Wandering in the Cuyama Valley chaparral while chewing fragrant wild roots and leaves might not sound like a delicious culinary adventure to the average cook. But in the Blossoms, Greens and Juniper Smoke class offered as part of the Wild Series course at Quail Springs Permaculture, educators are hoping to dispel the myths surrounding many forage-able foods.
The weekend-long course involves extensive wild-plant identification and appropriate land stewardship of wild terrain combined with a lively yurt kitchen group-cooking course that incorporates wild foraged foods and on-site raised meats. Multi-course meals are inspired by global traditions from Mexico to the Mediterranean and are prepared using wood-fueled earthen ovens. The menu highlights some Californian wild foods with which students would likely be familiar, such as mallow, miner’s lettuce, stinging nettles, and acorns, combined with plants that are a little harder to find.
The courses feed into the overall mission of Quail Springs, said Wild Series director Natalie Bartlett, explaining, “The big picture is really just to share beautiful old-time skills that people have forgotten.”
The farm was founded on a former cattle ranch near Ventucopa in 2004 by naturalists Warren Brush and Cyndi Harvan, who wanted to practice permaculture by designing a sustainable, self-sufficient agricultural plan using the natural ecosystem. The donated land now also serves as an educational organization for land stewardship and a mentoring center for different land-based and ancestral skills.
The courses range from kids’ and family programs to curious new learners and experts in international development, and cover subjects such as cob and natural building, blacksmithing, sacred hunting, various crafts, and small-scale farming. Quail Springs also runs an international development certification course through the Permaculture Research Institute that equips international development workers with skills that would benefit someone running development programs in non-westernized communities.
See quailsprings.org for an updated class schedule.