How to Forage

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tama Matsuoka Wong, the forager for Daniel, the flagship restaurant of chef Daniel Boulud, talks about foraging—finding edible plants in the wild. She explains which plants are her favorites, where and how to find them, and how to cook with them. Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, written with Eddy Leroux, includes 71 favorite plants, which are easy to identify and can be harvested sustainably across the country, and also includes simple recipes.


Tama Matsuoka Wong

Comments [8]

Deirdre Lambe from Manhattan


Someone called or tweeted during the show and mentioned tall "dandelions."

I've seen them, too; I think around the lower Hudson valley area.

The bloom, itself, seems identical to that of a dandelion but the stems can be 4' to 6' in height.

Oct. 24 2012 02:21 PM
Antonio from Brooklyn

I'm not sure what Leonard means when he says that foraging was lost in the European tradition. The American tradition, yes, but not in the Mediterranean countries of Europe or by those immigrants who came here. Italian immigrants were big foragers, as people in Italy continue to be. It seems that every immigrant mother or grandmother would forage, often along the sides of the Long Island Expressway, for chicory and dandelion, to be cooked with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper, or consumed as salad. In Italy, wild arugula, wild fennel, and scores of greens that I only know the Italian names for are commonly picked. A lot of my relatives here would also forage in the NYC area for mushrooms, likewise in Italy, and also there for truffles. For many of us, it was embarrassing to see grandma by the side of the road picking weeds. Now, it's cool. Unfortunately, though, as we loose connection from the land we lose our ability to identify the edibles. Many of the things we call weeds, as Ms. Matsuoka Wong said, are just plants growing where we don't want them to grow. In some cases, even, they were plants that were once desirable and have now escaped cultivation and become naturalized in the landscape.

Oct. 24 2012 02:14 PM

Bonn, there are still plenty of mulberry trees around the city. I have seen a number in the Clinton Hill/ Fort Greene area. I went to Bronx Science in the 90's. All the trees directly across the street from the school are mulberry trees (lining Harris Field). My dad picked them and gave them to me and my brother. We were shocked at how delicious they were.

Oct. 24 2012 02:05 PM
Bonn from East Village

I used to pick blackberries (what we called huckleberries) behind my house in the Southeast Bronx when i was a kid in the 1950s. There were woods behind our two-story corner brick house (yes, woods) and I would get all full of nettles bringing back my delicious treasure. Then as an adult, I would pick mulberries off the trees at Wave Hill. I don't know if you can still do that - or if the trees even exist.

Oct. 24 2012 01:52 PM

Being Korean American, I have witnessed numerous times, when my family has been on picnic outings with other Koreans, most of the women would spontaneously begin a forage at state parks, etc. Digging for clams was very common when we'd go to the beach. It was as if they could find food wherever they went. My grandmother would regularly collect gingko nuts, clean them and fry them. She made a lot of money selling them to church members. I now see some chinese women collecting gingko nuts at Fort Greene park now.

Oct. 24 2012 01:52 PM
Maria from Brooklyn

Purslane is a staple green in Turkey (and other countries, I imagine). It's called "semizotu" there where it is prepared with strained yogurt, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice as a kind of mezze (cold appetizer).

Oct. 24 2012 01:52 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I went on some Wild Food Walks with Wildman Steve Brill years ago. Among the plants he showed us in the parks & along the street were amaranth & something called poor man's pepper (which tasted more like peppercorn than like the chili peppers described in the previous segment). He also told us that the berries on yew trees, which I'd always heard were poisonous, were safe if you take out the seed in the middle.

Oct. 24 2012 01:51 PM
Robert from NYC

My grandmother used to forage for greens in the Bronx (what you folks call the South Bronx) when she arrived from Italy in earl 1900s. She used to bring my mom with her and mom knows some greens to pick, for example along the Amtrak (previously the NY Central LIne) line that runs thru the Bronx around 149th thru 153rd Sts on Park Avenue. On a fairly recent walk with mom (who is 91) she pointed out the areas where grandma would pick dandelions among other salad and cooking greens that grow there or used to. We did see dandelions only on this walk. Grandma walked there to meet grandpa after work where he was a foreman on the NY Central Line railroad from 1905 thru 1943 when he died.

Oct. 24 2012 01:39 PM

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