Saturday, April 20, 2019

Wild Dinner and Walk at Stone Acres Farm, Connecticut

On Thursday I am driving up to Stonington, Connecticut (in our beloved Ntiniwe), to forage in New England's early spring. It will be like going back in time - further south we are several weeks ahead of the Connecticut shore; how often is one allowed to rewind spring? Very exciting.

Roast ramp leaf oil from Forage, Harvest Feast

On Friday evening those forages, and the ones chef James Wayman and his crew are preparing this week, will come together at Stone Acres Farm in a fireside evening inspired by my book Forage, Harvest Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine.

Vermouth from the Mugwort chapter

There will be feral cocktails, regional vermouth, and flights of wild treats, ranging from local shellfish (clams, oysters), to grass-raised beef, and desserts featuring regional native herbs like spicebush and bayberry.

James is the founder of Mystic's stand-out eateries The Oyster Club, Engine Room, and Grass and Bone, and is the visionary behind the local farm to table, field to table, and sea to table movement, where he is literally helping shape the food scene, bringing regional and ethical fare to local tables. He is an avid forager and a real food hero and I am thrilled to be cohosting this spring fling with him. Copies of Forage, Harvest, Feast are included in the ticket price.

If you'd like to make a weekend of it, stay over and come foraging with me the next day, too. This is a gorgeous part of the world (and the shoreline, oysters and outstanding restaurants are worth the trip, even if you can't make this date.)

Stone Acres Farm, Stonington, CT
26 April 2019
6.30pm - 9.30pm

Please book here

And on Saturday the 27th, I will be back at Stone Acres Leading a forage walk at in the morning, where we collect the fixings for our lunch, which follows. Yes, you get to cook your own wild lunch. I promise it will be OK.

Please book for the forage walk and lunch via the Yellow Farmhouse Education Center.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Spring Thugs Walk

What is a botanical thug? What is a weed? And why?

Join us on a spring stroll this Sunday in Prospect Park to count the edible weeds beneath our feet, and talk about why we decide to poison some plants, but not others.

Highly invasive Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) tastes like a cross between rhubarb and sorrel. It is crisp when raw, meltingly soft when cooked. It is sour. In Forage Harvest Feast I wax rhapsodic about its culinary potential via recipes ranging from pickles to slow spring stews. Come and learn to identify its spring shoots, so asparagus-like in appearance at this time of year, and explore ways to eat it at home.  

We will also meet and greet day lilies, dead nettle, field garlic, dandelions, ground elder, lesser celandine, garlic mustard and mugwort.

The wild-inspired tasting picnic will feature, you guessed it: weeds.


Book a Spring Walk

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The delicious spring

Edible weeds in the afternoon light of April. The purple flowers belong to henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). The white flower stalks beside them are pennycress, a species of Thlaspi (they taste hot and a little garlicky). The pile below is chickweed (Stellaria media - tasting just like cornsilk smells) to the right and the fine flowering stems of bittercress (Cardamine hirstuta - peppery and nutty). All went into fresh summer rolls for yesterday's walk and forage picnic in Central Park, on a very beautiful spring day.

The next walk is on the 14th in Prospect Park and is all about edible botanical thugs (which we will most definitely eat on the picnic!). You can book via the link below. I have also added two Connecticut events to my late April calendar - a dinner with local food hero James Wayman at Stone Acres, near Mystic, and a walk and lunch the next day, where we tramp the farm for edible goodies and make lunch together.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Central Park Spring Walk

After a rooftop garden appointment on the Upper East Side (where espaliered peaches were blooming) I veered west into Central Park's early spring. This Saturday's forage walk and picnic will be my first here in 2019 and I wanted to see what was growing where - every spring is different. Right now, the season belongs to Cornus mas - cornelian cherry. It is an eastern European species of dogwood, and blooms in balls of yellow between the much earlier witch hazel and the imminent spicebush.

My walk took me from East 75th Street up to the top of the park - 35 blocks, three-and-a-half miles, with all the zigzagging. These weeks belong to city-cab yellow. Manhattan forsythia blooms a week before Brooklyn's.

In the North Woods invasive lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) blankets the ground in places, its tiny bulbs and leaves smothering the natives that might try to raise their shoots above ground.

And in sunny spots purple dead nettle (purple dead nettle) is in bloom.

The spicebush (Lindera benzoin) buds are opening (spicebush will feature in the picnic's dessert on Saturday - you will find the recipe for these delicious olive oil loaves on p386 of Forage Harvest Feast - and you can buy your dried spicebush berries from Integration Acres; it is the best spice you have never used).

And another notorious invader has just emerged: Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica). As the shoots grow taller and green, they resemble asparagus but they taste like sorrel married rhubarb.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Sunday, March 31, 2019

From the woods

Why do I forage? It's an unanswerable question. But I am as curious now about wild things as I was when I was a very small girl. Walking in the woods, or anywhere else, really, is an adventure. A never-ending Easter egg hunt. On a hill in a city park I might suddenly find wood ear mushrooms where two weeks before there was just a big, dry log. Species of Auricularia, wood ears (also called cloud ear fungus) are prized in Asian cuisines and sold dried by the bagful. Their texture is tender, like soft velvet covered with a thin film of cool, human skin. Yes, very strange.

While they are usually used dried and reconstituted, I find their fresh, cooked texture to be very appealing.

The early spring things that accompany them: field garlic, baby ground elder (invasive bishop's weed), lesser celandine (I dislike the leaves' slightly acrid flavor but use them for garnishes), and some horseradish-hot garlic mustard roots.

And then comes the recipe creation. This one-pot chicken, field garlic and cream stew with rustic potatoes was mouthwateringly good. The mushrooms became sponges, their soft black collars plumping up like oysters to absorb the sauce. They combine that oyster slipperiness with a crunch.

Field garlic (the invasive Allium vineale) is like an assertive chive, and I have been using the leaves a lot over the last week-plus. The soup above, veiled by a melting dollop of whipped cream is lamb, red wine and field garlic; the pesto on the cracker is garlic mustard. Both were leftovers from a forage-picnic in Inwood. I have not cooked with cream for a long time but I bought some for that picnic's chocolate spicebush roulade and had to use up the rest. I had forgotten how good it is.

And the faithful field garlic and cheese bread. It's one of the first snacks I ever made for my forage walks, and I think it is delicious. It is a baking powder bread so needs to be eaten within a day of baking to be best, but it does make outstanding toast. The recipe is in Forage Harvest Feast, and works just as well with normal chives or even thinly snipped scallion greens.

The next walk is on April 6th in Central Park's North Woods. What will the picnic be? Come and see...


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