Autumn is a good time to reflect on the past year, to gather ideas, and to catch up on reading. We are busy preparing for winter. We applied a few fresh coats of paint, put up shelves, organized the kitchen, and harvested some of our garden herbs (a BIG YES to Julia’s Rosemary Sugar for the best way to use an abundance of rosemary prunings).
I have been filling the well with stacks of books from the library. I found some real gems, especially Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a Food Book Fȇte celebrating her book, Preserving the Japanese Way, at Elder Hall. We ate amazing food prepared by both Nancy and Jason French. I loved the Sashito Peppers with Miso and Sake, and the Dashi with Ginger and Smoked Eggplant. Delicious! Nancy shared her knowledge of Japanese farm food and preserving methods. She researches and revives cooking and preservation techniques that are quickly disappearing. I highly recommend both of her books.
There is one book has occupied my bedside table (and dining room table, and kitchen counter) that I want to share with you. This book, Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook , is one that I will rely on in the years ahead. The author, Dina Falconi, herbalist, forager, and culinarian extraordinaire, has poured her soul into this book. It is her truly her life’s work in book form. Her knowledge is complimented by the amazing botanical drawings by illustrator Wendy Hollender. This book has been on my reading wish list, so when Dina sent me a copy to review, I was thrilled.
I have a thing for cookbooks, but as I get older I am more discerning about what ends up on our shelves. There are many recent cookbooks that are filled with fleshly photographs, but lack substance, useful information, or techniques. These books only offer a glimpse at a lifestyle or a lingering sense of wanderlust. They leave the reader hungry. In contrast, Foraging & Feasting is toothsome and satisfying. Dina and Wendy welcome you to the table and make sure that you are fed! This book resonates. It is both beautiful and useful.
There is something about botanical illustration that is so pleasing. The illustrated Plant Identification section of this book is a wonderful map to help guide you through fifty wild edibles. Each plant is explored by part, cross section, and season. There are excellent details on the plant’s structure, habitat, life cycle, reproduction, size, and culinary uses. The drawings provide the right amount of detail to help you identify wild edibles. Before jumping in head first, Dina suggests the importance of taking the time to get to know the plants around you in order to correctly identify them. It is also important to make sure that the area is safe to harvest from, and to always harvest respectfully. This book covers everything you need to start foraging, from the ways to forage, where to forage, why to forage, and most importantly, what to do with the treasures you have gathered, including how to preserve them.
One of the best things about this book is that it isn’t a collection of recipes, each based on a single edible. Instead it features a collection of master recipes that allow you to add bits of whatever is in season or available in abundance. From fruit coulis and syrups, to omelettes and soup, there are thousands of possibilities at your fingertips. The recipes that most intrigue me are Maple Flower Butter, Herbal Salt, Nettle Ginger Soda, Nettle Wild Blueberry Agua Fresca, and North Indian Wild Mint Relish. The recipes and techniques aren’t just for foragers, but also for those who want to make everything themselves. It is all in here: Ferments, stock, jams, catsup, chutney, sauces, water kefir soda, infused spirits, bitters, salads, and sweets.
These seasonal recipes work in hand in hand with the many helpful charts: Seasonal Harvest, Plant Biographies, Habitats, and Culinary Uses. The index is thoughtful, detailed, and inclusive - by techniques, ingredients, etc. to quickly bring you the information you need. I so love a good index! The fifty plants featured in this book are from the northeastern US, because that is where Dina and Wendy live. Most of the plants are also found here in Oregon and other temperate climates across the globe.
This book is a true labor of love, one that Dina is so proud of, and I can see why. They created this amazing book themselves: Writing, illustrating, art direction, developing recipes, and even publishing. Their effort shines through. If you want to dip your toes into the world of foraging, or if you have been foraging for years, there is something here for everyone.
Order your copy here from Botanical Arts Press.