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.
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 tastes like “sage and rosemary with bitterness,” writes Viljoen, adding that “it is one of the culinary herbs I use routinely at home.”
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.”
“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.”
See more of Viljoen’s recipes for wild foods in our Weeds You Can Eat series, including: