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Foragers revel in North Coast food finds

  • Lauren Dalberth Hage with Weaving Earth in Penngrove collects elderberries from a tree while foraging along Robert Ranch Road last week. (CONNER JAY / PD)

Lauren Dalberth Hage can find food almost anywhere, even on the side of a busy street near Penngrove.

Cars zipped past Dalberth Hage on a recent afternoon as she harvested reddish-brown dock seeds, which she will grind up into a flour and bake into energy bars.

Climbing down into a gully, she filled a basket with elderberries. Earrings of manzanita and abalone shell dangling from her ears, she reached high with a pair of pruners to get the topmost berries. The blue fruit will be used to make a healthy tincture.

Foraging For Food

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Dalberth Hage, 33, always keeps a few empty baskets in her Toyota Prius in case she spots some wild food while driving. She said there are few situations where she would find herself hungry.

“It's really empowering to walk into an ecosystem and know what I can and can't eat,” said the co-founder of Weaving Earth, a Penngrove outdoor education school. “There's a real freedom in being able to go out the door and harvest whatever is in season. Every place feels like home.”

Dalberth Hage, who lives in Point Reyes but is planning a move to the Petaluma area, is part of a growing movement of people on the North Coast and across the country who forage for food from neighborhood fruit trees, along roadsides, in city parks and in wilderness areas.

These urban and suburban foragers aren't usually out to save a buck, though they do tout the financial benefits of a smaller food bill. North Coast foragers are more often earthy foodies who seek out rare and unique ingredients like thistles, mustard greens, miner's lettuce and mushrooms for gourmet cooking.

“It's never about money,” said Mark Dierkhising, a Santa Rosa chef and owner of Dierk's Parkside Cafe. “It's about the quality of the products, having something unusual and learning about food.”

Dierkhising said he walks around his Bennett Valley neighborhood gleaning apples, Asian pears, Meyer lemons and Santa Rosa plums from neighbors' fruit trees.

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