Nature’s Harvest, Northwest Style


Learning to pronounce the native Indian names of towns and natural features, names like Nisqually, Squatson, Skokomish, Hoeh, Quinault, Puyallup, and even Skookumchuck is part of life in the Pacific Northwest. Learning to be cool about the seals racing you when you are waterskiing on the Hood Canal or seeing killer whales from your small boat are other delights that young Latter-day Saints from Lacey, Washington, find to be part of their everyday life.

Since almost half of the 45 young people in the Lacey First Ward have moved here from somewhere else, they find that living in this damp, seacoast climate is unique in many ways. Geographically, Lacey, Washington, is tucked near the base of the Olympic Peninsula at the bottom of Puget Sound and the Hood Canal. It offers a wide variety of natural surroundings and a way of life dictated by the climate and the geography.

“No matter where you are from, it is easy to adapt to this way of life—including clam chowder, fresh crab salads, barbecued salmon, and lots of blackberry and blueberry pies,” said Sister Georgia Williams, Young Women president who had previously lived in Vermont and Colorado.

“However,” Cal Goulding, a recent Utah transplant, added, “I’ve been told that I won’t be a true Northwesterner until I have moss on my back and webbing between my toes.”

And Cal’s comment started other tales about eastern Washington’s abundance of “liquid sunshine.”

“Getting used to all of the moisture doesn’t take long if you never plan on doing any of your activities in clear weather,” Sister Williams said. “The secret is to never cancel anything on account of the rain. If you are going shopping or going to have a picnic, just go ahead and have it, rain or not.”

The rainfall around Lacey is about 50 inches per year, and even that doesn’t seem like too much when compared with the 200 inches that falls annually on Mount Olympus a few miles away, making it the wettest spot in the continental United States. All of this rain and the tempering effect of the warm ocean currents make the area around Lacey a haven for vegetation, particularly berries. Along most roadsides wild blackberries abound, and you can find blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in many places. Mushrooms are plentiful for those ward members who know what they are looking for. Many kinds of shellfish are had for the picking up, or digging out, or chipping off the rocks. Salmon, halibut, and other salt water fish are available most of the time. This abundance of wild foods was a foundation for the early Indians’ cultural development. They developed refined arts and crafts because they didn’t have to spend all of their time getting food.

The young people from the Lacey First Ward remember the roots of their area at least once a year when they gather enough wild food from the seashores and hillsides around Lacey to have a first class “wild” banquet.

To prepare for this year’s dinner, they dug clams at nearby Potlatch State Park and collected enough butter clams, horse clams, and cockles to make clam chowder and still have fresh-steamed butter clams. While some of the young people were digging clams at low tide, others waded out with small landing nets and caught crabs. Still others put out small crab pots. Each crab was carefully examined to make sure it was a male and was of legal keeping size—more than six inches across its shell. The young people went to a member’s farm and picked several pails of wild blackberries. Another member in the ward donated some salmon, and the dinner was well on its way to becoming a reality. Much of the preparation was done before the day of the banquet when corn and other garden produce appeared out of members’ gardens and blackberry pies made almost unbearably good smells in several kitchens.

All of the young people and many of their parents met at the lovely Tolmie State Park where they enjoyed canoeing and volleyball and general beach-combing before they feasted on the fruits of their foraging.

Recipes

Berry pie and clam chowder can be made almost anywhere you live. The recipes below will work with either fresh or canned ingredients.

Blackberry Pie—9-inch pie

1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 cups fresh berries

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

enough pastry crust for a 9-inch pie top and bottom

Heat oven to 425° (hot). Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Mix lightly through berries. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust that has slits cut in it. Seal and flute. Cover edge with 1 1/2-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Bake for 35–45 minutes or until crust is nicely browned and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. Serve slightly warm, not hot. Excellent with a scoop of ice cream.

Fresh Fruit Cobbler—Blackberry Cobbler

2/3 to 1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup water

3 cups fresh fruit, with any juice there might be

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons shortening

1/2 cup milk

Heat oven to 400° (mod. hot). Mix sugar and cornstarch in saucepan. Gradually stir in water. Bring to boil and boil one minute, stirring constantly. Add fruit and juice. Pour into 1 1/2-quart baking dish and dot with butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like “meal.” Stir in milk. Drop by spoonfuls onto hot fruit. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 6–8 servings. Serve warm with juice and/or cream.

Clam Chowder

3/4 pound minced clams or two 6 1/2-ounce cans

1 cup onion, minced

1 cup celery, minced

2 cups finely diced potatoes

Cook above vegetables in juice drained from clams.

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup flour

1 quart half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon salt

few grains pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Make white sauce with above ingredients. Add cooked vegetables and clams and season.

[photos] Photos by Brian K. Kelly, Peter Johnson, and Mike Daley

[photo] During a minus tide all types of creatures are available for inspection. The snails are safe from this year’s harvest

[photos] Picking berries, digging clams and hunting in the shallows for crabs and clams are great group activities that heighten the appetite and the imagination of how good the meal will be when it is finally prepared

[photos] Many crabs were scooped up with landing nets from the canoe; then they had to be cooked and cracked. At the same time the vegetables and clams for the chowder were diced, the salmon were cut into steaks, pies were added, and the meal was complete