Monday, December 6, 2010

Eden still open

After staying up until 5:20 am playing guitar all night at Pete's party, I ended up in bed at 8:30 pm last night. Up at 5:15, like a farmer, and I decided to check out my favorite pair of apple trees. Every time I go I there I think it will be my last of the season, but, alas, there are always a few more goldens hanging on up there, making this a very long apple season. I brought a bunch home and "put up" some more apple sauce. This one I used the food processor on to whip it into baby food consistency, just to switch it up from my usual chunky blend. There they are, on the tree, in the 5:45 AM light, Allston building lights in the background.

I thought this picture of the ball jars being prepped in the microwave would look nice, but what I really got out of it was a reminder to clean the thing.

Here they are before getting cooked, and on the left you can see the sauerkraut I started last week. It is fermenting along well.

Speaking of apples, on Saturday, out for a walk (before the 10 hours finger numbing guitar playing session), I stumbled into the BU art gallery for a work-in-progress exhibit by triplet sisters from J.P. called In Search of Eden. They are called triiibe. Eden brings up apples, and they had a great collection of wacky apples from the living apple museum in upstate, Geneva, New York. I ate a big one that looked like an Asian pear. Also, free tea and music for everyone, it was a nice treat.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Here are the slides for the talk I gave at nerdnite. I brought a bunch of food: boiled acorns, boiled burdock, pickled japanese knotweed, pickled purslane -- the usual fare. Expected to go home with most of it but the crowd ate it up. I mean, the acorns were boiled not nearly long enough to remove all the tannins, but at least one person was loving them anyhow...said they were "addictive". The biggest praise Cambridge acorns have ever received.

Hot potato 2 is coming up. To that end, I will hop the apple fence one last time tonight to see if there are any stragglers left on the ground that have not been beaten too badly by the frosts, and I will step foot into Trader Joe's and plunk down some cash for the cheapest wine in town. Hopefully I'll also find some time to tickle the ivories too. I am working my way through the Goldberg Variations..see how many times I can cycle through the full set this winter. Anything to procrastinate the manual grunt work required for moving into the new apartment.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Not quite Thoreau (thorough)

Thoreau recorded extensive notes of what was flowering/fruiting/etc when. In that vein I'll offer a highly abbreviated recording: black nightshade still to be found, as well as burdock and lamb's quarters and apples.

Friday, November 5, 2010


As always with a new plant that I look up, there are conflicting reports on edibility. Last night at a really great lecture by the new director of the Arboretum, I was reminded to look up that orange thread-like plant that grows on other plants along the Charles River. I did, and found it: it is called dodder. Enough web sites say it is edible, and one that even says it's full of beta-carotene. Look out Charles River weird orange parasitic plants!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Delicious goldens

After a couple of jam packed weeks of work (kaiserslautern, stockholm) and then gallery grant writing and opening, I finally got to return to the woods a bit this weekend.

Saturday, Julie and I went to a socially conscious fashion show at Codman Farms in Lincoln. All she had to say was "Lincoln" and I was there. The fashion show at a farm bit didn't hurt either, because that just sounded weird and fun. And it was. They gave away free white turnips which no one was taking so I took two batches, but the real foraging happened when I arrived and immediately, momentarily, ditched the event to look in the trees for a chicken mushroom. I found a little guy about 15 feet up after walking for 10 minutes, and banged it down frantically with a stick .. so I could get back and not miss the cat walking.

The next day Anna and Rob joined me to Lexington and Concord for a walk through the Minuteman National Park. We hunted and hunted for mushrooms, without much luck (been saying for a couple years now, I really should learn the russulas, there's always plenty of them in these woods and I know people eat them, even though the Boston Mycological Club steers everyone away from them). Did get lots of nice evening primrose roots though, and sour fish (sorrel) and a few autumn olive berries. Then towards the end (it seems like this often happens -- God finally feeling bad for me and throwing me a bone) we scored a bunch of puffballs and an Agaricus. The puffballs weren't great in the kitchen, but the Agaricus was. But, I enjoyed that one solo since it seems a riskier mushroom to impose on people.

The day after I got back from Europe, although not feeling great, and riding on some Benedryl because of some nasty rash that would take over my body for an hour or so and then vanish without a trace (was it those oddly juicy elderberries I found in
Stockholm?) I decided to check out the two great looking apple trees just over the barbed wire fence at the waste water treatment facility by my house. It was a difficult fence jump given my state, but worth it in terms of fruit quality. Someone years ago must have decided to beautify the waste water treatment facility with a couple of really nice apple trees, a golden and a red. Slightly weird choice (Cambridge doesn't put apple trees in public parks, but they will throw them behind huge fences) but, fine by me. I did almost deck myself hopping back over the fence -- benedryl clumsiness - but the apples are great. Particularly the goldens. Delicious.

