Nature’s Running Buffet

I’m not sure if it was the copious July monsoon rains, my running a little slower these days, or something else entirely, but my runs have turned into buffets of late!

A few weeks ago, I was over in the south end of Colorado’s Sawatch Range where I was treated to bushes thick with ripe currants. We have the same bushes here in the San Juan Mountains around Silverton, but with our short growing season above 9,000 feet altitude, finding a ripe currant or two in late August or early September is a treat. Not so over near Saguache! I could pick and eat a handful in no time, delighting in their sourness.

currants

Currants in the Sawatch Range. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

A week later, I was back in Silverton, running my home trail to check out the trail work we’d done with a Hardrock 100 trail crew. While closely watching the ground to inspect the trail’s tread, some bright red caught my eye. I almost dismissed it as yet another wild geranium leaf having turned its mid-summer crimson, but this was something different. A strawberry. No, strawberrIES! A bunch. I picked one or two and plopped them in my mouth, not expecting much. These were tiny, kinda mushy little runts. But, WOW! The flavor! The strawberry flavor was so intense that it was almost fake. Like an extra-strength Jolly Rancher, but this was the real deal. Not some huge, sugary, but barely flavored genetic mutant you’d buy in the grocery store. This was a delightful, natural, wild strawberry. In the weeks since, I’ve eaten a whole lot of wild strawberries out on my runs.

wild strawberries

Wild strawberries in the San Juan Mountains.

For the past few summers, I’ve run past what I’ve thought were blueberry bushes wondering where the fruit was. Run after run, year after year, nothing but a low ground cover. What do I know?! *shrug* Well, that first day of strawberry eating, I noticed something beneath that low, ground-cover bush. Blueberries. Something in that general family, at least. And, wow, the taste! Just like with the strawberries, these blueberries were small but mighty. They’re so full of flavor, I can hardly believe it. What’s more, their tartness pairs amazingly well with the sweeter strawberry. I’ll stop and eat either alone, but, together, they’re off the charts! In fact, I carried a mixed handful back from that first run to share with Meghan and within a few days we’d gone out with a small container to collect a mix of these ruby and sapphire gifts. Now, I just need to find some vanilla ice cream to put them on top of!

San Juan blueberries

Blueberries in the San Juans.

It’s not just fruit season here. With between four and five inches of rain in July, mostly falling late in the month, the forests are thick with mushrooms. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, but with a bumper crop staring me in the face on most runs, I decided to learn a bit and take the plunge. I can now say I’m confident enough to harvest and eat three local mushrooms: porcini (aka King Boletus), hawkswing, and chanterelle. (I can also identify poisonous fly agarics and possibly edible yellow coral mushrooms.) So… maybe I need to pick smaller porcinis or stick to cooking their stalks, as the tops of the porcinis — their gills to be more precise — had a rather unpleasant mount feel, at least to me. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the flavor and mouth feel of the chanterelles in scrambled eggs and added to a cream sauce over pasta with the latter being a great recovery dinner after my longest run of the summer over the weekend.

grilled porcini

Porcini grilled only a few hours after being harvested.

These recent delectables remind me of past running repasts. There’ve been huge blackberries when in Squamish, British Columbia to cover the 50/50 years ago. Various fruits along the way on an evening run through the outskirts of Auburn, California after covering the Western States 100 a few years back. The four small trout caught in a remote stream while fastpacking with Meghan last summer.

Each of these meals on the run or from the run is a special memory and a gift. And my runs these past few weeks, with the forests and fields resplendent with fruits and fungi, have been a true treat.

Call for Comments

What fun edible finds have you come across on your runs?

strawberries and blueberries

A handful of happiness: wild strawberries and blueberries.