Foraging Wild Plants: A Historical Deep-Dive into Lopez Island

Foraging and farming have been linked together as rural agrarian traditions across the globe. Nearly a lost tradition in North America, foraging is fiercely preserved in more remote and rural communities where cultural traditions remain strong. Due to its relative isolation, Lopez Island has largely retained its close ties to otherwise forgotten foraging and farming traditions. Here, locally foraged cuisine is a focal point of social life, with gardeners and farmers continuing to pass down their heritage seeds and scion wood. Agrarian traditions can be traced back to the native Lummi and Samish residents of Lopez Island. After the arrival of European settlers in the mid-19th century, food traditions, plant lore, and their uses were exchanged and adapted by natives and immigrants alike. In the present day, Lopez Island has become a pillar of the local food revolution that has swept the globe and is nationally regarded as an ideal.

Master Artist: Carol Noyes (Lopez Island)

Carol’s interest in plant usage was inherited from her grandmother at a young age, leading her to attend several community classes on foraging, medicinal plant use, and mushroom field trips with the Puget Sound Mycological Society. Carol eventually graduated with a botany major from the University of Washington with a focus on plant taxonomy and ecology. After moving to the San Juan Islands, she began a 7-year association with renowned marine biologist Eugene Kozloff, providing scientific illustrations for two of his publications. For three decades, Carol has cultivated a food forest in her own garden and continues to experiment with crop varieties and wild plants.

“I continue to be passionate about wild foods and greatly enjoy sharing their beauty, lore, and tastes with others.”

Apprentice: Gabe Strand (Lopez Island)

Gabe’s love for the outdoors spurred his interest in mushroom foraging several years ago. Now, he plans annual hikes into the Cascades and Olympic mountains to collect morels and chanterelles and is able to identify/prepare half a dozen other wild mushroom varieties. Since moving to Lopez Island, Gabe has established a large subsistence garden, taking advantage of the unique ecology of the bioregion. With a strong interest in environmental stewardship, Gabe hopes to tap into the cultural history of foraging in the area in order to establish a closer connection to the place he lives and the plant life it supports.

“I hope to delve deep into the plant lore and culinary traditions of Lopez Island, so I can be a full participant in what makes our community here so special.”

Featured image: Jewel-toned beans grown by Carol Noyes. The Islands’ Weekly. 10 May 2011.

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