There were about 30 loaves in the savvy's dumpster the other night. It was painful.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

An old spring movie

Somehow this video never made it online. Knotweed is a great plant not only because you can cook it sweet and savory, but also because it is so dominant in so many landscapes, you can beat the heck out of it and not worry about it. Last spring I drove my new bicycle and myself through this patch of it on Martha's Vineyard.

Follow this link for the video.

More currently, some friends and I did a quick tour of Santa Barbara wine country this past weekend. After two sips at our first stop, I got bored with that and decided to take advantage of the cacti growing beside the tasting house. I harvested them (carefully, using newspaper and cardboard so as to not get a handful of prickers Lorena-style) and we dined on them over the next couple days. As is often the case with my foraged goodies, I ate about 80% of what I hauled in, and everyone else respectfully had a bite or two. In this case, OK by me. Prickly pear cactus: grainy pulp like watermelon, magenta juice, mildly sweet, and seeds that go right down. Much better than the one I found in a New Hampshire supermarket one day. Random websites also reveal that prickly pear is "High in Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium." Every plant is high in some good vitamins though, so I usually don't care about this, but a friend of mine asked though, so there it is.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fruit frenzy on Fire Island (and the Iron Sheik)

Last week I took a short trip to Fire island, which is off the southern coast of Long Island. The getting there was hectic, a direct consequence of my preference for not planning things. Long story short, the rain, the traffic on I95, and my late start from the Cape all added up to my making the 6pm ferry from new London in seconds, literally, and then plunking down and realizing I had no clue how to get from the ferry landing spot, Orient Point, which might more aptly be called Nowhere Point, to Bay Shore from where I would take the final ferry to Fire Island. I was banking on the goodwill of one girl who heard my plight and seemed to be viciously iphone chatting her mom to convince her I was OK (so i imagined) but at the end, she said no. So I went to the bar and the pet lounge, two places on the ferry where one might find some trusting humans, and struck out there too. It was late and pouring, and just as I was glumly leaving the ferry, a woman offered me a lift. She had been in the bar and initially said no, or rather, said nothing, but she mulled it over and decided to help me out. She got me to fire island that night and she restored my sinking faith in humanity. Her name was Jean.

When I finally got to the ferry to take me the final mile, I was completely fried and had 30 minutes to kill. So I went into Nicky’s Clam bar and ordered a Jameson “neat” and this was just the start of having people look at me (and soon brian and jordan) as if we were from another planet. The bartender had no idea what neat meant, neither did his two drinking buddies, the only other occupants of the bar. I was tired so had trouble defining it (“you know…neat”) finally one of the bartender’s buddies said “Oh..straight up!”  It wasn’t over at that though. I think he had never poured the drink that way, and he filled up and entire highball glass with the stuff. Well, waste-not, down it went. From a series of half-drunk-fully-tired art photos taken on the way over:

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Asking for vegan food on Fire Island was equally confusing. We ended up eating a lot of low budget toast, some fruit, and gorging on black cherries as we walked the path. When Brian and Jordan and I hang out, we often chat about veganism and such, and the rampant waste all around us, and on our final breakfast out we were beside a couple who each ordered the 19 egg omelet, so we got a little excited. I squirmed around for a while until finally I went right for the jugular: “Miss, my friend’s and I recently are experimenting with freeganism… … …so…. if you are not going to finish that omelet we gladly will.” They were quite nice about it and happy to hand it over, so down it went. plus their home fries cooked in butter, and their biscuit. Ah the sweet taste of rescued diner food.

Fire Island itself is an interesting blend of get-me-out-of-here teenage vacation wasteland, cool beach architecture, and a compact nature refuge. The plants I was most interested in were the beach plums which were just getting ripe and the plump omnipresent black cherries, but I nibbled some early autumn olives and a handful of blackberries too.  The deer on the island walk the little paths and eat people’s gardens and seem to have a pretty nice existence, except for the battering of the ticks and the other fact that they seem to be hated by everyone on the island. They didn’t bother me, although one of their foodstuffs did: I got poison ivy on my left ankle…almost made it a year p.i. free, no such luck. Better than on my fingers though.

Aside from the adventures of trying to be vegan on Fire island, we did a lot of walking around. Some yoga on a fallen phone pole:

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After brian and jordan left, I saddled up with the Gregor’s for more Fire Island fun. Mark Gregor has single-handedly provided me with all sorts of fun in the past couple weeks. A velir work party to cirque-de-soleil OVO (every time I see cirque, I am reminded just how lame my yoga is compared to what these people do. also every time i see cirque, it is because mark has an extra ticket), a company 10th year anniversary celebration at DeCordova, which ended in a night dip in the adjacent pond, and then fire island, staying at a house that had a pizza oven installed in the kitchen. Here’s a night-shot of the DeCordova.

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My contributions to dinners were a beach plum tart (a winner) and a black cherry cake  (a loser) and a non-foraged past dish, but why talk about that…I mean, it’s too easy when the food isn’t foraged. here are mark and angie’s children, jacob and mia, after eating non-foraged, possibly even non-earthly, foods.

