Monday, July 16, 2018

Remember:


Buy the peaches. Drink the prosecco.

Hold the good ones close.

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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.
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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...

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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.

Reviews:

“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

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Promise


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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Saturday, May 26, 2018

The garden grows


Rewind to early May (because as I type, it is 87'F/31'C and humid). Spring was very late, but then it burst, like a dam breaking, with plants in the garden and the city blooming all at once, instead of in orderly succession. Above, my serviceberry is Amelanchier alnifolia, a species at home on the western side of the US and but also far north and all the way across through Nova Scotia. In other words, tough. It is a shrub form of serviceberry and consequently a good choice for containers.


I planted more Fritillaria persica in the fall, which was probably a mistake. Only the new bulbs came up - the previous season's made only leaves. Either they don't like the soil (5.4 pH), or it is too moist (four to five feet of annual rainfall too much for these Iranian natives?). I love them, but won't try again.


And while they did not do well in their first two springs, the camassias are at last happy. Camassia leichtlinii is native to North America. Known commonly as cama, or great cama, it was an edible (bulb) prized by Native Americans west of the Cascades, and down the coast. Pretty sure Lewis and Clark were sustained by various species in their trek.


The squirrels wreaked havoc among the tulips this year. Varmints. But they left this clump alone. I ordered the purple-black 'Queen of the Night', but this is what came up. I like them very much, so have not complained - but I should find out what they are.


Violets, spilling over retaining logs of birch. The back bed of the garden is sloped and I've done what I can to make some retentions to prevent a gradual downsliding.


And moving along into the mid month, alliums in bloom, with ever-lovely (and expanding - who would like some??) Solomon's seal.


This black iris is gorgeous, and came with the garden. I see it in other hyper-local gardens and community plots. The scent is delicious.


So, the milkweed (common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca). In the upcoming Forage, Harvest, Feast I include cultivation tips for many plants, including milkweed, which is a delicious vegetable. And I do make it clear that it's not going to stay where you put it. It began in a row in the rear of the vegetable plot. The spindly plants from Annie's Annuals resented being transplanted and looked peaky in their first year. But they came back. Strongly. I decided I wanted then to move to the wilder rear bed with fellow Americans like sunchokes, Joe-Pye weed and Veronicastrum. I dug deeply and transplanted the runners.


Did they come up there, this spring? No. They have been popping up all over the vegetable bed and have hopped under the paths, too. I have eaten tender shoots like these, and have left the ones that are growing where they will not be in the way. The buds, flowers and pods are all delightful.


The garlic rows are very happy. So is the wild arugula that always take months to establish itself.


The upland cress (Barbarea verna) made lots of flowers, which we have been eating.


Last spring's horseradish sent up flowers and I am about to dig the plants out. Nice experiment, but they grow too tall and fat for where I planted them, creating shade where I want more sun for the rows behind. The leaves are a hot and spicy bonus - like fresh wasabi (speaking of which - the wasabi is so dead) in salads and summer rolls. And of course the flowers are edible, too.


I love my red pea trellis from Gardener's Supply. It is extendable and also has another layer to add when the peas grow taller. The pop of colour is very welcome in the green sea. And it also folds nice and flat for storage.


The peas know just what to do!
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stay, May...


Don't you wish May could stay longer? The markets are bursting with flowers, and the mosquitoes have not yet arrived at garden level. I bought a lush bunch of lilac this morning, and a nosegay of lily of the valley for the nostalgic Frenchman, who misses the annual muguet festivals of his childhood in Provence.


In the garden my garlic rows are growing luxuriant and I sneak the tender leaves into into good butter. For tomorrow's botanical drinks in our garden I will make a compound butter of the green garlic leaves and ramps, for radish-dipping. There will also be a milkweed, fava bean and mint pâté, mugwort crackers, thin cylinders of beet marinated in fir-apple vinegar and wrapped around goats' cheese, and a morsel of ramp-leaf oil marinated and grilled sirloin, cut thinly and served with peppery wintercress flowers..


