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Plant-Based Diet: Forage, Harvest, Feast Cookbook by Marie Viljoen

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Plant-Based Diet: Forage, Harvest, Feast Cookbook by Marie Viljoen

August 21, 2018

Put mugwort on the menu. (It’s certainly a better place for the invasive perennial weed than in the garden.) If you’re cooking, you can add it to a cocktail (in the form of mugwort liqueur), use it to flavor cured pork jowl, or bake bits of chopped mugwort in shortbread. These and other inventive recipes for wild foods make author Marie Viljoen’s Forage, Harvest Feast: A Wild-Inspired Cuisine the most intriguing new cookbook of the year.

Viljoen is a longtime Gardenista contributor and inveterate New York City–based forager who leads the adventurous on nature hikes in the city’s little-known wilds of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx. Her new cookbook’s photos helpfully include close-ups and detail shots of foliage, stems, and clumps of plants in the wild, to help foragers with identification.

From mugwort, move on to Viljoen’s nearly 500 recipes for 35 other commonly found wild foods—from burdock to knotweed to prickly ash. Here’s a glimpse of what she cooks in her own kitchen in Brooklyn.

Photography by Marie Viljoen, except where noted.

The perfect cocktail for August: The ingredients include black cherry cordial, vermouth, and elderberry gin.
Above: The perfect cocktail for August: The ingredients include black cherry cordial, vermouth, and elderberry gin.

Black cherries taste like “plums meet grapefruit,” reports Viljoen, who suggests visiting “parks and empty lots” (including New York’s Central Park) to harvest fruit from Prunus serotina in late summer, when the clusters of berries turn “plump and black.”

Mugwort shortbread is &#8
Above: Mugwort shortbread is “a regular snack on my wild food walks,” writes Viljoen.

Mugwort tastes like “sage and rosemary with bitterness,” writes Viljoen, adding that “it is one of the culinary herbs I use routinely at home.”

Elderberry syrup is a proven therapy for colds and flus, says Viljoen. Ferment elderberries to make capers with &#8
Above: Elderberry syrup is a proven therapy for colds and flus, says Viljoen. Ferment elderberries to make capers with “the inherent flavor of elderflower cordial, released somehow after two weeks in a light fermenting brine,” writes Viljoen.

Elderberries can be found in summer growing near streams and in fields, writes Viljoen: “I can think of no flavor comparisons for the flowers or fruit; they are unique.”

Mugwort and raspberry liqueurs and more in Marie Viljoen&#8
Above: Mugwort and raspberry liqueurs and more in Marie Viljoen’s kitchen.
Author Viljoen harvests mugwort. Photograph by Vincent Mounier.
Above: Author Viljoen harvests mugwort. Photograph by Vincent Mounier.

“In New York the people who collect mugwort are usually Korean women who use it to make rice dishes and desserts, but mostly medicinally,” writes Viljoen. “It is sometimes sold fresh in bundles on sidewalks in Brooklyn and Queens in neighborhoods with significant Chinese communities.”

 Forage, Harvest Feast: A Wild-Inspired Cuisine is $3
Above: Forage, Harvest Feast: A Wild-Inspired Cuisine is $32.64 from Amazon.
See more of Viljoen’s recipes for wild foods in our Weeds You Can Eat series, including:

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