Posts Tagged Eating Wildly

Cracked: The City’s Micro-Yards

Cracked: The City’s Micro-Yards . . .

Purslane Portrait (NYC 09 2016)

Purslane Portrait
(NYC 09 2016)

Heat waves do not break, or crack. Most linger in an ebb and flow cycle of several oscillations. The chain of days bends rather than breaks and may linger for several warm weather months before an abrupt push of colder autumn air arrives and a new fall pattern takes root.

One city immigrant thrives in the late summer heat and light. This plant slips into a narrow growing place. The most minuscule of front yards, the intersection of sidewalk and foundation.

The city’s micro-yard is a distinct slit of soil, enough to conjure up a plant. The setting conveys little moisture or nutrients. Exposure, whether rain, wind, dog, or human traffic, is often constant.

Purslane is one New York resident that resists and emerges with an appearance of pride. Sprouts in snippets may form a single community chain if left to alone to grow. Many such gatherings follow the intersection of where we live meets where we walk. Manhattan’s entire west side hosts Portulaca oleracea, the purslane much mentioned as cuisine.

Purslane Community (NYC 09 2016)

Purslane Community
(NYC 09 2016)

Central Asia was the more arid land from which this immigrant annual arrived. The semiarid conditions of its origin explain how thin spots of loose soil found among rocks finds a parallel in the big city crack in the masonry.

“(I’m Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement” . . . a song by Duran Duran, a spot where just enough water supports this plant replete with interior moisture. The red stems and teardrop uniform green leaves, fleshy and juiced. A passing glance gives one reminiscences of Grandma’s household jade plant in miniature.

Urban Forager, author Ava Chin, knows from her own experience what has sprouted from Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. I’m sure Queens and The Bronx sustains wild specimens, too. She appreciates the humor in a turn of phrase. One as good as a “From Sidewalk Cracks, a Side Dish” indeed also reinforces the concept of the crack, the often occurring ultimate micro-yard that supports a harvestable, therefore worthy, immigrant wild plant.

The analogy can be extended, if one likes such pursuits.

Ava’s book, Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal, has just been released in paperback. Purslane thrives within its pages as it can be a true vegetable, rightful status for the purslane, which can add viscosity and a tang reminiscent of spinach to a variety of dishes.

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin

Allusion to “Reminiscence” three times in one stretch of prose hints the time must be shifting to the one that often conveys life in that way. Autumn is near, but not quite here. People strive. Wildflowers bloom.

– rPs 09 12-13 2016

Postscript: Read Ava Chin’s recipe for purslane for The New York Times: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/10/urban-forager-from-sidewalk-cracks-a-side-dish/comment-page-1/?_r=0

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Burdock in Bloom

Burdock in Bloom . . .

Blooming Burdock in a Breeze (photo taken 08 12 2014)

Blooming Burdock in a Breeze
(photo taken 08 12 2014)

“Elephant Ears” spoke to a detail everyone pointed out whilst on walks through the leafy city neighborhood of my boyhood. Autumn hikes and winter downhill sled rides encountered “Burrs” on the wool clothing that kept me warm. The plant continues to make its presence known as a sure neighbor.

Today Lesser Burdock is in bloom throughout the region. Attractive stands of Arctium minus, of the family Asteraceae, can be found along the west in Van Cortlandt Park and in Riverside Park and in scattered patches farther south in Manhattan. The latter stands remain lush until gardening companies turn wild plant fields to brown lawn.

No negativity from here shall be introduced to the curating of plants. I do continue to uphold a broader definition than recent standard, as in my lexicon I do include IMMIGRANTS rather than “invasives” or “invasive species” – terms to me that beyond technical definition ring hollow given the diverse people, the first source of all these mixed species, who have also come to populate the Western Hemisphere.

Burdock varieties hail from Continental European sources. The plant lives as a vigorous green, edible when young, with health benefits as a digestive. The innumerable hooked spines of the seed heads, burrs, inspired a Swiss inventor, George de Mestral, to do the studies that resulted in the useful tool we have named Velcro.

