Last Chance Foods: Wild Edibles

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Foraging may seem like a foreign skill to urbanites, but that's not the case for some intrepid cooks. Foodies Marc Matsumoto and Jonathan Landau are leading a small group of New Yorkers up to a Bronx park this weekend to forage for tender young fiddlehead ferns, stinging nettles, and ramps, the popular spring onion.

Matsumoto and Landau stopped by WNYC before their trip to chat with Amy Eddings about what wild edibles are in season now, how to find them — and how to make sure you don't get poisoned in the process.

"The one thing you have to be really careful about [with ramps is that] there is a similar looking leaf called a daylily, which is toxic," says Matsumoto, whose blog, No Recipes, encourages cooking using local ingredients. "The way you can tell them apart is the smell. When foraging, that's often a great way to be able to tell the good ones from the bad ones. The ramps have a very distinct garlicy-onion smell and you're not going to get that with the daylily."

Landau, who founded Lab 24/7, a nonprofit community event group, enlisted Matsumoto last year to help lead "Forage and Feast," the scavenge and cooking event that is now in its second year. The lifelong food-focused Matsumoto grew up in Califonia, where he would regularly pick morrell mushrooms.

Both Landau and Matsumoto dismiss concerns about pesticide use, and point out that they forage in a relatively untamed portion of parkland, an undisclosed location along a river. They do make sure everything they gather is washed thoroughly and cooked. They also advise wearing gloves to gather stinging nettles, which have an acid in the leaves that can cause a vicious rash. The toxic needles fall out when cooked, though, and the greens are particularly healthful, says Matsumoto.

While this weekend Forage and Feast is booked full, Lab 24/7 will be holding another culinary event, Cooklyn Improv, on May 15.

Matsumoto's recipe for sunchoke ramp and nettle soup is below.

Sunchoke Ramp and Nettle Soup Recipe
Sunchoke Ramp and Nettle Soup
by Marc Matsumoto, No Recipes

  • 1 lbs sunchokes  peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 C low sodium vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 lbs ramps  roughly chopped
  • 5 oz cleaned and blanched stinging nettles
salt to taste
creme fraiche

1. Add the sunchokes and stock to a stockpot. Cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour, or until the sunchokes are very tender.
2. Add the ramps and nettles and cook for another minute or two until the ramps are a bright green in color and the nettles are warmed through.
3. Transfer to a glass blender and blend the nettle soup until smooth and bright green. Salt to taste then pour the green soup into 4 small soup bowls.
4. Top with a dollop of creme fraiche per bowl and serve with some crusty bread, toasted and rubbed with a raw clove of garlic.


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Comments [3]


Hi there this is kind of of off topic but I was wondering if
blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with
HTML. I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding expertise so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Mar. 07 2013 04:07 PM
"Wildman" Steve Brill from Westchester, NY

Great that you're teaching people foraging, but you need to have accurate info before you can share your knowledge with the public.

Young daylily shoots are edible and delicious. The Chinese have been eating them for thousands of years, I've been feeding them to hundreds of people every year on my foraging tours since 1982, and no one who's used them after reading my books has complained (or died!)

It's lily-of-the-valley that resembles daylilies and is toxic. And people do need to be warned about that plant.

For accurate info on the subject, please check out the foraging website I created,, as well as my books and DVD. Thanks again for trying to make foraging accessible to the public!

Apr. 19 2010 07:52 AM
Juanell Boyd from Kendall Park, NJ

Fiddlehead ferns have historically been considered a spring delicacy and are even on the menues of fine restaurants. Historically, the fiddleheads were boiled for an extended period, but today they are often cooked using contemporary cooking methods such as light saute or stir fry. Unfortunately, the less thorough cooking methods used today fail to destroy the liver poison/carcinogen that is a natural component of the fiddleheads. Please advise those who serve and eat fiddleheads to do so with caution and only after prolonged boiloing to destroy the toxin.

Juanell Boyd, Ph.D
Diplomate, American Board of Toxicology

Apr. 19 2010 07:50 AM

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About Last Chance Foods

Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.


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