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Orient Point, which was dark and stormy on my first visit, was beautiful on my way home. It was the end of a 40 mile bike ride through the northern fork of Long Island  -  wine country!…which means also wild grape country. I had a few minutes to kick around before the ferry back to New London, and gathered some seaweed and found a killer apple tree right at the meeting of a small wooded area and the beach, not something i expected.

Preceding the fire island trip was a quick one to the cape and vineyard since my brother’s family was on the vineyard. I rolled into Oak Bluffs and immediately got comments on my wacky Hawaiian shirt, and then many more as I proceeded to munch on the sea rocket, the mustards, the rose hips (or, tomatoes and Sam calls them), fallen apples and pears, some beach plums, and some seaweed, which I had chewed up and was ready to swallow when Mike told me that the bay was closed for swimming the other day due to bacteria or something.

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Black cherry tree that we just had to stop for in the oak Bluffs graveyard.

Yesterday, Rob, Anna, and Nadin and I headed back to the South Shore for the Marshfield fair. I expected this to be a walk down memory lane, but as we kicked around the fair (for about 4 hours…it was great!) I sort of concluded I’d never been there. Or at least I couldn’t remember it at all. I couldn’t remember the demolition derby, the wrestling ring, the largest pumpkin contest (over 1/2 a ton, whoa), the pigs, chickens, rabbits, llama, water buffalo. The vortex, the Lance Gifford magic show, the completely non-scary fun houses. I mean, this place had everything (except fruit trees, have I complained about that before? - enough with the oaks and the maples for god’s sakes). It turned out to be more difficult to hand off the stuffed animals than it was to win them. And finally, it turned out you don’t just take a picture with the Iron Sheik for free, you have to pay $20, which we did. I mean this was crazy. There sat the Iron Sheik, at a folding table off in the distance, alone, a wrestling career far behind him. Just as depressing as the movie The Wrestler paints the picture of amateur wrestling and the life of again wrestlers.  All this and single wrinkly string bean with a first prize bean winner ribbon on it. Tonight is the last night of the fair for this year, kind of sad. Already looking forward to next year. 

A recent d-dive haul (is that queso fresco, fully sealed up there? yep.):

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

I took a long walk from the convention center in Philadelphia to my friend Andrew's place near Fishtown. My impression of Philly was a lot of vacant lots, depressed, hot, and big weird weeds that I could not identify. Philly is huge so this walk wasn't enough to judge the whole place, but this is what we do...see a little and generalize. Philly looks to me like Detroit + LA, 3 cities I don't know well.

Bartram's garden was a little run down too, even though the web claimed it was a hidden gem of philly. It was in a dumpy neighborhood. I ate Cornus mas for the first time. Sour, except for the ones over-ripening and attracting ants on the ground. Those were hot -- temperature -- and sweetish. I never see that plant in Boston, although I've heard of it, probably at the arboretum (philly's arboretum I passed on. They charge $15 to get in).

I didn't realize until I had arrived at bartram's garden that this was the very same bartram of botanical illustrations that I had looked into before when I was considering using public domain old botanical images for my book, which never happened because it was really hard to find old drawings of the plants I wanted to include, which was frustrating because I figure people must have have drawn them all many times over the years.

The other great find for me at bartram's garden was patience dock, according to Sam Thayer the best of all the docks. I found it in the weed/compost pile and it was fantastic. This plus a massive amount of purslane that they let me take made for a nice dinner at Andrew's parent's house.

After the few days in philly, I returned to cambridge for a few hours, enough time to finish off Crime and Punishment (one sentence summary: 23-year old melancholic intellectual stews over the idea of offing some old pawn-broker lady, finally does it, then stews over confessing, finally confesses, then goes to Siberia for 8 years of hard labor) and forage some blackberries for my 4 day trip to Colorado.

Here in colorado, the berries of choice for foraging right now are raspberries and mountain gooseberries. While the rest of the fellas went after trout yesterday, I went after lamb's quarters and nasturiums etc. for a salad. I dug a burdock root, mainly to try to stop everyone from asking "can you really get enough from just greens?" but it is mid-summer and the thing was hard as a stick, so I tossed it. There is lots of salsify around here, but it's not the season for those roots either, so my trusty lamb's quarters has kept me going. There is also tons of cow parsnip so even though it is not spring, I grabbed some of that for a soup. A long walk last night before our drinking fest led me up a mountain rd, several deer sightings (including a baby that hopped away just like Bambi...the Disney animators nailed that one) and a coyote (or some other hungry skinny ragged looking animal) sighting.

Since finishing off Crime and Punishment, I haven't selected another read yet, so I've been pounding through this month's Harper's. Here's a funny snippet from an article about this guy who made a really terrible movie a few years back, called The Room, which has become a minor cult hit. The director and writer and star, Tommy Wiseau, states that his goal, which he is fairly certain he will reach, is for 90% of Americans to see the movie. The reporter points out that not every American has even seen Snow White. At that point...

