Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Food

Paw Paw Foraging

It all started with a church auction item – an opportunity to paw paw forage with an experienced forager. I had no idea what I would be foraging for, but it sounded like an interesting experience.

These many months later, the season for paw paw foraging had arrived. Instructions were to meet and come prepared with boots, bug spray and drinking water.

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I had, since my successful auction bid, done enough research to know that the paw paw is a fruit that grows as an understory plant in several states from the Atlantic through Ohio. As it turns out, Native Americans harvested the fruit, as did explorers following suit, craving the sweet juicy fruit in their diet. According to many sources including Kentucky State University, the paw paw is rich in nutrients.

Our foraging began in a forest section of the Susquehannock State Park. After walking down several trails and into the brush, our leader, Laura, identified the paw paw tree.

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The paw paw has large exotic-looking leaves unlike most trees in east coast forests. We spotted our first fruit overhead. 

When the paw paw is ripe enough, it can be ever so gently plucked from the branch. For fruit that is out of reach, a gentle shaking of the tree’s trunk will release the fruit that falls to the ground with a thump, or – if you are quick enough – into the bag you are holding. If you are not quick enough, you may get a surprise bop on the head (don’t ask how I know).

The taste of the paw paw was everything I had heard described. We gently peeled our first paw paws then stood enjoying the flavor of the pulp, somewhere between the sweetness of a banana and the wildness of a guava.

IMG_5522 (1).jpgThe kidney bean-sized seeds were spit out.

I also understood why the fruit is not cultivated to any great extent, as very few paw paws appear on a single tree and they are a delicate fruit, ripening in a short time window. I’m told you may find some farmer’s markets where a stand may have them available for short periods of time and at a very dear price.

Paw paws tend to grow in colonies, the largest reaching to the sky peaking out of the forest’s canopy, with less mature trees sheltering underneath and a myriad of newer growth along the forest floor.

After filling our bags and leaving a generous amount of paw paws for other foragers, we did some initial sorting and talked potential use. There are  recipes for everything from quick bread to beer.

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As for me, my paw paw cache will be frozen in small amounts to be used in smoothies along with some frozen slices of rhubarb. Those exotic summery tasting fruits will be perfect for adding nutrients and a sweet and sour taste to the post-run smoothie on chilled winter mornings.

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Do you have experience foraging in the forest? Have you used paw paws in cooking, baking – or brewing?

 

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London Wrap-up: Food and Found Friends

While posting a series about my London stay, I bumped into that great American holiday Thanksgiving. Deciding to hold off on sharing my London food finds until we had made our way through the end of the year, I now find myself well into February. Given our current clImate, it’s an opportune time to talk about the wonderful foods of London and what each cuisine brings to the table, literally and figuratively.

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The simplicity of fresh rocket with aged parmesan and just a dribble of olive oil makes the perfect late night bite after an evening of London theatre.

My first find was a simple meal which will stay etched in my memory as the ideal post-theatre snack. After an evening show, we returned to South Kensington in need of just a light something. Of all the small Italian eateries lining Brompton Road, we found the one that satisfied that need. I noted the name of the restaurant as Pasta by Mama, but I don’t think that is correct. If any readers identify the insignia on the plate above, please help me out with the correct name.

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I chose the Fish Bhuna, a freshwater fish served with sauce and herbs, accompanied by a delicious cup of tea.

Our next find was during an exploration among the narrow streets of Spitalfields. This immigrant community has also become an area energized by a young crowd of fashionistas making their way through open air markets, small shops and outdoor cafés. We opted for Shada Bangladeshi restaurant housed in a building on Brick Lane home to earlier restaurants. The building can be identified by the frying pan atop, an emblem historically used by braziers. As we enjoyed our meal, a large screen television was showing live footage of the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

Along with scoping of restaurant finds on our own, we benefited from friends living in London and friends of friends who shared their dining favorites.

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Dinner with long-time family friend Elizabeth at the Green Room, a collaborative restaurant with the National Theatre serving locally grown British fare.

One of those friends shared a favorite stop on the South Bank, the Green Room. I felt at home in this neighbourhood diner serving British food in an open airy space. Seating includes props and scenery used at earlier shows at the National Theatre, located nearby. 

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Later in my stay, I met with Elizabeth again for a lecture at the National Gallery and tea at the exquisite Ham Yard Hotel hidden away in a courtyard near Soho.

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Catching up with Katherine, a travel connection from earlier journeys. We enjoyed tea along with self-serve salad and sandwiches at this ornate museum café.

Stopping for tea and a light lunch is such an enjoyable way to spend time with friends. I rendezvoused with Katherine at the Victoria and Albert Museum . We met several years ago on the Iron and Ice voyage, two of the few travelers on that journey who enjoyed sightseeing on foot. 

 

 

My travel partner reached out to a friend of a friend in the Somali community of London. He shared with us a favorite of his, Yogiz Dairybar & Eatery located near Stratford and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We enjoyed lamb on a bed of rice with condiments on the side. I learned that a banana is generally served with all Somali meals and is sliced and eaten along with the main dish. We also enjoyed the samosa (or sambas, a pastry with savory filling) and a cup of tea.

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Finally, let’s talk about the first meal of the day: Breakfast. My best breakfast during the London stay was definitely British. On a misty morning at the Holland Park Cafe, I chose the Traditional English Breakfast and was totally satisfied with the choice. It included some of the most flavorful sausage I have had. From the eggs to the tomato, I could identify the freshness in each bite.

There you have it. Mix in friends and acquaintances old and new,  some familiar cuisine, and some that stretches your palette and dining experience. The result will be warm memories and new food knowledge to take home with you.

To enhance your travel and dining, I suggest keeping an open mind and an inquisitive palate.

 

 

 

 

 

London Running – Take 2

It started out as a 9-miler. I hadn’t yet seen Regent’s Park on my London visit. Roughly gauging the distance, I was off on a sunny 60-degree morning. Skirting the edge of Hyde Park, then down Oxford Street winding around people headed for their office and appointments, seriously talking on their cell phones with apparently a heavier agenda than me. Me, I’m just running.

Taking a left off Oxford, I find my way through several zig-zaggy streets to an opening to the park. I plan to do a half-circle and return back to my flat. As I pass the London Zoo entrance, I see a towpath below with a few people biking and walking. Hmm, better check this out.

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View of towpath and canal near London Zoo entrance to Regents Park

Entering the towpath, I get a beautiful view of a few boats making their way down the canal.

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Zoo aviary from towpath view. Who can identify the birds?

Then, I hear some beautiful birdsong. Looking up, I see a netting and discover an aviary overhead, my free look into the London Zoo (a senior runner has to be frugal).

Continuing on I see a sign that reads “Cyclists Dismount” and the path becomes a series of permanently harbored boats on the canal side and a variety of seating and gardening plots on the wall side.

Here the path ends, so I exchange a few greetings with owners, puttering about their boats and gardens.

Returning down the path, I decide to check out the opposite end of the canal, you know, just to see where it goes. After roughly a mile, an arched metal bridge ends the path and what do I come upon: Camden Lock Market.

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Having told my traveling friend emphatically I wasn’t interested in seeing this market, here I am. And, it is a wonderful market. Pausing my Garmin, I make my way through the warren of hats, hand-made clothing, crafts, books and food. Oh, the food. Every ethnic cuisine you might want is here.

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Spotting a cook stirring a huge, beautiful pan of paella I knew it was time to leave. With at least of 5-mile return trip, I dared not indulge.

Back to the path into Regent’s Park, across the road is Primrose Hill which gives an extraordinary view of the park and surrounding sites in London.

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After a short but tough run up to take in the view and back down to the outer circle, this time I come across a side path to a beautiful track. Several casual runners are using it and I wouldn’t leave without doing at least one loop.

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Again back to the outer circle, I see I can give a short visit to the inner circle and the Queen Mary’s Garden, then cut across for my return. Here, the flowers are still brilliantly beautiful in this unusually warm London September. Residents at ease with this day are enjoying a morning coffee in lawn chairs.

Seriously now, it’s time to finish this run. Routing through Marylebone to the Marble Arch and Hyde Park, I stopped at the open air cafe near the Senior Playground (in this case senior is not limited to seniors like your author, but anyone who is not a child),  I chose an energy drink for the cooldown.

