Food Justice and the People’s Climate March

Yesterday’s People’s Climate March in NYC exceeded all expectations. We were hoping for maybe 100,000. 310,000 showed up. I was there marching with the Food Justice contingent.

There were many visions of how to solve the climate crisis
There were many visions of how to solve the climate crisis

 

When I started this blog in 2007 I was embarking on a year-long local foods challenge I called The 250, and one of my major motivations for doing so was the environmental impact of what we eat. Seven years later, “local” has become a food-shopping buzzword, and “sustainable” is stepping up where “organic” used to be the only word associated with environmentally-friendly food.

organic

There’s a long way to go, but there has been huge progress as well. For example, the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. has increased by 75% since 2008. As with the follow up to yesterday’s historic march, there are continuing actions that are essential on a scale that ranges from international. But just for a moment, let’s celebrate the successes so far (with some local wine and grub, of course ;).

Peoples Climate March NYC

Upcoming Events:

Free Food Preservation Talk and Book Signing for Slow Food NYC at The Farm on Adderley September 24 7:00 – 8:30pm

Food Preservation Demo and Book Signing at the Sunnyside, Queens Greenmarket September 27 10:00am-12:30pm

Urban Foraging for SideTour in Brooklyn Bridge Park Sunday, September 28

My new books are out!

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries
120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” - Sam Thayer

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More
How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More

Preserving Everything

“Finally, a book about food preservation that I can use front-to-back.” – Blake Olmstead

Upcoming Foraging Tours and Other Events

The People’s Climate March is Today!

The buzz is that as many as 100,000 people will be marching in the People’s Climate March in NYC today, and I will be one of them! I’ll be marching with the Food Justice group and hope to see many of you there (well, okay, it may be kinda hard to find each other amidst that many people, but DM me and it could happen).

Excited to demonstrate for solutions, not business as usual. If you don’t live near NYC, there are lots of other companion climate events happening today and this whole coming week.

See you there!

***

My new books are out!

 

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries
120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” - Sam Thayer

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More
How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More

Preserving Everything

“Finally, a book about food preservation that I can use front-to-back.” – Blake Olmstead

Upcoming Foraging Tours and Other Events

Thank You Pickles

One of the first things I did when I arrived at my temporary home was make pickles. I was staying on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for two weeks to housesit the beautiful home of some friends who were away on vacation.

quick refrigerator picklesI know, pickling was kind of a weird priority. But I like to have good pickles around to munch on, and it’s a matter of pride that I haven’t actually bought pickles in at least two decades.

Fortunately, this particular recipe takes only 10 minutes to make and is ready to eat in just a couple of days. The recipe (below) is a variation on one that’s in my new book Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Smoke, Salt, and Store…  (the Kindle version will be out September 5th and is available for pre-order now, the paperback is out now ;)

These are hands-down my favorite pickles, the ones I always have some version of in my fridge. I left a couple of jars of them for my friends to enjoy when they get back.

Try them and let me know what you think:

 

Two Day Refrigerator Dill Pickles

The difference between fantastic and okay cucumber pickles is choosing small, firm cucumbers with few seeds. It’s not important that you use a pickling variety of cucumber, but do use only those that are not more than an inch in diameter and feel solid.

Makes 1 quart/2 pint jars (recipe can be multiplied)

Ingredients:

2 pounds small, firm cucumbers

3 cups water

1/2 cup cider or white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other non-iodized salt

1 tablespoon sugar or 2 teaspoons light honey (clover or wildflower works well)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2–4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

2–3 dill flowerheads or 2 generous sprigs fresh dill leaves or 1 tablespoon dried dillweed

1. Cut a thin sliver off the flower end of the cucumbers (that’s opposite the stem end, but if you’re not sure, slice off both ends.) The end of the cucumber that once had the flower attached contains enzymes that can soften pickles, so slicing off that little bit can result in better, crunchier pickles.

2. Slice the cucumbers crosswise on a slight diagonal, making each piece 1/2 to 1-inch thick.

3. In small pot, bring the water, vinegar, salt, sugar or honey, and turmeric to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

4. Put the garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and dill into the bottom of a clean glass jar. Because these pickles are destined for the refrigerator, not the canner, you do not need to use canning jars.

5. Pack the cucumber chunks into the jar on top of the spices. You want the cucumbers to be packed in so tightly that they hold one another in place under the brine—keep adding until you can’t get one more in.

6. Pour the brine over the cucumbers. They should be completely covered by the liquid. Screw on the lid, and put your pickles-to-be in the refrigerator.

7. Wait 2 days for the flavor of the pickles to develop before tasting them (they’re even better after 4 days, but we almost never wait that long).

My new books are out!

