Archive for March, 2012

Wild Edible Plants – My First Love

burdockpatchOnce upon a time my great-grandmother took me across the street to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to collect wild dandelion and mustard greens. She recognized them from her childhood in Greece. I don’t think she knew the word foraging. She just loved eating those wild greens.

I was three years old? Maybe four? Free food was waiting for me like a treasure hunt, and I got to spend hours outdoors in nature even though I was in the city – I still haven’t gotten tired of it.

It was because of my knowledge of wild edible plants that I got my first botanical teaching gig at The New York Botanical Garden (thank you, Gary Lincoff). My interest in gardening, mushroom hunting, food preservation, herbal medicine, and local, organically grown food and sustainable food systems is a sort of bread crumb trail that I’ve followed from that original interest in wild edibles.

Ricky and I got introduced to a fellow forager on a recent trip. She didn't speak a work of english, but we managed to share plant info anyway.

Ricky and I got introduced to a fellow forager on a recent trip. She didn't speak a work of english, but we managed to share plant info anyway.

I love it that the New York Times article on foraging last summer sparked a debate about foraging and sustainability. Their original question seemed to be, “If everyone in NYC started foraging, wouldn’t that decimate the plant populations?”

Well, first of all, everyone is not going ot start foraging. Heck, most people in NYC don’t even shop for groceries or cook.

Second of all, which plants are you talking about? Because there are some non-native species that are so invasive Parks tries to weed them out. Foragers collecting those plants are actually working in tandem with Parks.

But there are also slower growing native species such as ostrich fern that would be best harvested someplace they are more prolific. I give these a nod hello when I pass them in Prospect Park, but I don’t collect them there.

This is another thing I love about wildcrafting and foraging – your foraging choices and actions, done right, actually help the plants and the landscape thrive.

Ready to come foraging with me?

April 7th 9:45 – 12:30 p.m. Prospect Park for Green Edge NYC

April 15th 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. for The Farm on Adderley

April 20th for SideTour (time TBA super soon)

Leda’s Foraging Column at 2012 James Beard Award nominee Nona Brooklyn

On Twitter

The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes

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Locavore on the Road Again

I arrived in Israel just in time to see the full wildflower show in the hills. A month or two from now, I’m told, all will be dry and bare.

Cyclamen are bloomingcyclamen-sm alongside lupinelupine-sm, red poppies, yellow mustard flowers, pear and almond blossoms, and wild tulips. Truly magnificent.

When I travel, I try to stick to as much of a local foods diet as I can; “local” meaning whatever is local to the place I’m visiting. This is a fun part of the journey as much as it is a compensation for the eco-guilt of travel. I don’t go to France for the pizza, or Italy for the cassoulet, know what I mean?

But not much of the food here is labeled as far as where it is from, so I did a little research and found out that most of what is in the Israeli supermarkets and souks is locally grown.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that only 1.5% of it is organically grown, and most of that is exported to Europe. Monsanto loves Israel.

I’ve done a little foraging while I’ve been here, or at least field i.d. Found some inky caps, coprinus-smand there are lots of wild edible greens about.

I also took advantage of the local citrus and prolific rosemary to make some herb butter,herb butter and saved up chicken skins and scraps to make schmaltz a.k.a. rendered chicken fat. The schmaltz is something I make at home, too. Besides being tasty, I like the idea of nothing wasted. If I’m going to eat bird, I feel like I should eat as much of the bird as possible.schmaltz

Ricky was teaching a workshop in Ein Gedi last weekend, and I got to tag along.

ein-gedi-garden-smein-gedi-sm

We got to spend some time at the Dead Sea,

dscn1142

including in the hot springs of salty water that pop up in different places along the ever-receding shoreline (the Dead Sea is shrinking rapidly, in part because so much of the Jordan river’s water is diverted for agriculture).

dead-sea-pools

I get to spend two more weeks here. I’ll get back to BK just in time for the full spring rush of gardening and workshops to teach and writing deadlines and foraging. BK had just started blooming when I left, and should be putting on the full spring show when I get back: It’s kind of like I get to have an extra-long Spring this year.

a nap by the Dead Seawild-tulips-sm

On Twitter
The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget
Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes

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