My 9-miler had grown to a 16-miler with every mile enjoyed. I walk mile 17 back and prepare for something more sedentary for the remainder of the day.

Looking for the Hay Moon

All of us folk who wander around in the outdoors seems to be particularly enticed by full moons this year.  In June, I was running a Summer Solstice Run under a Strawberry Moon. Last night, I had the option of joining my running club

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for a full moon run or joining my Meetup hiking group for their Trekkin’ Tuesday Workout Hike Full Moon Edition.

So, under this Hay Moon (aptly named as I see farmers putting up hay in fields along my  route to the trailhead) I opted for the workout hike, feeling a need to get back on the trail.

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Our day hiking group mingling with through hikers settling in at Scott Farm for the evening.

 

We hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail up Blue Mountain, then doing a turnaround before reaching the lookout. We then moved south along the Conodoguinet Creek to Scott Farm Trail Work Center.

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Boardwalk over the Conodoguinet Creek

We tried in vain to spot the Hay Moon on our return to the trailhead. Unfortunately, the moon was hidden by cloud cover.

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Homemade moonpies – what hiker could ask for more?

We didn’t have a view of the Hay Moon, but our trail leaders made up for it with homemade moon pies. It works for me.

 

Hemp Hearts Discovery – they’re new-to-me

Like Columbus claiming to discover the Americas when thousands of people who lived here knew of its existence as did the Vikings who quietly arrived and left centuries before, it seems I am late to the discovery of hemp hearts.

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credit: istockphoto.com

Last week, I ran across hemp hearts as the final ingredient in a chopped salad recipe. Having never heard of it, I called my health food store and yes, of course they carry it. So off I went to pick up this new-to-me ingredient. I happened to buy the brand Manitoba Harvest.

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credit: kelownaceliac.org

With the intriguing name of hemp hearts, they are actually raw shelled hemp seed, with a moist nutty appearance, adding flavor and texture to the salad, but not overwhelming other ingredients.

While adding the texture and flavor, the hemp hearts also added a nutritional component: protein. For someone who eats many meatless meals, this was a great find. Two tablespoons of these little nuggets gets me 7 grams of protein. It also gets me lots of good fats.

Hemp hearts to my diet have become something like those surprise words that pop up. You run across that word the first time in reading not having been familiar with it, and then suddenly that word appears, looking back at you from many other sources.

So now, having made my ‘discovery’ of hemp hearts, they pop out at me here and there. Within a day of trying that salad recipe, I noticed pro triathlete Sarah Kim Bonner includes hemp hearts in her blog’s muffin recipe.

Then on a recent trip to the pharmacy,  I spot hemp hearts right there in the aisle near the energy bars and sunflower seeds. Clearly, I am among the last to add this wonderful food to just about everything – including a tablespoon or so on my morning cereal.

So, fess up readers. Am I the last to discover hemp hearts?

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credit: meganwallacerd.com

Destination Marathon: Running the Rhinebeck Hudson Valley Marathon

Let me say it upfront: the Rhinebeck Marathon sits in the top three of the most beautiful marathon courses I have run. Tucked neatly into the Hudson River Valley the town of Rhinebeck, New York is worth a visit even without a marathon.

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Mile 8/21 running parallel to the Hudson River

Always looking for an opportunity to return to this region, the marathon was a good find. I selected this race for its small size and historic location near the Catskill Mountains, a sort of antidote to the throngs of runners and spectators at my Boston Marathon a month earlier.

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Runners begin to congregate at Fairgrounds start

In its inaugural year, Rhinebeck had 23 marathon finishers. This year it grew to 89 finishers with larger numbers running the half marathon. Among those running were many folks from other states, at least one first-time marathoner, a marathon maniac, and a runner working on her 50-state status. I expect the race will see continued growth as word of this little treasure gets out.

This is a 2-loop course, with a start/finish at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. I don’t generally choose loop courses, but I took a chance with this one and the scenery was so dazzling I looked forward to covering it again. The course is flat for the first few miles, then moves into rolling hills. Some of the route was open to traffic, but drivers and runners were carefully considerate and all was well.