And cocktails, of course, with a non alcoholic option. I have a very interesting rhubarb molasses that seems made for bourbon (or sparkly water), as well as a refreshing spruce tip and rhubarb ferment that is wonderful with gin. Juniper, fir and Meyer lemons will also make an appearance.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Mandoline - the zen of slicing?


I am very happy with a brand new kitchen tool. Toy. Tool. Can't decide. Feels like a toy. Slices like it means business. So sharp. So thin. Seriously sexy.

All these cooking years and it's my first mandoline, by Oxo.

It was a gift: Zab Steenwyk, a young designer for Oxo, attended one of my early spring forage walks, and later interviewed me for the company's in-house project about the future of food. I really enjoyed talking to her and her colleague - their questions were very thought-provoking and led to a great conversation. A couple of weeks later she stopped by with the mandoline as a thank you from Oxo. My pleasure!

The beets above were dressed very simply: an aged balsamic and salt (let them sit for at least 10 minutes to absorb some of the vinegar), olive oil, and tender but very peppery upland cress seedpods and flowers from the garden. It was delicious (I love raw beetroot), but it was the even texture that was just so compelling.

I can't wait to play more.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Gone, almost forgotten


In the middle of May, here is a quick look at April. Otherwise I will forget.

Above, 7 April - Bush Terminal, Brooklyn. Where urban nature and old industry meet beside the water in Brooklyn. It is a New York City-designated park, now, and is an interesting mixture of old buildings, feral cats, private security, weeds, new ballfields, a pristine public bathroom, waterside paths, and utter neglect. As always, with the Parks' Department in the city, there is money for capital improvement but never any for maintenance.

The secret in life is maintenance (which is really just paying attention). Gardens. Parks. Engines. Marriages. Friendships. Cuticles...

Quick digression: One of the many new things that 2018 brought into our lives - and by far the best - has been our first car. Really the Frenchman's car, because he bought it. We had resisted for good reasons: the obvious expense, and then the real New York hassle: parked cars must be moved twice a week for street cleaning, and there is the relentless traffic generated by a massive population. Plus the real worry about leaving such a shiny new thing on the street (undercover, off-street parking would cost as much as our rent), vulnerable to humans, weather, and bad drivers.

But. Flipside? Freedom. In our own clean machine. No more sticky and grubby ZipCars and Car2Go's, no more worry about how long we'd be, and spending $100 just for a day's outing. No more knowing we can't sleep over somewhere because of the heinous cost involved in hiring a car for so long. So we have a car. We are finally real Americans. (Don't worry. There will never be guns.) To make us feel better about car payments we figured out where to cut costs and the easy answer was our daily wine quota with dinner. So instead of sharing a bottle a night we share a bottle every two nights. Healthier, too. And oddly, we don't miss it.

So we have been exercising our car wings. And the Frenchman is beaming. She has a name, in our household tradition (see Mogashagasha): Ntiniwe (n-TEE-nee-weh). Diminutive of the word "otter", in Xhosa and Zulu. We love her. We have been Going Places.


8 April, Breezy Point, Queens

This gloriously empty beach is at the tip of the Rockaway peninsula. Still very much part of the city, it is empty.


The beach is adjacent to what has been described as the whitest neighborhood in New York City. That part is plain weird, and, from the outside, slightly sinister. Breezy Point (flattened by Hurricane Sandy and still being rebuilt) is a gated community with its own security force, and you are not allowed in at all unless you are an approved visitor. You are not allowed to buy unless you have three letters of reference from existing home owners. But you are allowed on the beach, if you park at the end and walk. One of Vince's first excursions in Ntiniwe was to drive out, park, and run here for miles on the deserted beach, inhaling the sea air and uninterrupted sky and water, a tonic for a man who works longer and harder than anyone I know (can you tell I like him?).


