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 photo, again). A decent floor... you laugh, but the floors we have seen. Light fittings from hell. The notorious nipple light. A sense of proportion - 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 a fastidious 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. And we have seen dozens, all over New York City. 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.

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!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Forage Harvest Feast

Today is the official release date of Forage, Harvest, Feast, which looks right at home on the foraging table with mugwort and wild black cherries. And a bonus of chanterelles. Torrential summer rains have made mushrooms explode all over the city and our happy hunting grounds.

The book is now available for purchase (not just pre-order) on Amazon.  Today it rose to the top of the ranks - No. 1 in the...? Vegetable section! I thought that was very funny. But I do include cultivation tips for most of the plants, so. And it's No. 19 right now in Professional Cooking. These numbers change very fast but they are fun.

Thank you very much if your copy is already winging its way to you, in North America or in Europe. Copies are traveling by sea to continents further from its US printing base.

If you like what you see and read, please tell Amazon, in a review. It would be very helpful to me, the book, future readers, and not least to my wonderful publishers, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Monday, August 13, 2018

How it really is

Somebody who knows a bit about our lives said recently on Instagram: You are so calm.

But real life is not for Instagram. On Instagram life is perfect.

It has been wet. Very wet. And if we sit outside in the evenings we are well sprayed against the striped invasive mosquitoes. August is their voracious peak. The garden is lush and wild. Katydids, cicadas, and the first crickets accompany dinner.

Inbetween time-consuming apartment hunting (we have not found the right one yet, and yes, I am nervous), book-related event-planning (book party on August 21st), and plain old work, I pot up in-ground plants for this plant adoption party I have dreamed up.

But don't ask me when that will be.

In fact, don't ask me anything. I wake every morning with dread in the pit of my stomach. News from home is bad, my brothers are on the warpath, Vince and I have no idea where we are going to live. I am not a self pitying person, but 2018 seems to have birthed a wave of the worst of human behaviour, in terms of our personal lives. Malice, resentment, an absolute lack of ethical integrity. A black depression grips my heels and pulls me back. I say it out loud because I now feel it's better to say it than pretend it is not happening. There are days when I am felled.

In many ways, we lead privileged lives. As my father would say. This year far worse things have happened to friends. Cancer diagnoses. Death by home invasion. Death too young. Real suffering.

And for me there are points of light. The Frenchman, who is an incredible human being, with a backbone of solid integrity. Perhaps that is all that matters. There is my new book. I like it. I know that must sound strange, but you never know. There is my publishing team at Chelsea Green - very good, supportive people. There are the early, generous reviews, written by authors and editors who have very busy and successful lives, but who took the time to be kind. Time is the one thing none of us have, anymore. There is our wonderful little car, who (of course we have anthropomorphised her) has given us wings. There is Vince's wing - after years on the ground, he is taking to the paragliding skies, once more. There is humor. We can be very silly, and we laugh.

There are books, as essential to me as air. I have been reading my way through Michael Ondaatje's work, sequentially, beginning about three weeks before his Golden Man Booker Prize was announced for The English Patient, a book I have read several times. I began backwards with his new Warlight, and then started at the beginning. On a back page in each book I track in pencil his patterns. Dogs (almost always funny dogs), bird song, war, tunnels and holes and caves, the female voice, the creation of a person's character. Books have removed me from or returned me to myself at every stage of my life, and in times of crisis they are a lifeline. Half an hour before bed, I read, and mute the demons who threaten sleep, and who have stolen peace of mind.

There are friends, to whom I do not reach out - or give - often enough. They are all better and smarter than I am.

Which reminds me of my father's neurologist, a few years ago. I went to see him with my mom. He said rhetorically, with a smirk, "Your father likes to be the smartest person in the room, doesn't he?" Any respect I was prepared to have for this man, this brain doctor, dried up on the spot. One, that he would find it necessary to say this. It revealed far more about him than it did about my father. Two, that he was wrong. And so bad at reading a personality. This neurologist. Who never had the guts to say to my father's face: You have dementia. Because even then, my father was an intimidating man. So my father, who scorned computers and consequently Google, had no time - no reason - to plan for catastrophe. And now the sharks are circling. He had rejected a first, honest, diagnosis from another neurologist, and Dr. Second Opinion lacked the cojones to tell him the unambiguous truth. "To spare him the shock," he said. Sure. Wuss. Same guy laughed out loud when I asked him if he could recommend any local support groups for my mom. He thought that was very funny.