T. Wiseau: I'm not concerned with other movies. I'm concerned only about The Room at this time. If that's your analogy, that's fine with me. But yes, absolutely, we will eventually beat Snow White.

The reporter: You realize how ridiculous that sounds.

Wiseau: No, it's not at all.

That section made me laugh out loud. It was preceeded by a quote from critic Robert Hughes which I also enjoyed: "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize." I don't agree with that. In fact, I bet a lot of lesser artists (i.e. most of us) who experience doubt would turn to such a quote as a pat on the back (oh, you have doubts about your work, this means you have great artistry inside), and I bet that's why the quote is well-known.

Addendum: on the way to the airport, actually heard the old John Denver song Rocky Mountain High, whcih goes on for a while, but is still great. One never hears that song on the east coast nowadays.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The black nightshade post

I was just out for a stroll to keep the blood flowing nicely through me veins - I had some varicose veins removed the other day so I'm all bandaged up and it is good to walk a lot. Anyhow, while exploring some parts of the MGH campus that I hadn't gone to yet, I walked by a black nightshade plant with black berries fully ripe and ready to go. Complete trust in the authoritative Sam Thayer on the plant and I popped them right in, and he is correct, they are great, and they taste just like ground cherries. I've been excited to write this post for a long time as I've been eyeing the plants come to maturity this whole summer. A google search on something like "black nightshade poisoning" is a fun way to waste some time on the web. It's amazing what people will say on a topic they have no knowledge of.

Weekend on the cape, mom and I enjoyed a great fully foraged salad.

I am considering doing a post on the vein surgery, but that might gross out my 20 readers, so, we'll see.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In the thick of milkweed pods

It's hot out there. Inside the gallery a photo shoot is happening right now, we are snapping some portraits [a little 4th grade school style..a slight body turn, a slight head tilt]. Annie just added paint brushes into the mix, I am over here trying to keep things consistent, but I'm blogging so my voice for that is not predominant and things are getting more and more out of control. I will soon give up and go over there with my ball jar full of sumac-ade and use that as my prop. Since everything is early this year, the sumac is already ready and delicious. The ball jar method: put a staghorn of sumac into a large ball far, fill with cold water, let sit for a day or so in the refrigerator. I sweetened mine with a touch of agave syrup.

Had a brief NYC trip last friday for Alex's b-day party. Walking around that day, the 4th floor of the Leica gallery building was vacant which made for some fun snooping and photography (I'd buy a Leica if I had any inkling whatsoever what makes a good camera good). Here's a nice shot of the space.

Larry David sighting that day. He was filming, probably Curb by the look of it. He was hailing a cab and then yelling at some woman who nabbed it from him. "..This is anarchy!" It was great.

As for the party itself, Ingo Lou got things crazy from the moment we decided we needed some extra wine. After all, who drops the "cash only" at the same time they drop the 1400 dollar bill? Things proceeded downward from there, ending with a dumpstered baguette fight, everyone including myself versus me. Forehead bread scar.

Speaking of dumpstered, here's the fruit salad that got me through last week. Since the last few days have been HOT, I've kept clear of the dumpsters. But not the milkweed patches. E. Gibbons and S. Thayer disagree wildly on milkweed preparation and while I truly dig all of Thayer's writings, I'm siding with Gibbons on this one: boil the heck out of them. It could just be a personal thing, like daylilies, and me and Gibbons taste the bitter principle in there. Last night was a good prep: after two five minute boils, into an Asian stirfry with plenty of field garlic (thanks arboretum) and ginger (thanks somewhere far away).

Cherries from Putnam street. Made jam with them, used old over-jellied crab apple jam from last year to sweeten it. Hopefully that wasn't a terrible thing to do.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A good year for fruit

It's going to be a good year for fruit. Juneberries are finishing up but had a big yield this year, particularly since I found many more juneberry plants that I had known previously. Also, to my delight, MIT just threw in about 10 very mature juneberry shrubs over by my old stomping grounds, building E40. Walking always reveals way more foraging opportunities than cycling, and the other day Sarah and I walked right under a cherry tree busting out with brilliant red and juicy sour cherries. Went back for a bunch. If I go back again, a step ladder could be put to good use.

Peaches are looking real good around town, and I spotted a huge nectarine tree in Allston the other day. Dust off the Ball jars.

Purslane is coming out now too, and I just enjoyed a salad of it with chickweed, both taken from my brother's yard yesterday. I only had to remove one of sadie's (their dog) hairs.

And savvy's last night: mega bread, golden delicious apples, a peach, onions, turnips, and two sirloins. The biscuit: wrapped sandwiches, sure enough. This I learned from a fellow d-diver, swapping diving locations.

