I recently joined 18 Reason’s FoodLit Book club (I know, how very San Francisco), and the first book I read was Ava Chin’s Eating Wilding. We were lucky enough to have Ava join us and in addition to discussing foraging, love and the process of getting a book published, I got to try my first foraged greens pie. Holy yum.
Ava’s book is a quick, honest and endearing read weaving together stories on childhood, love, family, nature, and food – so many wonderful things to relate to! I’m going to focus on the food part, as I was blown away that you can find safe and edible things to eat, in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park or in a neighbor’s backyard in the middle of winter. Ava describers herself as a sort of life forager (searching for love, her father, and morel mushrooms), and started by using Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus as a field guide while roaming the streets of NYC. She finds and eats all sorts of things: oyster and morel mushrooms, field garlic, garlic mustard, mulberries, lambsquarters and wood sorrel (I called these sour clovers growing up) in neighborhoods where I used to live! Her book includes helpful recipes (what the heck do you do with wood sorrel after all), and our discussion helped inspire me to notice the food growing all around me (turns out wild fennel is everywhere in SF!).
As I continue my journey into sustainable eating, my latest quest has been eating seasonally. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a forager myself (though next time I’m in Brooklyn I will be on the hunt for field garlic!), but I know that delicious things grow in my Bay Area community year round, and that I want to eat them. Since June, I’ve limited my fruit and veggie purchases to farmer’s markets, because the food tastes better. I will admit, I cheated a few weeks ago, missing the blueberries of June, and bought organic Oregon blueberries at Whole Foods. They were disgusting. Missing was the juicy sweet and tart flavors of my summer blueberries, and all that remained were these mealy eyeballs that I couldn’t even feed to the dog. Goodbye store-bought fruit, I now know what fruit is supposed to taste like.
If you’re interesting in foraging: read Eating Wilding, and see if your city or town offers foraging classes or food walks, like this one at Forage SF. Even if foraging isn’t for you, try eating more fruit and vegetables from your local farmer’s market – I promise you will not be disappointed. Yes, you may be stuck with squash all winter, but raspberries in December don’t taste good, so why eat them? Here’s to happy and sustainable eating!