My father hated being the smartest person in the room. Because it was boring. He spoke with such admiration - almost a sense of wonder - of the marvelous brains of a handful of good friends. He loved a good brain. And he liked to listen.

So home - here and abroad - feels lost to me. My sense of identity is in crisis. And the toxic guy who lives upstairs, does not work, and sleeps till 3pm to smoke weed, is pounding music as I type. (Upside: Maybe when we move we can retire the noise canceling headphones and three (yep) white and pink - yes, it's a thing - noise machines.)

And none of this belongs on a blog. But if I do not wave, I might drown.

We will return to regular programming. Sometime.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


The shaded corners of our garden have taught me a lot. The pots here see some sun in the early mornings in summer, for a couple of hours, and then they fall into the high green shade of the tall townhouse. They are home to a mix of native, exotic, and edible plants. The surprises have been the edibles.

Persicaria odorata - above - is known as Vietnamese coriander, and it is closely related to lady's thumb, a tenacious invasive plant. Its flavor is very strong, with the funk and fragrance of cilantro, as well as American burnweed (a plant almost no one knows - I have a chapter about it in Forage, Harvest, Feast). You like it or hate it. I like it with soups that sing hot and sour, on spicy lettuce wraps where fish sauce and lime juice are strong, or in quick-pickled vegetable salads. A local Thai restaurant, Pok Pok, drapes a stem over their sweet pickled vegetables, which accompany their famous and crisp wings. We sometimes order them as take out when it is too hot, or when I am too pooped to cook.

Here is one of my curry leaf trees: this one has pushed out about 14 inches of new growth since June (I brought them outdoors in May). They overwinter indoors in a bright room (and look quite unhappy, at least to me - they relish humidity). In front of the curry leaf is a pot of the myoga ginger I planted this year. The buds are considered a delicacy, but the leaves are very aromatic, too. The myoga is allegedly hardy. I will decide whether to bring it in later this year.

And... our katydid, on the leaves of Rodgersia. The late, lamented Don Estorbo de la Bodega Dominicana (eeeeep) thought they were delicious. The second he heard their distinctive "chk!" in summer on the Cobble Hill terrace he shot off in pursuit and was soon chewing happily. I need him here, because they are apparently very fond of citrus leaves and fruit. I just googled that. Hm... Katydid? Or Thai limes. Katydid?

He better pack his little green bags.

If you're in town towards the end of the month, Forage, Harvest, Feast is having a little party and book signing. There will be wild cocktails and a couple of snacks from the book. I'll post details, soon. Do send me your email address if you would like to receive an invitation.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Glass half...?

For the days when you are upright and stringing together entire sentences, fragrant cardamom and Thai basil leaves are fantastic in a gin and tonic - reason enough to grow both (the cardamom overwinters indoors). I sip this while potting up perennials. I am ungardening. Unplanting. Pulling up roots. Today I did the deadly ones. Wolf's bane. Doll's eyes. I turned my eyes skywards and breathed deeply. Then washed my hands really well.

Sometimes you make like a grass and bend in the wind. And sometimes you lie flat with the covers over your head and howl.

Gradually, in-ground plants are being dug up and potted, fed, watered, and allowed to settle, ahead of our move. Plastic pots of all sizes have been donated by Michele, my friend who owns the wonderful Gowanus Nursery. She has also given me recycled soil, saving me a packet. We fetched the soil late on Sunday, after a day spent in the upstate woods. 

Sometime this month, probably in the last week, the plant party will happen. 

No, we don't have a move date (but the cut-off is the end of September) and no, we have not found the right space, yet. It will be a magical combination of the rent we can afford, the space we need, a neighborhood we like, and enough light that we don't want to slit our wrists. 

The Nicotiana (scented N. alata and pretty mutabilis) are in their second flush; I cut down their first flowering stalks about four weeks ago, and they sent more up. Don't let yours languish when those first flowers are spent: be brave, mow them down, and they will do it all over again. And again. The tall white cleome are transplants from the pots at our front door, on the opposite side of the house. They are much happier here in the back garden, with less heat. They are very thirsty plants, and I have to water them every day.

It may seem crazy to tend a garden that is being undone. It may be crazy to have planted the arugula, purslane, amaranth, and fenugreek seeds that are now coming up. But I am a gardener. I grow things. Neglect and indifference are symptoms of an inner death. 

And I am very much alive. 


Friday, July 27, 2018

Purslane - summer succulence

Just a reminder that it is purslane season in this part of the world. And that it is more fun to eat than popping an omega-3 capsule. It is loaded with nutrients.

Find a recipe for purslane gazpacho and a flurry of other ideas in my piece about ways to eat purslane for Gardenista.

And in a fit of craziness (we move within two months) I sowed some more 'Golden' purslane just a week ago.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Les Animaux

The June-July garden is very popular with the local animals. Free black raspberries!

Free chaises longues!

Free spa!

Free black raspberries! (Uh....)

Free pea trellis!!

Free black raspberries!


Monday, July 16, 2018


Buy the peaches. Drink the prosecco.

Hold the good ones close.


Order Forage Harvest Feast

Monday, July 9, 2018

Harriman State Park - a taste

Thanks to a post on the New York Mycological Society's page I became aware of Harriman State Park, a large and enigmatic green blob on Google Maps, and just an hour north of the city. Over the weekend, restless because of the ecstatic chanterelle posts I have been seeing on social media (and they are the Frenchman's favourite mushroom - as a child he foraged for them in Provence, with his family), we headed out in Ntiniwe the beloved VW, and discovered the most gorgeous green space. We had no idea. It was pristine. No trash, and also very, very few invasive plants, quite breathtaking for the botanist in me.

What we did see was acres of blueberries. That's them, above - lowbush shrubs. For our whole four-mile ramble, we were surrounded by them, growing close-packed as far as we could see. I thought about bears, a bit. Bluebearies.

It is early in wild blueberry season but there were enough fruit to snack on, and to bring some home. This slowed my progress. Their flavor was a revelation. Blueberries have always seemed highly overrated, to me. Bland, undemanding. But these small fruit burst with a a tart blueberry intensity I have never tasted.

Occasionally we passed a highbush shrub, which dwarfed us. 

We stopped for lunch above a lake, where the water was clear enough to see the fish near the surface. At one end there were waterlilies. On the hot rocks where we sat we kept our eyes peeled for the timber rattlers that we had been warned about, but not a snake did we see, nor rattle did we hear. We were more worried about ticks.

No ticks, either. Paradise!

For dessert I picked huckleberries, my first. Unlike blueberries, they have crunchy seeds.

Did we find the chanterelles we were hoping for? No, it was on the dry side, and there were few mushrooms. But early in our walk we spotted a flock of what I think is Cantharellus minor, a tiny member of the chanterelle family. That is the tip of my pinky finger. They were so small I did not bring them home, and I seldom do when I am not sure of ID.

And the first American burnweed of the season. Erechites hieraciifolius is an indigenous plant, behaving a lot like what we like to call weeds, and it is powerful in flavor - like cilantro meeting Vietnamese cilantro (Persicaria odorata). I think it is wonderful (recipes for it in Forage, Harvest, Feast). If you like the flavors of Southeast Asia or Mexico (whiplash in terms of regional cooking, yet strange similarities, too), you will love it. If you like white food and hate spice, you will not.

The evening's reward, back in Brooklyn: a handful of the wild blueberries crushed, then shaken up with lots of ice, lemon juice, Grand Marnier, and Tequila reposado.

We will be back.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Daylily curry

If you would like the recipe for this delicious daylily curry (vegan, as it happens), born for high summer's young zucchini, head on over next door to 66 Square Feet (the Food). This is one that is not in Forage, Harvest, Feast (cos, well, I just made it yesterday) - although there are plenty of other daylily recipes in its pages...


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Forage, Harvest, Feast - reviews

My wild foods cookbook, Forage, Harvest, Feast is at the printers at last (in the US, not in China)! It will be released on August 14th.

You can pre-order it from Amazon, but also directly from my wonderful publisher Chelsea Green: For a limited time, if you enter the code FHF35 at checkout [Chelsea Green only], you will receive a whopping 35% off the $40 cover price.

Forage, Harvest, Feast covers 36 plants, including international weeds and North American natives (some of which are international weeds, ha!), and contains nearly 500 recipes. There is something to forage every month. Each chapter is a plant and begins with a detailed introduction to that plant as an ingredient, putting it into botanical, ecological and culinary context. This is followed by recipes. Lots of recipes. And they are indexed for vegans and vegetarians, pescatarians and omnivores.

The early reviews are really thrilling. In the midst of a bumpy year they have made my heart very warm. I am immensely grateful to their generous authors - foraging colleagues and wild food heroes, stellar writers and restaurateurs, food thought-leaders - for taking the time out of their own very busy lives to read galley copies and to be kind about this wild foods baby of mine (which was many more than nine months in the making! Try four years). I have copied and pasted them below from the book's online listings.


“Marie Viljoen is the real deal. In the heart of New York City, she takes her passion for food and the natural world and makes something extraordinary happen. In her hands a basket of weeds and berries becomes the centerpiece of a delicate, refined, and elegant lunch or a refreshing aperitif. Her curiosity about wild plants and foraging has taken her around the world, but in this book she proves that she—and her readers—can find both sustenance and delight just around the corner. Forage, Harvest, Feast is a joy to read, an inspiration, and a culinary adventure.”—Amy Stewart, author of New York Times bestseller Wicked Plants and The Drunken Botanist

“Marie approaches her work with a rare combination of gifts—a deep knowledge of botany, the adventurous spirit of a forager, and most importantly for her readers, a keen appreciation of how to fill your life with good friends and delicious, locally sourced food.”—Stephen Orr, editor in chief of Better Homes and Gardens; author of The New American Herbal

“Marie has highlighted plants with unique and superb flavors, with straight-talk instructions for how to realize their culinary potential. For the widely occurring and well-known wild edibles, she has uncommonly good recipes. But Viljoen also digs up some more obscure foraged treasures, revealing gustatory possibilities that have remained underexplored and largely unappreciated. She does this with a vigilant eye for the common sense and sustainability that make foraged food a viable feature of the best kitchens.”—Samuel Thayer, author of The Forager’s Harvest and Incredible Wild Edibles

“Forage, Harvest, Feast takes wild edibles to their rightful place in the heart of every flavorful kitchen. Marie’s passion for unlocking the deliciousness of nature and, at the same time, treading lightly on the earth fills every chapter of this lovely and timeless cookbook.”—Tama Matsuoka Wong, coauthor of Foraged Flavor

“Wild plants are one of the most natural things to eat. It’s how we should live. Marie’s book shows people how cooking plants from the wild is as easy and fundamental as learning your ABCs.”Mads Refslund, cofounder of Noma; coauthor of Scraps, Wilt and Weeds

“This book represents by far the most impressive culinary exploration of wild edibles in the Northeast, though it is truly not limited to that region. The recipes can be easily adapted to similar plants in your area. The photos are beautiful, and most of the recipes are simple enough that you don’t need a culinary degree to follow them, but at the same time they ooze creativity. Marie even invites you to create liqueurs, pickles, sauces, and countless condiments. It’s not just a book of recipes, it’s a celebration of local flavors. You can feel the love on every page. There are no other books like it—an amazing source of inspiration and a must-have for anyone remotely interested in wild edibles.”—Pascal Baudar, author of The New Wildcrafted Cuisine and The Wildcrafting Brewer

“I love this book! Marie Viljoen’s passion for the last remnants of wild foods around us is a call to action. Reconsider the scraggly shrubs, weeds, and trash plants under threat from overzealous landscapers and urban planners. Foraging the wilds connects us to a forgotten and misunderstood piece of human history that’s still here today, and it speaks to the resilience of ordinary folks who look around and see plenty when the dullards see weeds. We are weeds. Arise!”—Richard McCarthy, executive director of Slow Food USA