I better learn amaranth pronto because I was flipping through a new book at harvard co-op the other day, urban homesteading, and in their chapter on urban foraging, they mention amaranth. Shameful that I haven't pinned down that one yet. Did however FINALLY find the elusive (around here) salisfy plant the other day. Just check in the driest, nastiest, railroad "soil" and there it will be.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Making the world a better place

I was doing my public service of weeding a community garden over in Newton, along the charles. After getting a handful of lady's thumb and such, a nasty old gardener (nog) asks me if I am a "member". I say no, I'm just picking weeds. Then something like this ensues.

nog: you gotta leave, get out of here.

me: ok. but (leaving) but i was just picking weeds.

nog: doesn't matter. you have to go.

(i'm still walking toward the exit at this point, where I was heading anyhow).

nog: .... you were here before, right?

(I think for a sec and then say)

me: yeah, like two years ago I think I came here.

nog: no, you were here last week.

me: ahh...nope.

nog: yes you were.

as I am getting on my bike, he is grumbling to his friend, another nog no doubt, about my being there. amazing. some people are just not out there to make the world a better place. I was tempted to show him my findings, explain to him these are good eats, etc.

Anyhow, I tell this lightly, but I was all stirred up inside. I hate when people treat others that way, and I should know to completely avoid even sharing words with them at all, no matter how diffusing and polite I try to be. Trying to argue with that guy would have obviously gone nowhere, and just gets me riled up. Next time, I just say nothing. I'll play a mute.

Amsterdam has a LOT of nettles, and I saw a chicken mushroom (already) growing on a willow outside of de hortus. Almost took it but it would've been hard to get through customs. Actually, no it wouldn't. I find that you just lie and say you have nothing and you have a good chance. Instead, like an idiot, I admitted to the customs that I took a few seeds home (flowers seeds, a mask for my mary-j seeds). Total failure, they made me thrown them all out. In a fictional world...

me: Can I keep the 4 mary-j seeds I paid 20 euros for?

them: step this way, sir.

Savvy's dive last night (and a question we all have at some point: what is a lamb, a sheep, same thing? lamb is to sheep as beef is to cow):

Also, tons of juneberries and mulberries out. Since most mulberries usually are pretty bland, I made my sheet-gathered lot into spiced mulberry jam, which came out decent. Here's a tray's worth ready to be frozen.

Red and white mulberries in the pots.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Magic night, etc.

Last night Shannon was in town so we hit magic night. Stetson was good, the rest, eh. That's a valid banagrams word right there according to Jeremy. I thought the best trcik was Stetson's dice prediction trick where someone takes his large die and places it with a certain number facing upwards and then covers it. Stetson then predicts it, 4 times in a row. I google searched it but came up dry.

Lunch today is late season pokeweed shoots, polenta with grape leaves, topped with chickweed. All from the Fens yesterday evening. There was a whole section I'd never explored: lots of geese, lots of untended land, and two gigantic trunked hawthorns.

Monday night was Shannon's first night in town and we all burnt our candles as it were that night. We sat outside and boozed a bit at the Legal Seafood bar and became curious about this party we could see on the second floor of the Charles hotel. It looked lame (a lot of that Harvard fashion of coral-colored shorts and Izod shirts and such - awful - where are the fashion police these days) but it also looked like a lot of free booze. And that it was. We got kicked out several times, but made off with some wine and a nice plant. And as for the dumpsters, well, Upper Crust provided well for us. Although there were some complaints that the buffalo chicken pizza wasn't that great. Who complains about fresh pizza tossed away? Apparently my friends do. Not I.

I really don't understand why the magicians at magic night DO THE SAME GD TRICKS EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. I KNOW they know lots of tricks, do these people have no boredom gene. I just don't get it. Hopefully I'll get some comments to this post that shed some light on this issue, in Chinese obviously.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Clear Flour Bakery

There is a neat little bakery tucked away off of Comm Ave in Brookline called Clear Flour. Next to it there is a huge apartment building. The amount of fresh bread in their little dumpster last night at 12:10 AM could have fed that whole building. I carried two bags home, left about 6 there. Please come to my house and have some bread, it's in the firdge and the freezer. And you might have a Baer sighting. My landlord, Baer, is lording over the pipes and trying to stop a drip in my bathroom. The place is crubmling. He stil calls the bathroom above mine "Ingo's bathroom". Ingo lived there two years ago. He hasn't rented it out again yet.

30th anniversary celebration of food not bombs this Sunday.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Braintree back roads to Braintree printing

I just a trip to Braintree Printing (T then bicycle). Passed a huge patch of milkweed right outside the T station. It's a little late, they are getting pretty tall, but I'm giving them a lengthy boil right now, see if that softens them up. I decided to go for a 250 run of my book, which brings them in at around $4.50 a pop. Which isn't too bad.

Everything in the suburbs is weird. One highlight though, and not typical 'burbs, was a stack of books for free outside someone's apartment. A bunch of poetry (a guy like John updike publishes a book of poems, and you can't really tell at the outset if they are going to be good or they are published because he also brought us rabbits running and witches of eastwick). I started reading Murder in the Catherdral by T.S. Eliot on the train back. OK so far.

