Unlike the many cooks whose love affair with food was sparked by assisting their grandmother in the kitchen, Molly Watson’s culinary passion grew beside her grandmother at the table. Watson, a Minneapolis native, remembers meals at French restaurants and observing her grandmother effortlessly host dinner parties in their Northern Minnesota cabin. Her affinity for food was bolstered by a childhood spent foraging for mushrooms and blueberries. Though at first she pursued academia, earning a Ph.D. in Modern European History at Stanford University, eventually her passion won out and she embarked on a food writing career. Now a San Franciscan, Watson has become an expert in locally sourced food and recently penned her first cookbook, Greens + Grains: Recipes for Deliciously Healthful Meals.
If you were to take a little bit of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, cross it with some of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, and set the story in the fields and parks of New York City, you’d come up with Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal, a touching new memoir by the New York Times “Wild Edibles” columnist Ava Chin. Confronting the demise of a relationship she thought would end in marriage (but instead just ended), and reeling from the loss of her beloved grandmother, Chin takes to the urban forests of New York City, hunting for blackberries, dandelions and wild greens, ultimately finding herself (oh, and a new guy too.)
It’s crazy to think that you can find wildly healthy foods in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park or even your own backyard, but Chin proves it’s easy once you know where (and how) to look. You’ll never stroll through a park again without looking for something to eat growing right beneath your feet. Chin beautifully threads foraging tips and terrific recipes (wild greens pie, field garlic and hummus, and mulberry-balsamic jam) through a heartfelt memoir that is honest, real and inspiring.
You’re a professor of creative writing at the City University of New York. How did you get started foraging?
I was the kind of kid who grew up pulling onion grass from the back courtyard of my apartment building and eating it. I would also go fishing in New York City waters during summer camp and bring the fish home for my family to eat. I loved that kind of thing. But I didn’t start foraging in earnest until I became an adult, and I went on a foraging walk with a naturalist, Wild Man Steve Brill.
St. Patrick’s Day abounds with all things green: Shamrocks, leprechauns and foods of all sorts. With a little addition of green dye, any food can become a part of the Irish celebration: Eggs, cookies, bread or beer. And just as easily, this holiday could turn into a calorie overload.
But amidst the revelry, let’s pause for a moment and consider what foods naturally pay homage to the color of this Irish celebration: Greens! Naturally green foods, like kale, romaine lettuce and Swiss chard offer a bigger nutritional bang for the buck than most other foods. Consider that two cups of spinach (an average serving for a salad) naturally provides:
- More vitamin A than two large carrots
- As much vitamin C as seven to eight lemon wedges
- About 350% of our daily needs of vitamin K, a nutrient vital for blood clotting and wound repair
- More folate than two cups of whole wheat flour
- Almost the same amount of iron as a hamburger
Not only that, it’s also a good source of fiber, calcium, vitamin E, many other B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and zinc. Your body needs all of these nutrients to function properly, and dark leafy greens like spinach allow you to maximize your nutrient intake (i.e. vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.) while minimizing your calorie intake. So just how many calories are in those two cups of fresh spinach? About 14 calories.
I look forward to Tuesday nights like it’s my birthday, only instead of traditional presents I get fruits and vegetables and it happens every week for 6 months and not just once a year. I’m having trouble getting anyone to sing to me each week, but honestly, I don’t really miss it.
You may not know it, but you’ve probably tried mizuna. Commonly found in salad mixes, these feathery leaves are my new favorite salad green. Here’s why you should pick some up at your farmers’ market this weekend.
Photo by Tracy Olson
Admit it, you want to like beets. They’re appearing on restaurant menus everywhere, and those golden and red varieties always call your name at the farmers’ market. Now, if only you knew what to do with them. Well, it’s not as hard as you think to dig into these folate-rich root veggies.