“In her excellent cookbook—and ‘this is a cookbook . . . not a field guide,’ she implores—author Marie Viljoen reminds us that unless we live in a vacuum, we are all surrounded by wild food. Until now there has been a dearth of creative resources to help foragers cook what they find in the wild. Rich with both novel and traditional approaches to culinary recipes, Viljoen also takes us on an enlightening journey that includes cocktails, cordials, and other curiosities that strike me as, well, wildly creative. A well-researched and thoughtful book that conjures Thoreau and Gibbons but with a decisively urban spin. A wide-eyed joy to read.”Evan Mallett, author of The Black Trumpet

 “Whether you’re a novice or experienced forager, gardener, or cook, this book will open your eyes—and taste buds—to the wonders of wild plants. With Marie Viljoen’s masterful and friendly guidance, you’ll not only make enticing, flavorful recipes, but you’ll also cultivate a deeper relationship with the world around you. A truly lovely and substantial book.”Emily Han, author of Wild Drinks and Cocktails

“A sensitive and delicious journey and a celebration of our lands.”Gill Meller, award-winning author of Gather, group head chef at River Cottage 

“Marie Viljoen is one of the most beautiful humans I have met and a gifted immigrant who knows more about America’s edible ecosystem than anyone I know. She has opened my eyes—and will open yours through this encyclopedic and intensely appealing collection of recipes, unprecedented in scope—to the delectable wild world surrounding us: common milkweed, day lilies, Japanese knotweed, pokeweed, spicebush, sweetfern, and so much more. After reading Forage, Harvest, Feast your walks in both city and country will never be the same. And neither will your cocktails or ice cream (spicebush and rhubarb, juniper and strawberry, pawpaw!). Marie’s books have changed my life, and this cookbook will change yours. It is essential reading for anyone remotely interested in new ingredients or the flavors growing under their feet.”Gabrielle Langholtz, author of America: The Cookbook; culinary projects director at the Vilcek Foundation

“Humans are designed to eat a little of a lot, not a lot of a little; diet diversity is key to our health. Viljoen understands that, and her Forage, Harvest, Feast is a fantastic guide to ‘wilding up’ your meals—and doing it in style—whether you live in the countryside or the concrete jungle.”—Hank Shaw, winner of a James Beard Award; author of Hunt, Gather, Cook

“From simple snacks to exquisitely thought-out recipes, Marie Viljoen’s gourmet cookbook helps readers grow familiar and comfortable using the wild abundance around their homes and neighborhoods. With obvious passion for the adventure of new and exciting culinary flavors, she offers wise advice on harvesting and preparing these glorious wild plants for food.”—Katrina Blair, author of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds

"Viljoen, a former garden designer, shows readers how to take advantage of the tremendous culinary opportunity that foraged foods offer. Through 500 recipes, she explores the culinary possibilities for 36 wild plants, most of which, like dandelions, quickweed, honeysuckle, ramps, and pawpaw (if you live in the South) are easily found. Infusions with spirits, namely the neutral vodka (try fir twigs, Viljoen suggests), rum (black cherries) or the already herbaceous gin (bayberry, elderberries) are easy entries, as is brandy (persimmon). Viljoen offers an array of recipes for each plant—21 for field garlic, and another 18 for ramps alone. Such dishes as lamb’s quarter and beet leaf phyllo triangles, a dandelion pad thai, pawpaw ice cream, and a citrusy spicebush and tequila skirt steak are sure to whet readers’ palates. As long as readers heed Viljoen’s explanations—typically related to sourcing, preparation or, in the case of ramps, sustainability—they’ll be set. The book’s imaginative yet practical recipes make it one of the best resources of its type. It’s a terrific entry point for would-be foragers, as well as experts interested in making the most of their bounty." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"The most radical reaction to industrialized cooking has to be the current revival of harvesting edible wild plants in local environments. One of the earliest experts in this sort of anti-agriculture is New Yorker Viljoen. She has led many to scour the abundant wild growths of urban areas and turn them into inventive cuisine. Reading through the hundreds of recipes in this book leaves the classically trained cook at a loss since so many of the ingredients lack recognizable culinary names: fir, knotweed, serviceberries, spicebush. Yet, these recipes also feature all sorts of familiar meats and fish as basic elements of a dish. Much of the text lays out the necessity for foragers to distinguish the edible from the potentially toxic, and this requires some experience. Lest anyone think that this sort of cooking is for the abstemious only, Viljoen concocts dozens of liqueurs and unique cocktails sure to star at anyone’s party. A valuable addition to any forward-looking cookbook collection." —Booklist, Starred Review