Late season milkweed shoot verdict in: it's too late. They are pretty stringy. I will eat them of course, but I'm glad I'm not serving them to anyone.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

poke mountain

That cool pic? Hipstermatic, or something like that, an iphone app that gives all sorts of retro-looking picture options. Thanks sarah b and rob for alerting us to the app.

Milkweed and pokeweed hauls on the vineyard last week. Over by the famed watercress patch I found a construction site with a mountain of pokeweed in perfect stage for harvesting. I'd love to get to the bottom of "minimum amount of time to cook the stuff" since every book is different, but this is a risky thing to uncover. For now, I'll just continue to cook the heck out of it and serve up mushy greens.

The vineyard week was great, and I'm happy to report that my friends all put up with a large amount of foraged eating.

Also, my book -- Urban Foraging -- is finally available's book site.

Brian tells me black locust flowers are out in NYC. Gotta go exploring...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

x Weed

Japanese knotweed has ended its prime time (pickling worked, wild fermenting is stinking up my kitchen, and pan seared knotweed tops -- or "knotweed calamari" is good) and milkweed shoots are out and pokeweed is just poking up. Book hard copy #2 is out and in the hands of 5 new recruited editor friends. MIT press interested in carrying it, as well as Rodney's and Darwins and maybe TeaLux. I'll measure success in 10s, not 1000s :)

High Rise bakery provided me with 2 beautiful and huge whole wheat sour dough loaves the other day, which will keep me honest for a couple weeks.

Vineyard next week!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Garlic mustard weed - a crunchy invasive

Garlic mustard weed scapes a good size for picking right now. Thanks to Sam Thayer's new book, Nature's Garden, I learned that this is the best part of the plant. And sure enough -- crunchy and light and a bit of a symphony in the mouth - lots of tastes happening. Great chopped up into a linden salad.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Again: preserving Japanese knotweed

It seems like overnight the knotweed has gone from little red stumps to two foot stalks, so I gathered a bunch from the Charles river (that patch just north of Harvard sq is coming along well) last night and set to preserving it. Four different ways. Hot Hot pickle, where I boiled it in vinegar and water briefly, added some spices and salt, including hot pepper flakes, and jarred it. Cold garlic pickles. COld sweet pickles (a touch of maple syrup in the water/vinegar solution, no spices, except a little salt too). Finally, the most adventurous, wild fermentation. Chopped it in mini food processor (wanted to shave it but couldn't get that going) and added some salt, into an open ball jar, and now fermenting - hopefully - on my counter.

It would probably save me time if I just flew to Japan and asked the locals there what they do with it. They'd probably tell me they prefer sushi.

Perfect Linden salad time, and getting some burdock and wild carrots too, and still plenty of evening primrose.

Just finished J.D. Salinger's "Raise high the roof beam, carpenters". That writing really puts you smack into NYC 1950's white intellectual culture. Interesting that he headed off to the country so completely.

From the dumpsters: bagels, foccacia, 6 eggs, and some hair coloring dye that I didn't take.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

7 apples, 2 bagels, ...

OK folks, the report of the first few dumpster dives is in. Summary: full success.

But first, some back story.

When I first started out foraging, I worried a little bit that as I learned all the edible plants around, I would have to always stop to eat them because otherwise I would be "wasting" free food. Fortunately, I have calmed down and can pass over curly dock without halting every time I see it (although not this morning on the way to work - the first dry day in a while so lots of new growth to observe).

But what about the fine food thrown out by supermarkets, bakeries, etc every day that is slightly past due. How can I let that go? I get so fumed about the food waste all around, and it didn't help that the other day in the book store I saw [and bought] a book called Waste - uncovering the global food scandal. I've only read a few pages, but one pertinent conclusion is that in the U.S., ABOUT HALF of all food that gts produced gets thrown away. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

OK, so my small part for now is going to be the occasional dumpster dive. In the past week I've hit a few. The tally: 7 excellent golden delicious apples, 3 organic pears, 2 bagels, a cinnamon raisin breadstick, a bread bowl, a chicken caesar salad, and a high end ball of mozzarella cheese. This is crazy. This is three dumpster visits. It would be basically trivial to supply all your food needs this way. So anyhow, I'm a little worried an addiction will set in, but fortunately summer is coming - more plants and less 'still fresh' dumpster food to grab.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nettle heaven

The bussey brook meadow section of the Arnold Arboretum has so many nettles that I have no problem blogging about this specific location in this instance. If everyone I knew went there to get nettled, I think the nettle population would be just fine. I gathered a bunch yesterday, and in walking around I discovered that I love that place even more than I had before. Milkweed, sumac, grapes, thistle, burdock, cattails, apple trees, goutweed. Good heavens. Even munched on some early violet greens popping up, very good when young.