He loved it. And on one of his runs he saw and filmed dozens of sand pipers and American oyster catchers, more than either of us had ever seen; spring migration for the sand pipers, and a regular breeding ground for the oyster catchers. Because of this dogs are not allowed on the beach (although we saw one romping in the distance). So we came out together one bright cold day, and walked for miles.


Walking back again in the familiar dunes behind Fort Tilden (previously reached by a combination of subway and bus), an early shoreline spring was visible only in the pussy willows.


On our way home we stopped at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, hoping for a glimpse of a late-season snowy owl. No owls, but we did see snow geese and warblers, as well as a bumper crop of juniper pollen from the eastern red cedars (Juniperus virgiana). Atchoo. But an interesting ingredient if you have the patience to collect it. I included the fine dust in a batch of madeleines.


16 April, Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Fifteen minutes from home, this time on my bicycle, and the Cornelian cherries, one of the first trees to flower, were in full bloom. Thanks to them I have been exploring the food of Georgia and Eastern Europe - specifically via the books of Darra Goldstein's The Georgian Feast and Olia Hercules's Kaukasis and Mamushka. Cornus mas is native to that region and is used in local recipes. While it may be the first to flower it is also among the last to fruit: you will spot the crimson, plum-like (but cherry-sized) fruits in late summer. They begin tart and crisp, and turn sourly plummy as they darken.


Spotted in the woods, my friend the white throated sparrow, whose call is painfully sweet, is often scratching about in the leaf litter of woodlands and gardens from winter through May.


14 April, Caumsett State Park, Long Island

Formerly the estate of Marshall Field III, on the North Shore of Long Island, this park was new to us. Near the small town of Oyster Bay (where I could live very happily), it has wide vistas, serious trees, and a long empty shoreline. While hundreds of cars waited to be admitted to the vast parking areas around deserted former milking barns, we were able to escape the crowds. They made for the main manor house. As usual, we headed in the opposite direction.


And there we found clean water and a pebbly beach that reminded us a lot of the North Fork. It was very chilly, but the blue sky and water breathed relief into us at a time when we were both stressed to breaking point. For a few hours we shut everything out, and listened, and watched, and absorbed.


Along the shore I found healthy colonies of periwinkles, and collected some in our now-empty lunch box. I cooked them very simply, later - boiled, and then dipped into an aioli - it brought back memories of expensive shellfish platters at the Café du Centre in Geneva, in my singing days, and at Balthazar in SoHo, where I have not eaten in many years. The seaweed is bladder wrack (on account of its built in bladders) and I dried it - it made a wonderful, chip-like snack, and is also a very good seed cracker ingredient. As we turn to eating fewer carbohydrates (a new thing) I have been making a lot of seed crackers. Everyone wants the recipe.


20 April, Prospect Parks Woods

Dead logs are a good place to look for mushrooms like wood ears and pheasant backs, and on this trip my bag was filled with the former. A month later that nascent green carpet of goutweed/ground elder is 18 inches tall, a sea of invasive green.


26 April, Prospect Park

The magnolias were in full bloom on this trip, and a sign that spring, after a very bumpy start, had arrived.


No going back.


28 April, Pelham Bay's Hunter Island, Bronx

It is a real mission to reach by public transport, but at least half the group of intrepid walkers who joined me on a plant identification and invasive species forage managed, despite the MTA testing them to breaking point. I have known this large park on the Long Island Sound in every season, and love returning.


The skunk cabbages that we had seen in March were now lush and the frozen ground their buds had broken through in March (the plants are thermogenic) thoroughly thawed.

So there it was. Not shown, the oodles of forages collected, sorted and preserved (mostly). The meals cooked, the seeds planted. The plants changing daily in the garden. The gardens designed. And it is already beyond the middle of May, the busiest month for foragers and gardeners.

I have some mushrooms to pickle...

My next walk is in the early evening of May 30th - we have lots of light, and the largesse of late spring. See the link below for booking.

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