Ava Chin grew up and Queens and has been foraging for the better part of her life. In her new memoir (and guide) "Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal," Chin explains how foraging has been a part of her life, and helped her to understand and appreciate the changes it brings you.
We asked Chin, a CUNY professor who also writes about foraging for The New York Times and other publications, to share with us five wild plants that can be foraged right now in New York City and to lend her thoughts on how to prepare them.
Chin will be doing a reading from "Eating Wildly" on Thursday, June 5 at Word Up! Community Bookstore in Washington Heights at 7 p.m. Other food writers will also be reading from their books.
"Wood sorrel resembles clover, but this delicate-looking plant with heart-shaped leaves packs a lemony-punch. It’s high in oxalic acid, which is what makes it taste so citrusy, and is best placed fresh on fish or salads (wood sorrel disintegrates at the slightest touch of heat). It prefers the partial shade and is often found on the edges of clearings and under other edible weeds." (Credit: FLICKR/ ANITA)
"The bane of many lawn-owners existence, most folks can recognize dandelions’ “tooth-shaped” leaves and yellow blossoms. I’ve been eating them since I was a kid growing up in Flushing, Queens where they grew all across our playing fields. Bitter dandelion leaves mellow out nicely when sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. The flowers can be rendered into jellies or sweet cordial wines." (Credit: FLICKR/ JOLLY_JANNER)
"I had my first Popeye moment with lambsquarters when a friend served it for me for lunch in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Spinachy-tasting lambsquarters outspinaches spinach in terms of pure green flavor. Lambsquarters grows throughout the five boroughs, from the Upper East Side to the Staten Island Greenbelt." (Credit: FLICKR/ SARAH GILBERT)
"Violets (Viola sororia), not to be confused with the houseplant African violets, have beautiful heart-shaped leaves and purple flowers. You can find them flourishing along lawns, parks and college campuses. The first time I got craftsy and sugared violets was a complete disaster! I didn’t put enough egg wash and sugar on them, so they disintegrated within a few hours. My advice? Use lots of egg and sugar to coat the entire blossom."
"Humans have been eating amaranth since pre-Columbian times (Amaranthus retroflexus is native to the Americas). It’s such a popular vegetable around the world that it’s a staple of the Mediterranean diet, where cooks use it in pies, salads and side-dishes. In the Caribbean, they call it callaloo and cook it with fish. I’ve seen Amaranth aka pigweed flourishing in backyards, college campuses and tree pits across the city. It even grows outside of the Greek Consulate." (Credit: AVA CHIN)