The plant rises from a stout central stem that supports lobed ovate leaves that narrow toward the tips, all arranged in a graceful, aesthetically pleasing manner, like draping pachyderm ears. Some leaf parasites often tunnel their way within, leaving topical asymmetrical veination as summer progresses. Flowers appear tight and spiked in a purple to true pink quality akin to thistles. Once browned by the end of the season, seed heads become bunches of burrs on stalks. Animals: birds, and the most prevalent mammal of all, people, when out of doors, all help to spread the Lesser Burdock to a greater range.

A quartet of young "Elephant Ears" (photo taken 08 12 2014

A quartet of young “Elephant Ears”
(photo taken 08 12 2014

Greater hardiness marks this plant’s vitality as well. Ava Chin, author of Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal, describes mingling Burdock with other early winter greens.

But now high summer reigns August. This year’s is damp and cooler, averaging in the eighty degrees Fahrenheit, giving more urban green than on hot, dry years. Burdock is in abundance in this weather. Burdock is in bloom.

Blooming Burdock Bough (photo taken 08 12 2014)

Blooming Burdock Bough
(photo taken 08 12 2014)

– rPs 08 13 2014

Postscript:

Read More About Burdock. “Earthy, Crunchy Burdock” by Ava Chin: The New York Times City Room blog, Urban Forager, 12 18 2010:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/18/urban-forager-earthy-crunchy-burdock/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Wikipedia biography of George de Mestral: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_de_Mestral

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Eating Wildly

Eating Wildly . . .

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin




Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal

By Ava Chin
Hardback, 245 pp.
Simon & Schuster, May 2014

When a writer writes about what she or he knows, the final product – the book – will be at its best if one part art and one part life glued together with a unique experience where the two have met.

Ava Chin, I am happy to report, has succeeded on all counts with her debut; an informative, personable, and innovative memoir released today, May 13, 2014, by Simon & Schuster:

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal

Ava’s botanical journalism has been mentioned several times here at Wildflowers of the West Village. She has returned the favor in kind in her “Urban Forager” column featured in the City Room section of The New York Times. Eating Wildly appropriates parts of that writing project, pairs it with an intimate, at times frank, personal history, one that has flowered into the fruit of a literary urban forger.

Family roots, grounded especially by supportive and culinary grandparents, allowed Ava to grow up as a New Yorker with a contemplative artist’s eye and a sophisticated, yet unpretentious, palate for wild and otherwise regionally-sourced food. This subject she knows, and combined here with her learned writer’s talent for rendering experience in words, the result is a savory read seasoned by some key, occasionally bittersweet, aspects of her own story.

The book begins with a walk, that activity so often entwined like a vine with outdoor exploration. And although she was alone in the living out of that particular autumn afternoon, her retelling guides you like a friend taking your hand and pointing out the details you might otherwise miss. Her specific quest for fresh lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) ended in her being foiled by the late season, yet she was rewarded with a different find earthier in flavor and perhaps even more precious: oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus).

From that poetic opening, graced by symbolism, the reader is introduced to a book structured in sections headed by the four seasons, each of which features a variety of urban plants in starring roles. Enter also the people who helped to shape the writer’s life: a conflicted, sometimes preoccupied mother; a distant, always itinerant father; a companion and kindred spirit who offers support in matters of love and letters.

There are also recipes from Ava’s kitchen that stand the test of taste. One example is Wood Sorrel Micro-Greens, a savory that can be harvested at its peak right now as her book greets the reading public.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Ava was raised in Queens and now centers herself on Staten Island, where she teaches creative writing, but all five boroughs of New York City receive attention on these pages, making this book required reading for naturalists of all shades. A large part of Eating Wildly is dedicated to various edible fungi; mycologists will certainly find ample substance and complete author-reader connection. The life of the urban honeybee is also given its due. This book is a special document of the current state of the city’s wild reported from a gifted first-person perspective and should satisfy anyone interested in the power, beauty, or flavor of plants, those self-sufficient Wildflowers of the West Village that inspire ongoing communion with the green corners of the metropolis.

– rPs 05 13 2014

Postscript: Eating Wildly is available for sale at one of my favorite independents, The Corner Bookstore, located on the southeast corner of 93rd and Madison. Here is a link to the shop’s website: http://cornerbookstorenyc.com/event/ava-chin-reads-from-her-debut-eating-wildly/

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