Edible Monterey Bay

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PAGE SIX: HUNT FISH FORAGE

A baker, a restaurateur and a farmers’ market manager on why they gather their own

By Molly Watson
Illustrations by Lucy Conklin

NESH DHILLON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
SANTA CRUZ COMMUNITY FARMERS’ MARKETS

huntFishDhillon

When did you first go boar hunting?

I grew up in Oregon hunting a ton—elk, deer, birds. There’s an abundance of food out there that is not ranched or raised: It grows on the ultimate pasture.

When I moved to California, I wrote hunting off. Then I heard over and over again how the area was overrun by pigs. From a farming standpoint, deer are bad, but pigs are worse. They eat everything like deer do, but they also root, digging into the soil and destroying farmland. Plus, I’d always wanted to hunt pigs.

Why was that?

With bird hunting or deer hunting, you’re the hunter and they’re the prey. With pig hunting, it’s a little more balanced. They’re really smart and really aggressive and they’ll attack.

Also, I love pork and I love wild game, so I was curious to taste wild pig.

What’s it like owning guns in Santa Cruz?

People are afraid to talk about firearms. I own them. I love them. They are amazing tools. My dad taught me gun safety and hunting ethics. It’s not about shooting anything you can find. It’s about getting dinner. That’s what he taught me: You eat everything you kill.

GIUSEPPE PANZUTO, CO-OWNER,
IL TEGAMINO RESTAURANT, CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA

huntFishPanzuto

When did you first go spearfishing?

When I was maybe two. My dad taught me.

I’m picturing you swimming with a long spear in your hand …

It’s diving without a tank, and going down 35 or 40 feet. A gun holds the spear, which is attached with elastic bands. When I pull the trigger, the bands release and let the spear go.

Wait, so how long can you stay down there?

Now I can stay under about three minutes. I used to be able to do four, even four minutes and 20 or 30 seconds.

It’s all about practice, getting your lungs exercised. You kind of swallow air to get your lungs bigger and bigger to hold more air.

Do you eat what you catch?

Anything I catch, I eat or give to people to eat. That’s the cool thing about spearfishing—you choose what you want to try to get!

What do you want to get?

My favorite thing to catch is lingcod. I cook it in a light tomato sauce, like a seafood soup. Nice and tender, very flaky.

Have you ever encountered a shark?

Not so far! I fish in the kelp, to stay safe. Seals and otters come and try to play with my fins.

CARREN DIXON, OWNER,
BUTTERCUP CAKES & FARM HOUSE FROSTING

huntFishDixon

So, I hear you like mushrooms?

I do! But I also like mushrooming because it’s such a meditative thing. To walk in the woods, with the damp soil all around you, I love it. I go out with my knife and my brush and find mushrooms.

Do you have any favorites?

Chanterelles pop, like gold in the forest. I also look for candy caps, because they have that amazing maple-like flavor.

And morels. Morel-picking is the most magical kind of picking. You have to see morels in your mind’s eye before they will reveal themselves. They’re hidden until you see them, and then they pop out everywhere.

How do you know which mushrooms are safe to harvest?

I know the ones I want to pick and the ones I don’t, which is more important. Also, I carry David Arora’s pocket book, Mushrooms Demystified, with me.

Ever use mushrooms in your cupcakes?

We have yet to put a chanterelle in a cupcake, but we started experimenting with candy caps last year. We’re definitely going to offer them this coming winter.

– Molly Watson is a writer and recipe wizard who could spend all day picking wild berries or looking for mushrooms.

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At Edible Monterey Bay, our mission is to celebrate the local food cultures of Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties, season by season.