I just did an interview for the radio show Let’s Eat In, hosted by Cathy Erway I shared the interview with Wildman Steve Brill and Ava Chin from the New York Times. It was tremendous fun trading foraging stories and tips with Steve and Ava, and hopefully the interview will encourage even more people to get out there and learn some foraging skills. You can listen to the show online here. Enjoy! Leda
The past couple of weeks have been busy on the teaching front for me. I taught wild edibles classes for Green Edge and for Brooklyn Botanic Garden, as well as speaking on local foods for several groups. It is awesome to see how much interest there is–much more than even a year ago. But I also have a roll-up-my-sleeves-and-get-to-work response to the lack of knowledge I’m encountering.
I’m meeting people who’ve read their Kingsolver and their Pollan, get the environmental reasons for eating local, but still aren’t quite sure how to make local foods central to their meals.
Some of them just aren’t used to cooking, and there’s not much point to bringing home local Yukon gold potatoes from the farmers’ market and then calling for pizza delivery because you’re intimidated by the idea of actually doing something with the potatoes.
Others are daunted by the seemingly higher costs of local, and especially organic, food (shameless book plug: if this is you, you really need to read The Cost Factor Chapter in my new book, The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget).
With the foraging, I’m surprised by the recent surge of interest in wild foods. Surprised and happy. I’m a lifelong forager, and can vouch for how safe, fun, and delicious the ingredients are. I also think it’s important for people to have at least minimal wild edible plants knowledge filed away in their heads somewhere. Why? Well, take what people in the U.K. did during rationing in WWII. Even city people took to the fields and the hedgerows to harvest wild edibles. They may not have been happy about it, but at least they knew how to do it. That knowledge is close to being lost, and so I’m glad to see a resurgence of interest in it.
My personal take on “food security” is my garden, my knowledge of wild edibles, the food preservation I do (yeah, I’ve got plenty to eat in winter), and my personal relationship with several of the farmers who grow and raise much of my food. Hopefully, it never comes down to an emergency situation, but if it did, you’d want to be at my house because I’d be eating really well.
Today I was part of a crop mob that descended on the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.
A crop mob is a group of volunteers who show up for a day’s work on a farm. This one that I participated in was organized by Crop Mob NYC.
At 11 a.m. this morning I was standing with a group of crop mobbers outside a building that houses sound stages for film. A gorgeous, totally glam woman with a thousand-watt smile met us. She was Annie Novak, the farmer. Her farm is a green roof–no raised beds or containers, just soil straight on the roof.
The soil is a mix of mushroom compost and shale (gravel and gravel-sized bits of brick). It is piled up into rows about three feet wide and at most seven inches deep. I was surprised by how much she grows in that shallow planting depth.
The farm has a Sunday farmers market that starts up in a few weeks, a mini-CSA (11 members), and also supplies a few NYC restaurants with produce.
Annie divided us up into teams according to skill level, gave us clear, detailed instructions, and got us to work.
Most of my tasks today involved planting seeds (spinach, lettuce mix, radishes, arugala).
I also helped a little building honey bee hives under the supervision of Meg. The farm already has a couple of hives, but is adding several more this year.
I guess the pool of potential crop mobbers is still pretty small, because I ran into people who were at the food swapping party a few weeks ago, and others who had taken my foraging classes.
Time out for a plug for my upcoming classes: I’m teaching Edible Weeds and The Thrifty Urban Locavore for BBG on April 25th. The first is a foraging class. The second is a combination cooking, foraging, gardening, and how to eat local on a budget class for people who would like to eat more local foods but think they don’t have the time, space, or money. I’m also leading a foraging tour for Green Edge NYC on the 17th.
Three hours into the crop mob day we took a break and Annie served up some just-harvested spinach, her homemade olive oil sourdough bread, and sliced apples. I was starving and it was delicious. Hunger truly is the best sauce, because I just shoved those spinach leaves onto a slice of the bread, called it an open faced sandwich, and loved every bite-no mayo required.
And I have to mention the view today, because it was pretty spectacular.
If you’d like to visit the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, and maybe pick up some of their farmers’ market items, they are open to the public starting in May.
Today I did an interview for Heritage Radio Network on Nicole Taylor’s Hot Grease. I enjoyed the conversation, which ranged from how our U.S. farm policies impact Haitian farmers to foraging for wild edibles in the city to lacto-fermenting as a food preservation method. You can listen to the interview online here.
This past Thursday was the official publication date for my new book, The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget. On top of that, my Swedish friend Maria was in town, and I don’t get to see her too often. Seemed like a good excuse for a party. I invited a bunch of mutual friends over, made several dips, served up local cheese, and made a big pot of gumbo.
The gumbo called for some tomato puree. I took the last pint of home-canned tomatoes down off my shelf and blended it up (2009 was a lousy year for tomatoes in the Northeast, so I didn’t can nearly as many as I usually do, which is why I’m running out several months before the first tomato crops will be coming in). There was a little leftover beyond what the gumbo recipe required, and I stashed that in the fridge. Which brings me to tonight’s pizza.
Spring is here along with its abundance of wild edible greens. Today I harvested a motley combination of dandelion, garlic mustard, and nettles greens. I had those, plus that scrap of leftover tomato puree, and I thought, “pizza?”
I cooked up the tomatoes with some lacto-fermented garlic (I’m out of the regular bulbs until Ellen bails me out next week). I blanched the wild greens, more to cancel out the sting in the nettles than anything else. I rolled out the pizza dough I’d defrosted from a batch made last month, and then went to see what my cheese situation was.
Hmm. Normally the Farmhouse Jack cheese I get from my CSA would have been the perfect melting cheese, but I was out. I did have NY State cheddar, so I grated a bunch of that. Baked the pizza with just the tomato sauce and cheese, then added the wild greens near the end of the baking time.
Side note: I’ve updated my list of upcoming food, gardening, and wild edible plants (make your own wild greens pizza!) classes here.
The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget#
Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes#