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Saturday, 20 August 2011

Oyster shooters and catching fish

Ok before I forget I left out Sundays wild food and had skipped to the excitement of mint juleps while forgetting that on Sunday found wood sorrel but not the same species as we get at home but a yellow wood sorrel which grows in the same habitat but rather than just being individual stems it grows in a branched manner so you get several leaflets on any one plant. Still the same taste so I had this on top of my salad.

So Monday was mint juleps which were great and Tuesday was the first wild protein day. Admittedly it wasn't very hard in terms of having to use my foraging cunning but crabs are wild food and being in Maryland it would be impossible not to eat them. On our first trip into Annapolis on Sunday we had seen a big queue outside this deli on the high street. It looked quite cheap but there were just loads of people waiting outside for a seat so we decided on Tuesday we would investigate and it's here we had 'the best crab cakes anywhere - better than the best' in Chick and Ruth's Delly (their spelling not mine!). They were good i have to say but then haven't eaten many to compare them to. Easy foraging and some no doubt would suggest a cop out but then I do intend to catch my own at some point while i am here. We went out sailing on Tuesday evening which was fabulous and a great way to spend an evening. We were talking about fishing and asking what people use for bait and basically it sounds like anything will go.

So on Wednesday I decided it was time to try out all the fishing gear that is lying around here. I took two rods down to the little jetty at the bottom of the garden along with some left over fried chicken bits and loaded up one of the rods that had a very interesting rig on it with two arms that stuck out at right angles and various beads and stuff on it ( you can tell I get very technical when it comes to fishing). Anyway several casts of that didn't bring very much so I had a go with the simpler looking rig on the other rod. Unfortunately got that stuck on the bottom and it came off so that was the end of that. Luckily a small boat came past with a couple in it who were having considerable success and I managed to ask what they were catching, whether it was edible and what rig and bait they were using. They were just using lures and not bait and we're generally catching White perch which according to them were some of the best eating out of the bay ( Chesapeake Bay that is). I tried another type of rig but had no luck and we decided we needed to go out but thought would also try a trick I was shown on the course I did with hunter gather cook Nick Weston when he showed me about night lines. On the course we made a simple rod from a straight bit of hazel and tied a line and hook on. After throwing out some bait we tied a worm on, cast it into the lake and sunk the pole into the bank and left it. We came back and found a large carp attached to it so thought would try that here. Hazel is not in abundance here but luckily bamboo is, so I found a suitable piece and set up the line over the water and off we went to The Internet cafe for a few hours.

We got back from the cafe and I needed to find something for my days wild food. The one thing I have found about the states is it's difficult to find areas that aren't someone's property. There aren't often pavements so the edge of land where some weeds may be found are often the edge of someone's garden so a tad difficult to forage from. I drove round for about half an hour looking for somewhere to stop and have a wander round but as I say everywhere seems to belong to someone so poking around in the weedy bits looks a bit odd. Also foraging at 35 mph when you are in an unfamiliar car on the wrong side of the road can also be a challenge so I went home empty handed and a little grumpy as it was also very hot and sticky.

I checked the nightline when i got back but the bait had gone, I think because i had let it sit on the bottom I am sure crabs were eating it so no joy there as yet. I was getting a little desperate by this time as we were now off out for the evening to listen to some Appalachian music and then to meet a friend of Dulcie's. We did stop at a car park on the way into Annapolis that I had spotted the day before and it looked like a car park for a wooded walk area. We pulled in and looked at the map. You had to walk down the busy road and round the corner before you reached the trail but we thought oh it can't be far if the car park is just here but no we were wrong. After about 10 minutes walking and no sign of any trail we abandoned the idea and went back to the car. I did find what I thought was a member of the goosefoot family so picked some but thought I had better check at home first.

I didn't think there was going to be any further opportunity for my wild food for the day and had just accepted that it was more difficult over here and that i may have to have the odd day when I just didn't find anything. However we met with this friend of Dulcie's and off we went to a bar in Annapolis for some beers. The people sitting next to me ordered what I later found out were oyster shooters! Who knew you could even get such a thing. Basically it's an oyster in a small shot glass with cocktail sauce, you then get another small shot glass full of beer which you down after the oyster. Well I have never eaten oysters and have always been a little worried about my gag reflex coming into play in a public place so I have to say i was a little dubious about the whole idea but it was a wild food and I hadn't had it before so decided to go for it. The question was though to chew or not to chew. Well due to the concern about gagging and the fact I was in the middle of a bar I thought the safest thing was just to swallow so I did. I can't honestly say I know what oysters taste like apart from the briny flavour in the middle of the cocktail sauce but hey that was my wild food for Wednesday.

Thursday i was up early - the morning was glorious and went and sat on the jetty as it's in the shade until about 10 am so just perfect for a bit of quiet contemplation. I thought I should rethink my night line and also the rig on the rod and got myself a smaller hook for the bamboo pole and a lure for the rod. I set up the bamboo pole so that the line was dangling rather than sitting on the bottom and loaded it with some turkey we found in the fridge. Almost immediately you could see things were biting and as it wasn't on the river bed I assumed it must be fish. I put the lure on the other rod and started casting out to see what was out there. Fairly soon after that the bamboo pole had a taker and after some scrabbling for the net Dulcie and I managed to land a small fish of unknown type. We thought it may be a perch but then looking at the book it looked more like a small striped bass which have a minimum landing size. After all this and the fact that I was struggling to get the hook out I decided it was probably kinder to dispatch it so a swift clink on the head sorted that out. Not long after I also had a taker on the rod and reeled myself in a decent sized white perch so gutted and descaled both and was quite happy with my fishing for the day. That covered two days of wild food so we a bang up to date now and on schedule.

The other thing that I am hoping will increase my likelihood of success is an app I found while playing in the apple shop the other day and looking for some info on another plant that may appear in this blog quite soon. A guy called Steve Brill has written many books on the whole wild food topic and has developed this great app so I have the lite version at present but think I will invest in the more weighty version today as I think it is only right to have the full fat version while i am here!

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