Wild or Cultivated? Both. Also Delicious.

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As a general rule, I try not to review cookbooks until I have owned them for at least a year.  I buy them at retail, paying the same price that my readers will eventually pay, and then I read them, cook from them and think about them.   Many cookbooks that seemed very enticing when I first brought them home are relegated to distant shelves a year later.

This one still has a prominent place at my bedside, which is my favorite place for reading and thinking about food. Chef Emmons  writes about a year that she spent cooking from a wildly varied organic vegetable farm, Eva’s Farm.  This farm seems to be doing on a very large scale what I am trying to do on my property on a very small scale, i.e. there is a little bit of everything and no clear line between the cultivated plants and the wildlings.  Lambsquarters and nettles are given the same culinary consideration as spinach and chard, but there is no particular emphasis on their wildness; they’re just there.  This is absolutely as it should be, in my view. The difference between a cultivated plant and a weed is a rather slight one.

The recipes read as an ongoing series of seasonal improvisations on the level of “see it growing, cook it, eat it.”  They certainly work if you want to follow them closely, but in my view are better read as a vision of the garden through the eye of a cook, who might see infinite possibilities but can only cook one of them at a time. There is an emphasis on frugality but not an obsession with it. The use of herbs in lavish free-form ways is a delightful subtext. The sidebars are full of interesting thoughts about farming, cooking, and just being alive. The recipes include meat and dairy products and, in general, everything that might grow on a vegetable farm or be bartered for.

In brief, I love this book, use it, and recommend it. I put it aside this winter, but when the first greens showed above ground, it was back at my bedside. It looks a bit worn and has a food stain on the cover, which tends to distinguish the cookbooks that I read from the ones that I use.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Heather,

    “See it growing, cook it, eat it”. I love that! We try to do that here when we can. This book sounds like a great read and reference. Thank you for the tip.

    Around here spring has sprung and the Big Leaf maples are blooming. Their flowers are great in salads or as fritters. We have several of these trees and because our property is quite sloped we can easily reach a least some of the blossoms. I love Big Leaf maples. In springtime their flowers are beautiful and tasty. In the summer they provide us with plenty of needed shade. The leaves are gorgeous and golden in the fall and the little maple nuts are also edible, if difficult to prepare. I have also made some truly wonderful maple syrup from their sap in the wintertime. Big Leaf maple – a tree for all seasons 🙂

    Azar

    Reply

    • Posted by wooddogs3 on April 6, 2016 at 11:13 pm

      A true wundertree! We don’t have any maples here in NM, and I miss them. I would love to have something to tap in the winter.
      What else are you seeing and eating in your neck of the woods?

      Reply

      • There are still some young edible dandelions and the bamboo will be coming up soon. The Phyllostachys aureocaulis shoots are supposed to be tender and nice. Maybe that is why the squirrels and the deer always manage to get to them first!

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