Thursday, November 15, 2018


As snow flurries shroud Brooklyn I hurry this post out to show autumn on Long Island, last week. Beautiful Caumsett State Park is just over an hour's drive from home and is near the town of Oyster Bay, where I think I could live very happily. Quiet water and big trees. Strangely, there is always a long line of cars waiting to get in at the gates, but somehow all the human cargo is dispersed once there. Or perhaps we head in an unpopular direction? We rarely see more than a couple of people once we are off the main paths.

The massive beech above must be one of the most beautiful trees in the state. 

Juniper berries (really cones) were prolific and sweet beside a well trafficked and tarred path. Soon we branched off into the rustling woods and tramped through rustling leaves.

Our destination was the beach and we found it at extreme low tide in the long shadows of winter's time change.

Last time we were here all these rocks were under the shallow, clear water of the Long Island Sound.

A man in his late 70's stood and looked out at the water for a very long time.

The sand was covered in these shells, which proved to be occupied. I have never noticed them, before.

They are slipper shells - Google images revealed this after I searched for "Long Island molluscs stacked." They are native to these eastern Atlantic shores but have now invaded France, where they poach the food from mussels and oysters and scallops. They are hermaphrodites: The big one on the bottom is a female, with males stacked above. If she dies, the next in line male switches to female.

Our picnic on the sand started with salmon roe on the popular seed crackers, with crunchy radishes, then a warming course of beef and beer stew (From Darra Goldstein's lovely Scandinavian cookbook Fire and Ice), and ended with some runaway cheese.

(Darra wrote a very kind review of Forage, Harvest, Feast for The Times Literary Supplement, calling it "a joyous cookbook about the delights of the natural world"- you can read the whole review if you are subscribed!)

We walked down the beach and up through the woods, in a big circle.

We saw only one deer on our walk, and heard lots of woodpeckers, and an owl.

Today it must all be snowed under, and one day we will visit when there is snow and a hard freeze to make it stick.

The linden viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum, locally very invasive) that I collected along the way has been turned into a quivering, crimson jelly, just in time for Thanksgiving. I may make the goose from Forage, Harvest's Feast's list of seasonal wild menus at the back of the book - but our new apartment's oven is small, inside. Perhaps it will be duck, or ducks. Juniper is in season, and I am still finding lots of red berries (viburnum, aronia). Lambs quarter seeds, too. So there is still lots of wild, out there, and plenty from the year's preserves in the forage cupboard.

What will be on your menu?


Friday, November 9, 2018


Photo by Vincent Mounier

My happy place: with my husband, in the woods, meeting a new plant (Viburnum dilatatum, linden viburnum - invasive and delectable, if you like tart flavors). This is out on Long Island's north shore, and within the driving limit that my back can handle right now. Stupid back. I can't sit for long without pain, but I can walk for miles. So it could be much worse.

The fruits make a crimson jelly. And a good, sour powder, too. The seaweed I collected  a little later is already dried and crispy, waiting for future recipes (crackers, for sure, and probably some things I have not thought of, yet).

It is a blustery weekend in New York City and I think by Monday many of the beautiful autumn leaves will have been blown from their branches. So peep as many as you can now if you live in the hood!


Forage, Harvest Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


For another few days autumn in Brooklyn will still be very beautiful. Riding my bicycle home through the park from the farmers market is a pleasure.

And on the days when the sun shines, the sky is that immaculate blue.


Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine

66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life

Friday, October 26, 2018

To the woods!

For the two months before our move the Frenchman and I had to cool our hiking heels. Instead of woodland trails, we pounded sidewalks and Brooklyn neighborhoods, hunting for a new place to live. Once we had moved, it was with huge relief that we headed out again to Harriman State Park, the minute the last box was unpacked. Our usual Catskills haunt is over two hours from the city, while Harriman - discovered this summer - is just over an hour's drive. For my injured back, this is a godsend: while I can walk and exercise as much as I like, sitting for longer than half an hour becomes very painful, so long drives are not fun.

Harriman is a gorgeous park, with hills and woodlands, blueberries for miles, and many lakes. We visited four times in July and early August. Different every time.

We park on Kanawauke Road - Route 106 - and head south towards Lake Skenonto. The trail (yellow above) we chanced upon is still our favorite, although there is much more to explore. We use Gaia Maps (app and web) - you pay an annual fee, and they have superb maps as well as coverage. This lake is also accessible by public transport, from Tuxedo Park.

