San Franciscans know their foraging. Menus here overflow with wild edibles from miner’s lettuce to fennel pollen, and outdoorsy chefs and home cooks trample our hillsides in spring and fall in search of wild mushrooms.
Kirk Lombard, however, would like to introduce you to the final frontier of foraging: the ocean (until we have a decent supply of chanterelles established on Mars, that is). Lombard is the founder of Sea Forager Tours. He’s also a musician, actor, commercial fisherman, and former fisheries observer for the California Department of Fish and Game. All of these occupations have helped establish Lombard as “the Sea Forager.” He’s our city champion of lowly invertebrates.
The tours—which range from clamming in Half Moon Bay to foraging for edible seaweed in San Francisco—began after Lombard burned out on “fishing all day with limited results, and 20-plus bucks worth of lost tackle.” He started out with poke poling for monkeyface eels, grass rockfish, and cabezon (a type of sculpin fish) which turned him on to the plethora of tasty sea creatures literally within arm’s reach.
“The rocky intertidal zone (along the coast) is where you start to notice things,” he explains. “Mussels, seaweeds, sea urchins, limpets. Fishing largely depends upon factors out of your control, but these things are always there, if you know where and when to look.”
Lombard’s primary goal is to teach his audiences the importance of proper fisheries management, but his reputation as a raconteur precedes him. “If people sign up because they hear the tours are fun, I’m totally cool with that—a lot of them have no interest in fishing at all.”
As for that other local celebrity, the monkeyface eel, Lombard has done much to create awareness about their existence, as well as get them onto local menus (try Nojo, Mateo’s Cocina Latina, and La Trappe).
“I’m more interested in getting people to understand what’s out there,” he says. “Then, when they look at the bay, they realize that it’s not a ruined ecosystem, but rather, teeming with life. Catching your dinner also creates a deeper connection to the environment. Trust me; if you’re eating stuff from the shores, you’re going to want to make sure they stay unpolluted.”
Find out more Lombard’s upcoming fishing/foraging and clamming/mussel tours here.