Leaving the Fairgounds, the route moved through a residential area and then out in the countryside on a pastoral course. We were on a Heritage Trail for a good portion of the time, running past farms, cemeteries, historic estates, and the beautiful but hilly Hamlet of Rhinecliff with occasional views of the Hudson River over the left shoulder.

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Mile 5/18 – lane to  Wilderstein, historic home of the Suckley family. Daisy Suckley was archivist and confidante to FDR. Trails and carriage roads on property  open to the public

The majority of the route is shaded, a blessing on this unexpectedly warm day. Even on mile 23 as my pace slowed to a crawl, I was appreciating the sound of bird calls and the light breeze rustling through the trees. (Note to ponder: During a colder than normal Spring, how did I manage to select two Spring marathons that fell on what seemed like the only two warm days this season? Only the universe knows.) My finish time was a disappointment (a minute slower than my Boston finish) but the experience of running this course was not.

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Mile 7/20 – hilly Hamlet of Rhinecliff founded 1686

The Rhinebeck Hudson Valley Marathon is a USATF-certified course. Aid stations and porta-potties were well placed and spaced. Parking was simple and easily accessible from the start/finish.

 

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What makes an ideal destination marathon? Rhinebeck is close, offering a wonderful course in a location with a myriad of interests for family and friends who may want to come along for the ride (or the run). This is not Disney World, but a real experience of our American past. History buffs can explore the land settled before the Revolutionary War took place, outstanding arts and architecture with homes from the 1600’s and the region of the Hudson River School artists established in the 19th century. Within driving distance you will also find the family homes of several of our twentieth century presidents. Finally, if food is your interest, the area abounds in locally grown food served in restaurants. You can also get a tour and a superb meal at the Culinary Institute of America just down the road.

On to my next destination race. Any suggestions?

A Tempered & Tropical Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving day on Oahu starts with a 10-mile prediction run, hosted by the Honolulu Marathon Clinic. With the Honolulu Marathon just weeks ahead, what was the purpose of a 10-mile prediction run?

 

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Dawn breaking with cloudy skies, runners walked to the start with Diamond Head in the background

We were to run without any timing devices, relying on our bodies to determine the appropriate pace, a pace that would be comfortable running through the full marathon. The premise is that as we run the final six miles of a marathon, we pay dearly for any mistakes made in the first 10 miles.

Each runner wrote their anticipated time on a popsicle stick and carried it during the run. The sticks were turned in as we crossed the finish line. Those who had a finish time very close to their anticipated time (I spoke with a woman who was one second off her anticipated time, who does that?) were the award winners.

I drove to registration through tropical rain and fog. Approaching the parking lot in the dark, but seeing shadowy runner forms walking to the bandshell, I knew I was in the right place.

It was an early start, sometime around 7 a.m. Most of the rain cleared, and thankfully the clouds remained giving us some cover from the intense tropical sun.

We started with a loop around Kapiolani Park, then headed up Diamond Head Road, passing lovely cliffside homes looking down on Diamond Head Beach and early morning surfers. The course looped  through another neighborhood and a commercial section, then returned to the park via Diamond Head Road. The hill at Diamond Head wasn’t nearly as daunting as it was a number of years ago after 25 miles into the marathon. Fresher legs make a difference.

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Diamond Head Beach

 

I fell into what I felt was my marathon pace without difficulty. What I didn’t feel was any sense of what mile I was running. My only gauge was placement of water stations, with three on the course and knowing I had covered roughly another 2.5 miles each time I approached a station.

I had added about five minutes to my expected time at 10 miles for my prediction because I was running in heat and humidity. As I finished, I was off by five minutes and change, predicting at 1:50 and finishing at 1:45 something. Although I won’t be on Oahu to participate in the Honolulu Marathon this year, I may use this type of run as part of my marathon training for races in the future.
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One of the few bargains on Oahu, this prediction run had a $7 entry fee. For that, we had a bagpiper start the race, police directing traffic at intersections, and,

as our finisher prize – IMG_1918a deliciously warm, sugar covered malasata from Leonard’s Bakery, a Honolulu landmark.

Hoping your turkey trot was as successful and insightful.