Cute corts, as the mushroom people call them. Some blue mushrooms (like blewits and milk caps) are very good to eat. Some are not. Cortinarius iodes - above, probably -  is not recommended. It has a tell-tale slimy cap. But so does its identical lookalike Cortinarius iodeioides - confusing, yes?! They also have similar spore prints. Enthusiasts tell them apart by licking the cap. C. iodeioides has bitter slime.

No, I don't lick. And I don't bother with corts at all, for eating - there are easier mushrooms to enjoy.

Like my dear friend the hen of the woods, Grifola frondosa. Also called maitake, or dancing mushroom, by the Japanese. Easy to identify, hugely generous, and delicious. It has been a bumper year for hen of the woods and they have been so prolific that just about every other oak tree in Brooklyn seems to have borne a crop this fall. Not a good sign for the trees, as this fungus causes butt rot, which eventually kills the tree. We saw many on our walk and I collected just one clean specimen, turning it into pâté and soup and a few other things back home. Especially fun when they sell for $20/lb in shops.

The woods were also bristling with honey mushrooms, members of the Armillaria complex. They are also delicious (and destructive to trees), but not a beginner mushroom: they must not be confused with some toxic lookalikes. Fortunately their white spore prints differentiate them from so-called deadly gallerinas (rusty-brown print) and sulphur tufts (purple-brown).

The Frenchman's favourite edible mushroom, after chanterelles. The beautiful black trumpet.

Many fallen logs were studded with little puffballs. While these diminutive Lycoperdons are edible (while young, firm and white inside), I don't see the point. Although on a pretty plate in a restaurant...maybe.

The tall blueberries in open spaces were already burnished with the changing season.

Invasive barberries doing their best to convince us to plant them in our gardens. Don't. They displace local plants and harbor ticks. And birds disperse the seed.

Equally destructive and pretty Rosa multiflora festooned with rosehips (good for jelly, syrups, and Vitamin C).

Also in openings in the woods are stands of hay scented ferns (Dennstaedtia punctilobula).

Here, at our halfway mark, we stop on a cliff above the lake and have lunch. Almonds I roasted in coconut oil with lots of berbere spice and salt. Manchego, and an Italian sausage from our new hood (we didn't like it and will go back to our Columbus staple). After having gone breadless in April, picnics without a crusty baguette do lack a certain...'ow do you ne sais quoi. But both our waistlines thank us. And I do cheat. The Frenchman doesn't cheat. He never cheats. Consequently, he is thinner: Minus 35 lbs since April, me a mere 15...

After lunch we turn back towards the other side of our loop. Lots of moss, everywhere. 

Pixie cups belong to a species of lichen called Cladonia. Lichen is classified in the Fungi Kingdom, and moss in Plant. But lichen is really algae living in symbiosis with fungi. Fascinating.

The woods are late turning, possibly because we had so much rain in August and September.

Back in the car and driving home along the beautiful windy road, I was lucky enough to spot between the trees a glimpse of my first-ever coyote.

Good end to a very good day.


Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Windsor Terrace

I climbed up the fire escape to photograph the new terrace.

All the citrus trees moved with us: Thai limes (Citrus hystrix), Meyer lemon, and finger lime (Citrus australasica - and yes, native to the understoreys of the Australian subtropics) - and all of them have fruit! The largest curry leaf is in the lower left corner (the other went to my friend Irene Khin, where it is kept company by a giant Burmese ginger). The myogo ginger, cardamon and new galangals came, too, so this seems to be an adventure in subtropical edibles.

Other sentimental favorites are there, too: black snakeroot - about to bloom, baby oak leaf hydrangeas (their large parent was adopted), the prickly ash that was so sickly in its first year and now robust (I grew it for Forage Harvest Feast's sake - the leaves and fruit are wonderful), some pineapple lilies and a fat rhododendron. I am not sure why I brought the begonias - probably just because I knew I'd want some flowers.

The terrace receives eastern sunlight, and then some more in the very late afternoon, from the west. The top floor apartment (no more upstairs terrorism!) is very bright and they will thrive indoors in the winter. I hope.