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” - Sam Thayer

Preserving Everything

“Finally, a book about food preservation that I can use front-to-back.” – Blake Olmstead

Upcoming Foraging Tours and Other Events


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Discount Code for Today’s Foraging Tour in Central Park

There are still spots available on today’s foraging tour. We’ll be looking for late summer fruits including hawthorn, cornelian cherry, and kousa dogwood, and well as many, many wild greens and spices. We meet at noon at the West 96th Street to Central Park.

Use promo code garlicmustard for a $5 discount. Hope to see you there!

 

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2014 book releases:

Northeast Foraging 

Preserving Everything

Foraging Tour This Saturday in Central Park!

Join me this Saturday for a wild edible and medicinal plants foraging tour in Central Park, NYC from 12 – 2 p.m. The hawthorn fruits, cornelian cherries, and elderberries are all in peak season, as are summer greens including purslane, wood sorrel, and many others. More info and registration here.

Hawthorn fruit is in season right now
Hawthorn fruit is in season right now

I’ll have a few signed copies of my field guide Northeast Foraging and my just-released-this-month food preservation book Preserving Everything available. Hope to see you there!

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A Mediterranean Summer (capers and sumac and grapes, oh my!)

I’ve already put up some grape leaves for future dolmathes. And the caper project (or as Ellen dubbed it, The Caper Caper) is winding down just as the sumac and grapes are ripening. Figs ready soon.

grapes

We’ve got a decent number of jars of capers put up, but I doubt it will be enough to get us all the way through till their season next year. We keep finding more uses for them, and also we keep proudly giving them to friends and family.

capers-sm

Speaking of family, many visitors are showing up at the end of the month for the wedding of bf’s younger son, and I’m stocking up on foraged treats to share with them. Besides the capers, I’ve got a few bottles of elderflower champagne, some naturally fizzy fermented ginger ale, and now that the sumac is coloring up I’m going to make plenty of sumac “juice” to have on hand for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Passionfruit is ripening as well, and I’ve been stockpiling the juice in the freezer. Stay tuned for a post on the easiest way to free the juice from the many seeds, and what to do with passionfruit juice once you’ve got it.

passion-sm

I’ve also been foraging Saint John’s Wort. The yellow flowers turn oil a stunning crimson. I use the oil externally for nerve pain such as sciatica, or that old knee surgery scar that still bothers me.

sjw-oil

In a month, I’ll be back in New York where I’ll hit the ground running with a busy schedule that includes foraging tours, botanical classes, and book events. If you haven’t already gotten your copy of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries, you can get one from me in person if you’ll be in the NYC area after mid-August. Or maybe we can meet up at the Midwest Harvest Festival in September.

…and drumroll, please: Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More will be released on August 4th (Kindle version on September 5th).

Apparently Amazon pays attention to pre-order numbers as far as how prominently they promote a book, so if you’re thinking of getting it please go ahead and pre-order, and thanks! Or you can get one from me in person at this Slow Food NYC event.

Happy Summer,

Leda

P.S. – For those of you who’ve been concerned about the fact that I’m in Israel with all that’s going on, thank you for your concern. This is my sustainable food systems blog primarily focused on foraging and food preservation (although I leave myself wiggle room to share great local food ideas that don’t fit into those categories). I have decided to leave politics out of it, so this is all I’m going to say about that.

Collecting and Curing Wild Capers

img_0294I’ve enlisted my boyfriend Ricky to help collect capers. Capers are the pickled, or sometimes salt-cured, unopened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a plant that is native to Mediterranean countries. It sure as heck doesn’t grow back in my old Brooklyn ‘hood (but for my BK buddies and others cold-winter climes, you can make a nice mock up version by pickling nasturtium buds).

dscn1824

Collecting capers is a delicate, time-consuming business because the plants are thorny and primed to snag both clothing and skin. They are tough perennials that frequently grow out of rock walls and other dry spots. The delicate looking flowers give no clue as to just how tough a plant this is.

img_0297

Unless you’re salt-curing them, capers need to be soaked in changes of water for three days before they are brined. This means some caper management if you’re bringing home a handful a day and trying to keep track of which have soaked for how long.

caper-progress

Once cured, capers are an essential ingredient in many dishes such as pasta putanesca. I’ve decided that since the plants are so prolific here, we shouldn’t ever have to buy capers. Ricky points out, jokingly, that if you calculated our hourly wage for collecting and curing them these would be the priciest capers ever. Okay, but that’s not the point. The point is that they will be our capers, and they will be delicious, and we had fun together while we were outside gathering them.

But the flowering season for Capparis spinosa is already winding down, and we don’t yet have enough to last a whole year (not to mention that I’d like to give some as gifts). Better get busy…

I’m trying four different versions of curing them: 2 in vinegar-based brines, 1 lacto-fermented, and a simple dry salting. I’m also going to put up a jar of the immature fruits to see if we like those (you see them for sale sometimes). Here’s the recipe for the simplest vinegar brine method that I tried for the first time last year, other recipes posted as soon as I’m sure they’re good.

photo

Changing the subject for a shameless plug moment, I really enjoyed doing the interview for this post on the New York Botanical Garden’s site. It was nice to be asked thoughtful questions such as whether and why kids should be taught foraging.

