These botanical plates are just a modest spring sampling of the dozens of illustrations in Dina Falconi's beautiful and useful book Foraging and Feasting (Botanical Art Press, 2013). The artist is Wendy Hollender. I just gave away two copies on Facebook and Instagram, where the response was so positive that I thought I'd give you a better glimpse of the book, here. It was published thanks to funding via Kickstarter, printed in the US, and is a sturdy and very attractive hardcover, complete with wild onion endpapers. Both author and illustrator are based in upstate New York but many of the plants covered are ubiquitous.
My fridge is loaded right now with garlic mustard, above. I have made a relish from the roots, stews and curries with the leaves, have a lacto fermentation bubbling angrily to itself, and am about to preserve a bucketload for later in the season (by blanching, squeezing and freezing). It is a super invader and happens to be very good to eat. Pick it while it is sweetly in bud and you prevent it from setting its pernicious little seeds and spreading even more.
What I like about the illustrations in Foraging and Feasting is not just their accuracy and obvious aesthetic appeal, but that their notes explain at a glance which parts are used and at what time of year. There is a patch of dame's rocket seven doors down from where we live and my mouth waters a bit whenever I walk past. But it's behind a fence and in a garden, so...
Foraging and Feasting has an approach to recipes that I like. Dina gives a Master Recipe for a plant or for a technique (like water kefir, syrup, sauces, catsup, herb and flower butters - it's a long list) which gives you a solid grounding and technique for using a plant, and then she has ideas for improvisation, guiding you but granting you as much creativity as you can muster. Follow the link for a good sense of how each plant is described, and to Dina's Master recipe for Nettle Frittata.
Day lilies - today happens to be the day I must clean a bunch of day lily tubers for some more recipe testing of my own...dig them now, eat their young shoots and snack on the flowers, come early summer. As with all new foods, sample a small amount, first - I do know a couple of people who have exerienced unhappy reactions to day lilies (not me!), as the author mentions in her Cautionary Note above. Eat in moderation. Tonight I'm making rösti with the little tubers. To go with our rabbit and gifted D'Artagnan morels.
Also in season in my hood, the terrible spreadable: goutweed, also called ground elder or bishop weed (Aegopodium podagraria). Tastes a little like lovage. We ate Japanese knotweed and lamb for dinner, and then there are all those dandelions... And nettles. Must blanch more nettles!