We are still digging our way out from under a mound of boxes; work and book events have taken up much of our time, but there has been progress, and we can now even see parts of the apartment's floor (it is a very solid floor, and does not squeak like the last one).

I am leading an autumn forage-plus-picnic in Central Park this weekend, and the next in Prospect Park. See the link below to book.

And now I must unpack a dozen boxes of books.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Autumn talks

Join me at The Museum of Food and Drink this Thursday at 6.30pm for a discussion of native flavors and how they should inform our regional cooking and be used in kitchen gardens. And sip this cocktail, too: From the pages of Forage, Harvest, Feast it is 'Long Nights' - bourbon-based with lashings of spicebush.

And on Saturday I will be at the Union Square Farmers Market in the Food Bookfair tent to sign books from 10am -12pm this Saturday, too, if you'd like to say hello and munch on a mugwort cracker...

In other book news, acclaimed food scholar and author Darra Goldstein wrote a generous review of Forage, Harvest, Feast recently for The Times Literary Supplement, calling its recipes "bold and exciting."

I hope you agree (and some of them - like 200 or so - are even easy!)...


Saturday, September 22, 2018

On the move

Ten days ahead of our move a plant party was thrown. In terms of garden space we are downsizing from a ground floor's 1,000 square feet (if that is confusing read the About page for this blog, all is explained) to a top floor's 100 square foot terrace.

For drinks we had chilled prosecco poured onto a dash of common milkweed gin (made from fermented common milkweed flower cordial and gin).  And nice Brooklyn tapwater with wisteria ice cubes.


(Ones with ribbons are my keepers.)



Thirty nice people came and went and most plants went out the door to new homes. Heavy pots and plants are being picked up over the next few days.

Melina made a plum cake. I made bruschetta rubbed with garlic and topped with heirloom tomatoes and garden basil. (Bye-bye, basil!) Radishes and butter for snacking.

And now, back to packing.

To see all stories about this garden, visit the 1st Place BK tag in the sidebar Pigeon Holes.

If you'd like to catch me in the next couple of weeks, I will be giving a talk about Native Flora and Regional Character at The Museum of Food and Drink on October 4th at 6.30pm (you need to book, and tickets are $20) and on the 6th I will be signing copies of Forage, Harvest, Feast at the Union Square Farmer's market.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The end of a season

Elderberry syrups and gin. Started in August, bottled in September. I have some sumac vodka and sugar (all recipes in Forage, Harvest, Feast) in mason jars right now, and those will be the last forages to be bottled before we move, soon.

I will miss this kitchen very much. The glass door to the garden (I now think every kitchen should have a door to a garden), the little window beside the stove. It is a small space, but very efficient, and one of the two bright spots in this long, ground-floor apartment (the other is the bedroom, at the opposite end).

Many things, small and large, framed our nearly three-month search for a new apartment, after this lease was not renewed. Good natural light for my photography (and sanity), a decent kitchen - no dark cabinetry and ancient black appliances (food photos, again). A good floor... you laugh, but the floors we have seen. Light fittings from hell. The notorious nipple light. Good proportions - which includes everything from ceiling height to room size to window width to distance between sink and bath. A neighborhood where we feel at home.

We have found many of them in our new space, near Prospect Park. It is pricier than 1st Place, and slightly smaller. But the top-floor apartment (no thumping upstairs neighbors!) has been gut-renovated with an unusually fastidious and good eye for detail, light, and that sense of proportion that can make or break a room. The place has been finished with a sense of integrity that only two others we have seen, shared. We have seen dozens. The terrace is small, it's about 100 square feet, but it is very private. It will be a relief to sip a cup of coffee in genuine solitude. But I will miss the birds, and the wandering possums.

The proximity of Prospect Park (and Green-Wood) is wonderful, for me. But it is far from the Frenchman's important twice-weekly running route home from Manhattan, so he loses. Some of our things will have to go into storage. And this Thursday I hope many plants will find new homes, as dozens of friends, forage walkers, and gardeners come to adopt them.

It is friends who have kept my nose above 2018's rising waters. To each of them, thank you. You are extraordinary.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Plant Adoption Party

Plant adoption party! We have signed a lease on a new apartment and now I know what I will keep for our new terrace (top floor, small, but private and promising).

I have been working for weeks to transfer all my in-ground plants to pots and they have put down new roots and are ready for new homes. They are in good potting mix and have been fed. Thanks to Gowanus Nursery for donating recycled nursery pots and potting media!