But my next delivery to Didi Emmons will be curly dock, which I found a stretch of a little westward on the Charles. 3 days of rain coming up though, according to google.

I tried doing some apple tree grafting yesterday. I tried the bark graft, the inlay bark graft, and the whip graft. If any of those grafts actually work, I'll be amazed, and psyched.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cambridge public maple

Took a bike ride up the Charles in Watertown yesterday. I've been finding a lot of cleavers. They are not anything special but they are easy to ID - square stems, whorls of leaves, grow in bunches, and tiny prickly hairs all over them - and they are fine in soups. Harvested two big oysters from my espresso oyster bucket and combined them with some buttons, and some last year's chickens, hens, and honeys, for a fine mushroom soup with wild greens and black beans. Botts enjoyed it, so I must be getting better at getting people to eat my foraged food.

Unfortunately, I am still allergic to daylilies. I harvested a bunch and ate them in Hanover the other day, then spent the night feverishly - literally - trying to process them. I hate to let an abundant wild food go, but I might have to let these guys go. Who am I kidding, I'll keep trying to develop an immunity. Chinese people dry the flowers, I'll try that. Anyone know about developing immunities to allergic foods in general? Probably not possible, otherwise people would have stopped squawking about peanut and everything else allergies.

Apollo Sunshine played a nice show at the gallery yesterday. It was acoustic, different from this link.

And, finally, an update on the maple tapping that I promised. I tapped 4 trees, 3 of them did nothing, 1 of them produced big time. The first gallon was swiped by someone, including the metal tap, but I persisted and got a couple gallons of sap. I boiled it down just enough to make a sweet liquid and this gives me one large ball jar of maple-liquid. Since I put it in oatmeal anyhow, to which I add water, no need to waste the natural gas to bring it all the way down to a syrup. So, Cambridge public maple is possible.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Haiti and a new season of foraging

Last week I took a trip with to Haiti and was part of the construction team. Headed up by lama (turns out his real name is Lamarre, but lama is much funnier), we worked on a stone wall surrounding the clinic, and headed up by Osnell, we started a new pid (partners in development) house. Partners in Development, out of Ipswich MA, builds and runs health clinics, builds houses for people without them, and gives interest free loans to help people get their businesses going, in Guatemala and Haiti. After the earthquake, pid's role in Haiti increased a lot and they started sending down new loads of fresh blood, which is how I came to go down.

My camera broke on the second day there, sometime after I took some pictures of a church service in a makeshift church (a tarp and some benches) and then let a bunch of little ones see the pictures on my camera. I think they got their little fingertips right in the lens cover and poof, there goes that camera. Right away when I got home I bought a new one since it is foraging season again and I have to be good about photographs for the book. Anyhow, here are my favorites from the teams pictures:

The scene in Haiti was rough but sometimes felt a little hopeful, and this feeling of hope has everything to do with the fact that the kids are so fun and friendly and the adults aren't too bad either. After a couple of days hauling rocks and concrete in the worst wheelbarrows ever made, the Haitian construction crew (lama, osnell, alexson, ..) and the whites (me, joe, joe, steve, and dave) started to mix it up a little and we had a lot of laughs, especially given our lack of ability to communicate much more than MORCHE (translation: give me another shovel-full of cement) and WASH (give me another rock). The biggest laughs the entire construction crew had all week was when lama and alexson would start yelling for more morche and joe lee and I would go like crazy - ripping shirts off, attempting to lift the whole wheelbarrow full - trying to get them their morche. Those guys work HARD. Everyday back in Boston I'm sitting, like I am now, at my desk at MGH, nibbling on some veggies, and they are out in the sun adn the rain putting rocks together to make walls. Yikes.

Another good laugh was when I borrowed Dave's camera to photograph the well-diggers and the meanest looking one just at me like: who you taking a picture of. The Haitian onlookers thought it was bold of me I guess, anyhow, all in good fun.

My nickname on the trip - I didn't feel like telling the team that I already had a nickname -- big daddy -- became Mango because early on I grabbed one from a tree and ate it even though it wasn't at all ripe. The next day a cute little 8 year old girl brought be a mango, which I gladly took, rubbed it with hand sanitizer to keep my teammates happy, and ate. These kids have next to nothing but they brought me a mango, and the next day 3 more, and the final day Darlene, a girl who takes care of her sick mother, they live in a tent right near the clinic, brought me 3 too. I sucked down two on the plane but the other one didn't make it through customs in Miami. Then there was Martha, who tried to bring home four of the hugest yams I've ever seen and got completely stuffed at customs. There are a million little stories like this from the one week away.

