Report from the First Annual Native Shores Rendezvous

May 16 – 19, 2003 By John Kallas

Activities involved identifying, gathering, transporting, processing, preparing and eating (lots of eating!) coastal wild foods. Those foods included sea vegetables, sea shore invertebrates, and coastal edible plants.
The focus is experiential. While I designed and guide the activities, our adventurers are encouraged to experiment and discover on their own. Often this leads to new and creative ways of doing things. When our adventurers have had previous experience with a wild food, they become our teachers and impart their own wisdom.

The Native Shores Rendezvous is one of two annual wild food intensives offered by Wild food Adventures. The other is the GingerRoot Rendezvous. Native Shore dates are dictated by the lowest tides of spring. The first annual gathering was held from May 16 – 19, 2003.

The purpose of the Rendezvous is to learn, in a hands-on way, practical roles that coastal wild foods play in recreational foraging, recreational survival, mortal survival, and simple living. Most of the foods we learn about came from the knowledge and wisdom of our Native American forefathers – and we thank them for that.

A Chronicle of the Event…
Friday – Adventurers began arriving in the afternoon to set up their tents at Ramsdell Acres, our base camp. Chung-Li Ramsdell was our generous host. Prior to dusk, around a campfire, we began introductions – discussing prior experiences, learning needs, and personal goals for the upcoming three days.

We discussed what was ahead of us, how we were going to achieve our goals, then covered an overview of wild foods in recreation, survival, and simple living. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next day.

Saturday – After a quick breakfast we headed out for Netarts Bay. We took the scenic route through coastal forests. The Bay was a sight to behold. What at high tide is a huge body of water, becomes a vast, relatively flat sand island. We grabbed our gear and headed for some exploratory digging sites. Our first goal was to dig for giant gaper clams living 2 to 3 feet below the surface. On the way to the gapers we found many cockles, butter clams, and littlenecks. After loading our buckets with clams and grabbing some sea vegetables we headed back to the shore. The tide followed us in.
On the way back to base camp we gathered some Japanese knotweed spears, cow parsnip stalks and buds, and fiddleheads. At camp we ate a quick lunch, cleaned our gatherings, and refrigerated them for later use.
We headed right back out and into the watershed area of the Siuslaw National Forest. We gathered more cow parsnips and fiddle-heads as well as stinging nettle, violets, water cress, broad-leaved dock, and some coltsfoot.

Back at camp for the evening, we spent the remaining time in the Native Shores Kitchen further cleaning, processing, preparing, and eating a wonderful wild food feast.

We made a great clam soup composed of chopped cockles and gapers, three varieties of sea lettuce, nettles, parsnips stalks with a small amount of celery, onions, and potatoes. The latter three were added to give a hint of conventionality to the soup – we had so many new flavors. This huge pot of soup lasted us for the full three days of the Rendezvous.

In addition to the hearty soup, we sampled raw gapers, cooked gapers and cockles, and we enjoyed some cooked knotweed greens drizzled with olive oil. Chung-Li baked us some fresh bread lined with sea vegetables. We ate it hot. And to top it all off, our friend and fellow adventurer, Stewart Meyers, brought some of his famous knotweed pie. We topped our slices with vanilla ice cream and couldn’t believe our taste buds.

Sunday – We headed for Seal Rock beach. A huge area south of Newport, teaming with seashore life. We gathered several kinds of sea vegetables, mussels, chitons, and two kinds of barnacles. After filling our buckets we headed back to base camp. At camp we cleaned our gatherings, and refrigerated them for later use.

We headed right back out for a plant filled hike to Drift Creek Falls. A 110 foot canyon in the National Forest gives rise to the falls – we enjoyed a breathtaking view of it from a suspension rope bridge. Covering about 20 plants, we harvested oyster mushrooms, cascade sorrel, and ox-eyed daisy. On the way back to camp we looked at some water hemlock, skunk cabbage, and gathered some cattail celery.

For the evening we prepared and consumed many more wild foods. A big stir fry was made complete with chopped cockles and mussels, cattail celery, cow parsnip celery, fiddleheads, stir fry seaweed, feather boa, winged kelp, oyster mushrooms, onion and fish sauce. Chung-Li made some more fresh bread and a wild accented salad. We ate steamed mussels and butter clams. And to the surprise of almost everyone (but me), the acorn and gooseneck barnacles were a hit!

We unanimously decided that Stewart should teach us the knotweed recipe he used to make those delicious pies we devoured the night before. The recipe came from Euell Gibbon’s Stalking The Wild Asparagus. We made two more pies and realized we were all gaining weight.

Monday – We headed for the mud flats of Lincoln City bay. While digging for sand shrimp we were happily surprised to find bay clams. We gathered til we were satisfied with our catch. Nearby at a rocky outcrop, we found and harvested more seavegetables.

Since our time was running out, we headed back to camp to continue processing, testing, and eating all the food we gathered over the last few days. The sand shrimp were delectable both raw as well as steamed and dipped in garlic butter. The bay clams were delicious. At this point we were just sampling and cooking the many remaining foods we had gathered.

Then sadly, our time was up. It’s amazing how fast four days can zip by when you’re having fun. Everyone helped to clean the Native Shores kitchen. Then the tents were disassembled. All who had a way to keep food took some home with them. There was plenty to go around.