Free Slow Food NYC Event

Tomorrow night (Thursday, May 15th) there’s a Slow Food NYC event at The Farm on Adderley restaurant. It’s free, and you don’t have to be a Slow Food member to attend (although I highly recommend becoming a member of that excellent organization if you aren’t already!)

book-cover

I’ll be doing a talk about foraging, including how wild edibles fit in with a sustainable food system and some issues specific to urban foraging. The Farm on Adderley will be offering up some cocktails inspired by foraged ingredients. And I’ll have copies of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries available if you’re interested in getting a signed copy.

Here is the event info. Hope to see you there!

7 Minutes to Forage

I checked my NYC Bus Time phone app and saw that I had seven minutes until the next bus. I was on my way to teach an edible weeds class for NYBG. Normally, I’d have the students out on the grounds for most of the class, but the sky was ominously gray and the forecast predicted heavy thunderstorms.

Sure, I had the backup of PowerPoint slides, but that’s just not the same. A slide can’t convey the felty feel of a burdock leaf

021_burdock_lmeredith

or the ID-clinching smell of field garlic.

img_0145(The knot in the photograph is for what I call “the bay leaf method.” When field garlic leaves get too tough to use like chives, I tie them like this and use them to flavor soups and sauces. Remove the garlic knot before serving.)

So I decided to collect some samples just in case we ended up having to spend most of the class indoors.

I dashed across the street to a promisingly weedy-looking patch of Van Cortlandt Park (in the Bronx). I quickly gathered dandelion, field garlic, burdock leaves, common mallow, curly dock, chickweed, shepherd’s purse, and lamb’s quarters. Then I got nervous about missing my bus and scampered back across the street, arriving at the bus stop with a minute to spare.

Through a fence at the bus stop, I spotted mugwort growing amidst spent daffodils. I reached through and added that to my collection just as the B9 bus pulled up.

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All of the plants I gathered for class samples were invasives: I wasn’t harming those species populations by collecting them. Far from it! Many of those introduced plants (a.k.a. “weeds”) are a threat to slower growing native plants.

Lately I’ve been seeing the word invasivore crop up online. It refers to folks who seek to balance their immediate environment by eating the invasive plants that are crowding out other species. Many invasive species are also delicious edibles. I think it’s a grand idea to help your immediate environment by eating it into balance!

I didn’t eat the samples I’d gathered, though. That harvest was far too close to a heavily trafficked street to be food. But I know some safe collecting spots nearby, and I’ll be headed to them soon, when I’m not running to catch a bus.

Meanwhile, the sun came out, the temp reached 80F, and I got to take the class out on the grounds after all. One of the students added to our collection of edible weed samples.img_02141

Foraging for class samples was definitely a more interesting way to wait for a bus than, well, waiting for a bus.

Shameless plugs: My new book, Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries was just released by Timber Press last month! You can order it here.

My upcoming foraging tours and other events are here.

Northeast Foraging…and Is It Spring Yet?

magnolias-smThe magnolias are in peak bloom, many of the cherry blossoms have opened, the daffodils are showing off…but seriously folks, there was snow on the ground yesterday. What’s up with that?

Nonetheless, the foraging season is in full swing with daylily shoots already approaching the too tall to be tender stage, mugwort, violets, and garlic mustard are up, and there’s field garlic galore.

spring-forage-sm

The “yard squid” (young dandelion crowns) are almost finished, which I’m kind of sad about because they are by far my favorite part to eat of dandelion. Here they are battered (some acorn in the batter) and fried and served with a dipping sauce.

yard-squid-sm

The dandelion plants are starting to bloom, at which point the leaves get too bitter for my tastes, but ah, dandelion wine, dandelion root “coffee”…

Japanese knotweed is also at prime harvesting size right now in NYC.

And violets, with their mild-tasting edible leaves and flowers are just starting to flower. Mostly I’m tossing them into salads, but maybe I’ll go for that electric blue syrup again.

Do you know how far behind I am on updating this blog (hangs head in shame and embarrassment)? My new book Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries was officially released two weeks ago and I’m just now getting around to announcing it here (hey, I was busy actually foraging, and teaching, and…)

I’ve updated my events page to include upcoming botany+food related events (including foraging tours) in Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, plus a trip to the North Carolina Wild Foods Weekend, where I get to be the keynote speaker at the end of the month. I’ll also be in Massachusetts at the beginning of May to do a talk and book signing for a private botanical club.

Whew. End of shameless promo. Back to the plants and the food and the life.

Cheers,
Leda

Foraging, Food Preservation, and the Locavore Life