or interested in foraging in the LA area? + Wild Fennel in So Cal

Are there any folks here who forage or are interested in foraging and cooking together?

I recently went hiking in the SM mountains and noticed lots of wild sage and wondered what else was edible in the mountains. I noticed one plant that looked like dill and smelled minty when it's leaves are crushed. I did some research and found out that it's wild fennel. Very popular in Southern Italy, but not typically sold in grocery stores.

Here's a recipe for a wild fennel & sausage pasta that sounds & looks delicious:

Wild fennel pollen is collected as a seasoning and super expensive...

I've found a few links to foraging classes online:


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  1. the wild sages are not the same as culinary sage and their flavors are very intense. use cautiously. wild fennel is indeed all over the place. use the fronds and the seeds. the bulbs tend to be skinny and tough.

    1. Here is a link to a great Russ Parsons LA Times article about local foraging for greens

      Personally, I do fennel and love the chrysanthemum greens at Harbor Lake. The prolific mallow is on my list to try.

      2 Replies
        1. re: FED

          Thanks for the link. I missed that article. My mind is spinning with possibilities. I have also noted, as Russ does, that they are most lush at the bottom of canyons where there is a bit of water.

      1. Down in OC there's an outfit called Naturalist For You that leads foraging tours. Black sage pesto is one of the best things in the world. White sage is also quite good, and of course wild fennel pollen is easily gathered whenever the fennel blooms. There's wild grapes and, if you can get there before the Salvadorans do, flores de izote (yucca flowers). Dandelions, though introduced, are everywhere; gather the greens before the spines bother you. Wild nettles are everywhere, too, and mustard greens, and calabashes.

        There are thousands of crayfish in the streams up in the mountains, especially after it rains. I've snared rabbits many times in my own yard, and It's almost time for the rainy season here in SoCal, which means the snails will be out—I catch them and purge them on carrots until they poop orange, then boil the shells with baking soda water to cleanse them and stuff garlic-and-parsley snails back in.

        If you prefer more suburban or urban foraging, there's plenty you can get from "public fruit"—fruit that overhangs public areas like sidewalks and parks. In addition, I find that if I ask people to take from their trees, sometimes they don't even know what they've got. If I make something, I bring some back (like loquat jam or rose hip jelly). Even things like lemon leaves (wrap them around chicken meatballs, skewer them, and grill them ever so gently until the leaves start to char) and avocado leaves (a slightly floral anise-y flavor that can be used like bay leaves) are often "free" for the taking.

        Whatever you do, please follow the 10% rule—don't take more than 10% of any stand of plants—and be respectful of private property.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          Das Ubergeek, you need a fishing license for the crayfish and a hunting license for the rabbits. The rabbits can only be taken in season which is from July 1 until the last Sunday in January. You can get away with taking rabbits in your yard without a permit, unless you post about it on the internet and let people know. If a warden catches you with crawdads and no license you will be going to court and spending $$$$.

          1. re: trojans

            This is true, I seriously doubt the game wardens are trolling the internet looking for people talking about taking rabbits in their own yards.

            The last I checked, today's date was December 28th, which falls inside rabbit season. Second of all, do you honestly think I don't know this? I have an annual fishing license (with ocean tag and the required report cards) and a lifetime hunting license which gives me my bag limit of small game and one deer a year.

            Also, you forgot to mention that it's not legal to take rabbits by trap outside of SD and Orange Counties—good thing I live in Anaheim.

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              I refer to the dates for the season because you mentioned the "many times" you snared rabbits in your yard. I would hate for some "chowhound forager" to get busted by DFG and have to go to court and spend thousands of dollars in fines for not knowing the law. Hunting and fishing laws are not so widely known in most parts of this state.

              What zone do you hunt deer? I'm M7

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                In Los Angeles County - Orange County too, I suspect, you would end up with eight cats for every rabbit. And the bag limit for cat is extremely low, I've been told.

            2. re: Das Ubergeek

              You, sir, are a very interesting person. My own experience with foraging is limited to two friends who redid their yards and lo and behold morels sprouted from the manure. Morels...make portobellos seem like cardboard. Thanks for the tips regarding lemon and avocado leaves.

              Final note, Santa Anita Canyon, one of the most beautiful spots in our area, has plenty of bay trees along its lovely trails.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                I love what you do, Das!

                Your post reminds me of the time when I was little when my dad and friends took their annual midnight "trip" somewhere up north and got crayfish for our annual crayfish party. The warden came, made them dump the ones they had caught back (well, the ones that they didn't find which were already in the trunk).

                I still remember the sound of them clacking all night in the buckets in our laundry room and bathtub!! Every once in a while, a renegade would get loose and we would find him somewhere in the house!
                BTW, the ones you get frozen at Ikea are fantastic this year. My mom and I had our own crayfish party after Thanksgiving. They are already cooked, Swedish (duh) style in salted water and dill. You just put them in some cold water to thaw, cut some baguette or French bread, put out some butter and suck away! Aquavit optional. Delicious!

              2. Love foraging, wish I lived in CA. Especially when January rolls around.

                1. I forage from time to time, depending on the season.
                  I know where to find secluded lots full of wild fennel, onions, garlic and loads of herbs within walking distance of my home. I usually hit up the wild fennel 2-3 times a year for first it's frawns, then it's pollen, then it's seeds.

                  I haven't really touched on the whole wild mushroom thing yet (kinda scary), but I see tons of them when walking about.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Novelli

                    I would love for someone to come forage the hundreds of oranges on my tree.

                    I'm a new homeowner in Atwater Village and my tree is just burst with fruit!