Please email me for address and to RSVP.


20 September, 4pm - 6.30pm
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn


Food and drink: Prosecco and common milkweed cocktails will be on offer. Maybe some snacks. If you would like to contribute a potluck snack plate, that would be fun. (Finger food. Extra points for foraged ingredients.)

Plants for adoption: Plastic pot sizes range from 4" in diameter to 1 quart through 5 gallon in volume. Terra cotta sizes range from 8" across to 18" across.

Other Stuff: There will also be some gardening accessories up for grabs. Like nice, almost-new red pea and tomato trellises from Gardener's Supply, a giant tuteur, terra cotta pots, re-usable aluminum row labels, a giant galvanized trough, and some things I have not thought of yet.  Also some wild-inspired goodies like vinegars.

I will have a limited number of books (Forage, Harvest, Feast) for sale: $25, cash only, please.


Please only attend if you are adopting a plant or plants.
RSVP if you are coming.
First come, first adopted.
Getting plants home is your job. Some are heavy.
If you need transport or help for them - no way you're carrying the biggest ones to the subway - you may tag and fetch the next day.
Bring bags to carry them (like double Whole Foods or Trader Joe's bags or Ikea bags or roomy, strong totes). Or little red carts!
I will have tape and sharpies for tagging plants so you can sip without fear of losing the plant you like.
Plants I am keeping will be tagged with a bamboo stick and a conspicuous ribbon. Do not steal the keepers. If you do I will chase you with the stick. Nobody touch the limes!

Edible Perennials and Shrubs:

Black raspberries x 3 (2 in shock, but viable; 1 very heavy) - full sun ideal, but can fruit with 4 hours direct sun
Blueberries x 2 - full sun or semi-shade
Black chokeberry x 1 - full sun or semi-shade
Cardamom x 9 (must come indoors in winter) - delicious, aromatic leaves for cooking, I doubt they will flower and make pods, though - full shade
Chives x 6 - full sun
Common milkweed x 4 (they look minimal now but will rebound in spring. NOT suitable for pots, must go in-ground) - full sun
Gooseberry x 1 (5 gal plastic pot) - full sun
Nettles x 4  - semi-shade
Saffron crocus bulbs x approx. 50 (WILL bloom in October and must be planted soon!) - full sun
Serviceberry - large pot, 3' shrub
Wintercress (Barbarea verna) - x 7 - full sun

Semi Shade and Shade Perennials and Shrubs:

Boxwood (tiny) x 1
Christmas fern x 2 (takes full shade)
Doll's eyes x 2
Diervilla 'Cool Splash'- large pot
Fescue (not sure of ID - very nice shade lover) x 6
Lady fern x 1 - full shade
Heuchera autumnalis x 2
Hostas - green-n-white x 2
Lily of the valley x 2 pots
Ostrich ferns x 8 (plus 10 baby ostrich ferns) - can take full shade
Oak leaf hydrangea - large pot
Rodgersia x 3 (the largest looks awful but is very healthy, it just got dry - they need to stay moist)
Sensitive fern x 1 - can take full shade
Solomon's Seal x 3 large pots - drought tolerant, within reason
Virginia creeper x 2

Perennials for Sun (6 hours-plus direct):

Agastache 'Black Adder' - x 2 (heavy)
Arrowwood viburnum - very large pot
Bearded iris - no name, deep purple x 1
Calamintha x 2
Evening primrose x 1
Echinacea x 8
Daylilies, orange x 3
Lamb's ears x 2
Lilies x 40, in groups of 2 - 3 per pot (Madame Butterfly, Regale, Silk Road, Scheherazade, Silver Scheherazade, White Butterflies)
Joe Pye weed - 4 pots (hated being dug up, but viable; grows to 8' tall)
Monkshood x 4 (they looks scraggly but I think they will be fine. Wash your hands after handling cut leaves or stems)
Pineapple plants (Eucomis species) x 9 in groups of 3 (they must be overwintered indoors in a cold dry place, or dug up when the leaves die, and bulbs stored in the crisper drawer of fridge until May)
Swamp milkweed x 2

There will also be more Solomon's seal to dig (bring nursery pots 12" or larger in diameter to accommodate, or plastic bags), as well as violets to dig up, plus purple shiso (perilla) to cut and take home, and sweet potato tendrils to harvest (blanch in boiling water for 1 minute before eating).