Friday, June 29, 2018


There are two favorite times of day: one is when I sip my morning cup of coffee alone. Usually outside, or standing at the kitchen door, looking at the garden.

The second is Just Before Dinner. I whistle at the Frenchman when it is five minutes from being ready, and he lays the table. The anticipation of sitting and sharing that meal is like a holiday in the middle of the days of madness that characterize 2018.

We sit outside as much as we can, retreating indoors only when the humidity is deeply stifling, or when it is freezing. Curiously, we also eat inside when we are freshly and deeply stressed: Outside is never really private - lots of windows looking down, and if they are open, conversation may as well be public. Like a vulnerable naked oyster we retreat into our shell.

We are strange New Yorkers. In a city riddled with excellent restaurants we rarely eat out. Partly because it is expensive - and why pay $18 for a cocktail when you can have a better one in your own [ahem: the landlord's] garden? - partly because we hate shouting at each other over a table. And shopping for seasonal ingredients at outstanding farmers' markets is also a New York pleasure and privilege; so is growing them or foraging for them.

This is the only time we really get to talk, and we save up small events from our days to tell each other. A story about an interesting dog who looked at us, for example, or two squirrels that fell out of a tree and landed smack on the sidewalk, or the old man who is always on the street when Vince goes to work in the wee hours. We hold hands.

In the garden at night there are fireflies, so we watch them as we eat. After a tentative start they are now very active, swooping high like embers from a windy fire. Sometimes they find their way indoors and hours later there will suddenly be a flash in a dark room. We rescue them and release them back to the night and their constant calling.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Twilight of the gardeners

We eat outside most evenings, in the company of plants, mosquitoes and fireflies. We spray feet and arms against the skeeters - we don't like it but it's better than being cooped up indoors. The fireflies begin to blink in a delicate and understandable-only-to-fireflies choreography between dusk and dark night. We find them enchanting.

This particular supper featured delicate monkfish liver, irreproachably fresh, from the Union Square greenmarket (I asked for ice to carry it home on the subway). Dusted with salt, wrapped in a thin linen napkin and steamed gently, it was then chilled and sliced. The flavor is very delicate and salty-sweet, like a breeze off the sea, and the texture is very rich. With it was a warm potato tossed with the garden's chopped up garlic scapes and lots of lemon zest and lemon juice.

Also from the market, gorgeous heads of romaine, topped with fresh goat's cheese and chive blossoms, olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. And salt, of course - such an under appreciated and over maligned food hero.

There was also a small oven-roasted monkfish tail, with brown butter, capers, and the last of the chive blossoms.

It's one of the best meals I have made, conjured from, and thanks entirely to, impeccably good produce.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Where the wild things are

Sometimes they are just around the corner. Linden flowers opened in Brooklyn just a few days ago, and their perfumed blooming coincides with peak serviceberry season. These flowers will be fermented in two stages, eventually becoming a fragrant vinegar.

This particular batch of serviceberries (Juneberries, saskatoon) is from trees growing near the polluted Gowanus Canal and the fruit tastes better than any I have ever eaten: intense and very sweet. Go figure. With polluted soils it's the fruit that are deemed the safest to eat, as they absorb very little - at least that is my understanding from the papers I have read. Roots, stems, leaves are anther story. It's almost a shame to do anything to these berries - they are best fresh. There are many trees, all over the city. Look up. Then stay a while, grazing.

We will encounter serviceberries and much more on this Saturday's Brooklyn  Shoreline walk. Visit the link to book.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

This too shall pass

The lilacs stayed fresh for about 30 hours after I bought them. That was good enough for me.


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