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.