One day I pointed up to a coconut tree and said COCO and about 15 minutes later Serge, of the all black turtle neck - likely his only shirt (I gave him my fort point open studios shirt, now he's got two) - comes back with about 6 of them, and all the workers take a break and suck them down. No hand sanitizer this time (because I don't know how to say in Creole - "ahh hold on guys let me just wipe down that machete blade with some cleaning alcohol..."). We were all fine and the coconut juice and slime inside hit the spot. Other foraging down there: when the sugar cane truck would pass by they would throw a couple of stalks to the kids who would run up to it, and those kids would then bring their haul back and share it with us. I was wondering if you eat sugar cane that counts as a whole food...

I saw some purslane too, but like everything else there, it was trampled on and covered in dust so I let it go. Man, I see purslane everywhere I travel, I love that stuff. Oh yeah, and almonds. Day one I tried to get something going right away with one of the kids, turned out to be one of our favorite, Pabush. Anyhow, without much by way of equipment, we started playing catch the almond, as there was an almond tree right in the clinic, a nice touch. I gestured..can you eat these, and sure enough you can so down they went. The almond nut we know is covered by a juicy red pulp which is pretty good, but a little stringy and difficult to deal with which is why we never see it. Speaking of which, whoever invents a non-stringy mango gets a pat on the back from me.

It was an emotional time, and given that I was often physically exhausted (roosters in Haiti get up and start squawking at 1 am, and dogs are always up, and then there are many other weird sounds too, it's a symphony all night long), I almost came to tears a few times, which is weird for me. The combination of the desperate situation (few jobs, tons of destruction, everyone living in tents, some of which are just sheets that can't keep out the rain, some living on the streets directly and thus unable to sleep whenever there is traffic) with the great attitidues for the most part of the Haitians, the generosity, the smiles, the effort, ugh, it just kills you. Samuel Joseph and I played opposites all week, where I would say a word and he'd have to come up with the opposite. He loved getting them right, and he almost always did, and then he would always spell it for me, and always like this: "short, like, s-h-o-r-t". Anyhow, a guy like that, he's trying so hard and is a good guy, and he might never get much past where he is now because there are so few opportunities there. And yet when I say coconut, they bring 6 of them over pronto. Emotional rollercoaster. We would unwind at night with a beer or some rum, and some bananagrams. I was usually too tired to try to get any yoga going.

Flew back through NYC, and it was great to unwind with Brian that night at Union Hall, a cool bar in Brooklyn (imagine that), and then hit the foraging tour with wildman steve brill the next day in prospect park on Sunday. Best finds were ginko nuts with the rancid smelling pulp all washed off from the winter snows, and goutweed, which was a new plant for me. Brill got excited when I pointed out a thistle. He dug it up. I gotta start carrying my trowel again now. I saw one the other day in the Arboretum but was not ready for it.

In cambridge, foraging is off to a slow start. I've just been picking some field garlic from the riverside, but I haven't really gone looking for much else yet. Oh wait, I DID tap the maple trees in my neighborhood and although I thought I was too late, one of the trees gave me a half gallon of sap (which will of course make about a quarter cup of syrup). Hopefully the gallon container hasn't fallen yet. Will boil it down tomorrow. Also finally got around to breaking open my black walnuts that have been in my fridge all winter. Got, what a job...almost as bad as acorns. Luckily, they taste a lot better than acorns and I've already eaten them all. Next thing to by, a Davebilt nutcracker.

The book is almost ready, watch for it in stores (even if I have to drop a bunch on the counter, I'll get those things in the local bookstores).



Saturday, February 6, 2010

Scrapatarian - a new word for the English language

I've been looking for a word to describe my eating philosophy and this week in Costa Rica, we hit upon it during a brief brainstorming session: scrapatarian. This is close to freegan, which is a vegan when it comes to buying food, but if it's free will eat anything. For me, it's not if the food is free, it is if it's getting wasted that I will eat it (and here, "it" can be ANYTHING - people are amazed to see me eat red meat, as if that is somehow "worse" than eating chicken for someone who normally only eats plants and does so for ethical reasons).

This week in costa rica, we went out to eat every night and the portions were big, so I ate the scraps off of nearly every plate towards the end of each meal. I got pretty full needless to say, but that is the origin of "scrapatarian". Hoping it spreads so pass this post along. As of this posting, a google search on the word brings 0 hits. This will change in a couple days though, since google tracks blogspot.

I obtained a couple books on plants and edibles from costa rica, but it was too overwhelming and the only things I spotted were coconuts, maybe some date palms, and definitely a well trodded and well pissed on patch of purslane down by the beach bar called D+N. At a farmer's market though, I asked what some long brown root was nad they told me burdock. I obviously got excited and ate it that night. What a plant, along the charles, and cultivated in costa rica.

One month to foraging again. Brill's first tours are March 6 in central park and march 7 in prospect park. If I'm not in Haiti, I might have to go down and have some fun.

Check out Rule 31 from Michael Pollan's new little guide book Food Rules.

I had some mild success surfing this week, but I still don't have the courage to get out there and go for a big wave. Maybe this goes back to getting pummeled at surfside beach in Nantucket one too many times as a kid while my brother and the Thorntons seemed to fully enjoy themselves.