Friday, April 28, 2017

Spring salad

Spring is happening all at once. Foraging is in full swing, and so is the garden. In this wild salad are a collection of ephemeral wild foods: tender violet leaves, winter cress, jewelweed seedlings, ground elder (goutweed), sheep sorrel (actually, that's around all year) and garlic mustard. Strong flavours.

I must post garden pictures, soon (I think I need an intern - but I am terrible at delegating). I am taking hundreds of pictures, all of which need sorting, categorizing, editing. More time, please.

The violets in the garden are almost over, the Solomon's seal has opened its bell flowers, ostrich ferns have fluffed out, the near black Persian fritillaria look beautiful, the purple elder shrub has already set buds, and the Trump Tulips are nearing the end of their appropriately loud season.

Spring forage walks: there are two spots left on the Central Park walk on May 20th, and there is still space left on the recently added Inwood Hill Park Walk. See below for booking.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

On the Street: April flowers

Above: Clinton Street's callery pears near the beginning of April. These days you can find me in one of five places 1. At my desk - writing, or editing photos 2. In the kitchen - testing recipes, taking pictures of cooked recipes 3. In the garden - collecting or planting things to eat or tidying up and trying not to spend too long ooh-ing and ah-ing at something that has just come up or opened 4. Out foraging for wild foods for the book that is almost my sole focus 5. On my bike, on my way to foraging, or running (riding?) local errands. No 5 is where these pictures come from.  Shot on the fly.

The flyby is so pretty, right now.

Clinton Street on April 22nd. The callery pears have leafed out.

One must still do laundry. Ugh. Actually, I quite enjoy it - interesting people at the laundromat. This is just outside its doors on Henry Street, exactly halfway between where we used to live (the terrace with the original 66 square feet) and where we live now. I stuff the laundry bag on the back of my bike and off we wobble.

The madonna on 3rd Place has a very successful lawn at her feet, where bulbs bloom in succession. I pass her on my way to buy wine or fresh mozzarella from Caputo's or more pots from the hardware store.

Her early April hyacinths have given way to narcissus.

The Kate Winslet crabapple in Cobble Hill Park is in full flight. Lots of activity here during the War of Independence.

The 'Kanzan' cherries have been glorious in the last week.

They are very well represented in Carroll Gardens, our neighborhood:

And the lilacs are opening. A little early.

I spotted a planter of Phlox subulata in full bloom in Boerum Hill, one neighborhood east of us.

And on our block a riotous front garden hosts tulips as well as very edible dame's rocket. For that matter, tulips are edible, too. Yup.

The sun goes down on April, which is threatening to be May.

It's good to have daylight after 6pm. I turn on my bike's red flashing rear light and smile and wave at the rare obnoxious driver - always driving poorly - who yells out of his window, "Where's ya helmet?"

The Norway maples' electric lime flowers are on the cusp of fading.

And beautiful, native fothergilla is still in full tuft (plant this shrub if you have space - their fall color is brilliant).

So that is the hood.

For now.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Foraging and Feasting - a book for cooks, gardeners and foragers

These botanical plates are just a modest spring sampling of the dozens of illustrations in Dina Falconi's beautiful and useful book Foraging and Feasting (Botanical Art Press, 2013). The artist is Wendy Hollender. We just gave away two copies on Facebook and Instagram, where the response was so positive that I thought I'd give you a better glimpse of the book, here. It was published thanks to funding via Kickstarter, printed in the US, and is a sturdy and very attractive hardcover, complete with wild onion endpapers. Both author and illustrator are based in upstate New York but many of the plants covered are ubiquitous.

My fridge is loaded right now with garlic mustard, above. I have made a relish from the roots, stews and curries with the leaves, have a lacto fermentation bubbling angrily to itself, and am about to preserve a bucketload for later in the season (by blanching, squeezing and freezing). It is a super invader and happens to be very good to eat. Pick it while it is sweetly in bud and you prevent it from setting its pernicious little seeds and spreading even more.

What I like about the illustrations in Foraging and Feasting is not just their accuracy and obvious aesthetic appeal, but that their notes explain at a glance which parts are used and at what time of year. There is a patch of dame's rocket seven doors down from where we live and my mouth waters a bit whenever I walk past. But it's behind a fence and in a garden, so...

Foraging and Feasting has an approach to recipes that I like. Dina gives a Master Recipe for a plant or for a technique (like water kefir, syrup, sauces, catsup, herb and flower butters - it's a long list) which gives you a solid grounding and technique for using a plant, and then she has ideas for improvisation, guiding you but granting you as much creativity as you can muster. Follow the link for a good sense of how each plant is described, and to Dina's Master recipe for Nettle Frittata.

Day lilies - today happens to be the day I must clean a bunch of day lily tubers for some more recipe testing of my own...dig them now, eat their young shoots and snack on the flowers, come early summer. As with all new foods, sample a small amount, first - I do know a couple of people who have exerienced unhappy reactions to day lilies (not me!), as the author mentions in her Cautionary Note above. Eat in moderation. Tonight I'm making rösti with the little tubers. To go with our rabbit and gifted D'Artagnan morels.

Also in season in my hood, the terrible spreadable: goutweed, also called ground elder or bishop weed (Aegopodium podagraria). Tastes a little like lovage. We ate Japanese knotweed and lamb for dinner, and then there are all those dandelions... And nettles. Must blanch more nettles!


Thursday, April 20, 2017

D'Artagnan Morels - let the games begin

When the forages come to you... I may have squealed out loud. Quite pasture-raised pig-like.