What to bring:

Sturdy bags for carrying pots
Plastic bags or pots for plants you might dig up
Trowel for digging, if you plan to (I have one shovel and 1 trowel)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Plants + Picnic + Friends = Detox

This was Saturday's satisfying end to a very good day. Stunned silence from regular audience...sound of crickets...she had a good day? Well, it's been a spectacularly shitty year, but sometimes the sun shines (even though it was totally overcast). Also, it was over 20 degrees cooler and the humidity lifted.

The planned forage walk at Dead Horse Bay was a lot of fun, with great people, and the plants were lush. Lots of impeccably sour winged sumac (Rhus copallina) to collect.

The figs above were a gift from Diane, who attends my walks often - they are from her mother's old tree, and they are delicious, with sour following sweet, a complexity that a Mission fig cannot deliver. The mouse melons were also from her and will go bobbing in a cucumber Martini this evening. Not pictured is the jar of delicious sansho miso, given to me by Kiyoko, another regular attendee who is endlessly curious and always gives me inspiring homemade Japanese tidbits to try. She is responsible for the prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) chapter in Forage, Harvest, Feast. Sansho is its East Asian cousin, Zanthoxylum piperatum, and known better Stateside as Sichuan pepper. (For our supper I cooked a single thick steak, and while it was resting smeared the miso over it. It was incredible.)

The cocktail above used up some of the quick beach plum and bayberry sauce I made for the picnic - there was some left over. Blended it with gin and a bracing October vermouth made last year in Cape Town. Really good.

Humans and how they behave make all the difference. For the really bad behavior this year there has been more than its balance in utter, disinterested, genuine generosity that we have both experienced. It is humbling.

Just keep on getting up in the morning. The weather will change.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Shoreline forage at Dead Horse Bay

The Frenchman said he was going to go out and buy manchego cheese, and I said, Can we go to Dead Horse Bay instead, and he said, Yes.

So we did.

I am leading a walk here this weekend and I had not visited in about five weeks; I get nervous and think - what if there is nothing interesting for them to see? So I like to check, ahead of time (how can you be ahead of time?).

Turned out fine. In those weeks we have had tropical downpours, and the old landfill's response has been lush.

The invasive Phragmites australis looks opulent in bloom.

The wide paths are tick-free. 

And the winged sumac (Rhus copallina) is in fruit. 

Above, you can see last year's cluster of fruit along with the new, unripe cluster. It is the last sumac to ripen in our region. There are lots of sumac recipes in Forage, Harvest, Feast. When I say lots, I mean 63. The one I am proudest of is Sumac Essence. A fantastic secret weapon in the kitchen.

I was surprised to learn last year that a lot of people confuse sneeze-inducing Ambrosia artemisifolia - ragweed (above) - with goldenrod, below. They bloom at the same time. And if you Google ragweed a bunch of goldenrod pictures pop up. A good friend argued  with me vehemently that goldenrod was in fact ragweed. No.

Goldenrod is the common name of the bright yellow species of Solidago, heralds of autumn; I think the one above is S. canadensis. Just because it is conspicuous doesn't mean it gives you allergies. Its pollen is too large to irritate us. Sneakily invisible ragweed, on the other hand...

Near the beach, my beloved bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica. I have just made the most gorgeous beach plum and bayberry syrup (yes, recipe in the book) and have frozen the cooked plum pulp for later use - it is delicious.

You can see how poison ivy (above) and edible sumac are related. They belong to the same family as mango and cashews. Birds love poison ivy fruit. Humans, not so much.

This is apparently a burr grass (Cenchrus species). New to me, and noticed today because of its painfully sharp but prolifically beautiful flowers.

Lots of horse shoe crab exoskeletons.

And rides to nowhere, courtesy of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene.

It doesn't look like Brooklyn, does it?

But it is.

To join us on September 8th for a forage, 12.30pm - 3pm (timed to coincide with low tide, and exposing the famous detritus of old-ish glass), and a wild picnic featuring mugwort and bayberry and sumac, please book via the PayPal button below. Details will be emailed to you on sign up.

(And if you are wondering about the cheese...we stopped for it on the way home.)

Sold Out, Sorry!
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