But who wouldn't? While I have about a gazillion things to do (cleaning and photographing day lily tubers, cooking day lily rösti, puréeing nettles, making nettle soufflé, making Japanese knotweed lamb curry, processing a couple of hundred new photographs - all for the forage cookbook) this is so exciting I had to post it right away.

The friendly people at D'Artagnan (and I have just finished re-reading The Three Musketeers) sent me a mushroom gift box. It arrived at the door this morning. Inside? Blonde and brown morels and the fattest asparagus I have ever seen. Even though my mouth is watering I hardly know where to begin. What a wonderful quandary.

I use D'Artagnan meats like duck, quail and recently rabbit - said rabbit will be in the morel stew, and I am happy that as a city forager they are there to supply the high quality ingredients that pair beautifully with wild ingredients.

Rabbit and morels in cream and mustard sauce coming up. And then what? Send me your morel ideas!

To quote Dumas, as the real D'Artagnan went to bed on the eve of his adventures, tonight I shall sleep "clear of all remorse for the past, confident in the present and full of hope for the future. "

Sans remords dans le passé, confiant dans le présent et plein d’espérance dans l’avenir, elle se coucha et s’endormit du sommeil des braves.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spring around the corner

...literally: One of my favourite local gardens, on 3rd Place in Carroll Gardens. It looks good all year round, not an easy feat.

We enjoyed freak weather on Sunday, summer-hot: 87'F/30'C. In the woods we visited in the Bronx, the spring ephemerals wilted without leaf cover from the still bare trees. And my own garden's daffodils are still only in bud.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Brooklyn Forage Walk

Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata

Prospect Park
15 April 2017
12pm - 2pm

April in Brooklyn. An edible spring is sprouting underfoot in the wilds of Prospect Park, and wild foods like ephemeral lesser celandine flowers, dandelions, mugwort, ground elder (goutweed) shoots, garlic mustard (all of these are crazy-invasives) are appearing.

Lesser celandine, Ficaria verna

We'll walk though a cross-section of woodland and open ground, discussing the differences between natives and invasives, what they mean in terms of foraging and cooking, and whether it makes more sense to forage or harvest. We end with a wild-inspired picnic. We may even find the Easter Bunny (don't worry, he is not on the menu!).

Meet up details will be emailed to confirmed walkers.



Book a Spring Forage Walk

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring time

Spring arrived on Saturday. Meaning, the sun shone, after many grey and wet days. Today was Day Three of sun. And lots happened. On 2nd Place hyacinths have usurped crocus at the feet of our lady of the flowers. Two doors down the owner of a small pink peach tree sat on a folding chair and puffed his cigar.

Early cherries have opened. This one did not suffer damage from the early warm, late cold of February and March.

On 3rd Place one of my favorite gardens is waking up. 

Otherwise, the pace is increasing: Foraging season has begun. Wintercress, spicebush flowers, early Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard are appearing. My time is spread between scouting, gathering, cleaning, shooting, cooking, shooting again, writing, and eating (the reward). The window is narrow and these ingredients, at their peak, are ephemeral (RUN, FORREST!).

Tonight we ate outdoors for the first time this year. A deeply fragrant little roast chicken perfumed with chopped field garlic and fresh turmeric.  

In the garden things happen overnight. Fiddleheads unfurl, fava beans rise. The Oregon wasabi has been planted, the New Jersey turmeric must go in, and some Nicotiana plants are arriving in the mail from California along with tender summer bulbs from Virginia. Trade is alive and well.

Hold onto your hats.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Mt. Loretto - big skies in the big city

Recently we rented a bubble car (a tiny smart car, via Car2Go, whose location you pinpoint on your app and unlock with your phone - the beautiful, scifi future). We left our Island (Long) for another (Staten), and went walking in wide open fields.

Mt. Loretto Unique Area has a baffling name but is straightforward in person (or in field?) - two sides of a busy road: seaside, woodland side; enough space for a horizon, and few people. I have been visiting several times a year ever since the Frenchman moved to New York from Canada, post immigration approval (and nearly two years after we were married). He discovered it when he had time to kill, before he landed a job, by surfing Google Earth for wildness in the city.

Time to kill seems very long ago.

Spring was tentative. Leafless trees, green grass, boggy patches after rain. The area has experienced renewed attention from its stewards and supporters and is better kept than I have ever seen it.

An ecological scourge locally is mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris - to which I devote many recipes in the book I am working on), whose early fall sticks you see above. Much of it has been mown, but where it was still upright I picked branches to bring home for barbecue skewers. Aromatic.

We found our usual bench uninhabited and unpacked our picnic. Rabbit and juniper terrine, sopressata from Los Paisanos and quick pickled vegetables.

In damp sunny patches this tiny cress was prolific. It could be a species of Cardamine, but I must check.

One of the two other flowers we saw belonged to a prostrate Veronica, bright in the sun.

And winter cress, a species of Barbarea, peppery and very good to eat.

From the southern end of the island we moved back north, following a flock of seabirds feeding out in the harbor. Near another beach I saw a beach plum (Prunus maritima) beginning to bloom.

Not the seabirds we were looking for.

So we kept walking. The tide was low.

It seems wonderful that anything can live and grow in New York Harbor.

And there they were. Terrible pictures, but still: northern gannets. The only gannets I know are the Cape gannets of the cold West Coast water off South Africa.

Flocking, wheeling, diving for schools of spring fish.

It was a good thing to see, on the fringes of the big city.