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July 31, 2014
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community living

‘Foraging and Feasting’; A new field guide and cookbook

Author Dina Falconi holds a copy of her new book “Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook” at a recent book signing in Livingston Manor, NY.
TRR photo by Isabel Braverman

By Isabel Braverman

At a presentation at Morgan Outdoors in Livingston Manor, NY, author and herbalist Dina Falconi and botanical illustrator Wendy Hollender talked about their new book “Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook.” The 230-page book contains 50 detailed and beautiful illustrations of wild plants and thousands of recipes using the wild plants and others. The presentation and book signing included food made from wild edible plants by Jen McGlashan of Channery Hill Farm in Callicoon Center, NY.

Hanging on the walls of the back room in Morgan Outdoors during the presentation were large prints of the illustrations within the book. Some included dandelion, rose and blueberry highbush. They will be on display until December 30.

The two women started collaborating in the spring of 2009 and in January they launched a Kickstarter campaign; 45 days later they pre-sold almost 3,000 books and raised over $120,000. They founded Botanical Arts Press, which published the book.

Falconi has a garden in Accord, NY, where she “tends or un-tends” the plants. It’s wild and cultivated. In those gardens she teaches herb classes, where students get to meet and see and feel the plants to learn viscerally about what they are and what they used for. They wanted to take this three-dimensional way of learning and translate it to a two-dimensional format—a book. Falconi said in the book, “You could feel as if you were out there with the plants.”

The book is filled with illustrations of and recipes using plants such as burdock, chickweed, filed garlic and flowers. Falconi said, “Part of the theme of my life and this book is to celebrate the things that have been forgotten, encourage the eating of the lost parts.”

The book encourages people to cook and develop culinary technique, but it is simple, or “peasant home-cooking.” It has “master recipes” that are templates so that people can cook from understanding, and once you understand the recipe you can mix and match. “Part of the fun is you have your wild vegetable choices, which are the plants we’re celebrating in the field guide section of the book, but then you also have your cultivated vegetable choices, so you’re not limited,” Falconi said. She tested the recipes 30 or 40 times.

The front part of the book has the illustrations, or “plant maps.” You can study the map and learn about a plant’s habitat, life cycle, size and culinary uses. Falconi said, “We want to articulate the anatomical scientific appropriateness of the plant, not only do we want beauty, but we need it to speak so that it is reflecting the clues that people are going to look for.”

Hollender described her process in creating the botanical illustrations. She usually brings the plants into her studio, fighting the clock to keep the plants from wilting, and looks at every part of the plant as well as using her microscope to get the detailed qualities on to the paper.

When she was learning how to draw plants, she studied at the New York Botanical Gardens. She became interested in drawing plants and she realized, “I needed to live with the plants, instead of living in Manhattan.” She moved to a farm in Accord, not far down the road from Falconi. “I knew you could plant a seed and grow a vegetable,” she said, “but what I didn’t know was the stuff growing in between was almost just as delicious, maybe more nutritious, and a lot easier to grow.”

On the inside cover of Falconi and Hollender’s new book it says, “In Gratitude to the plants!” You can buy the book locally at Morgan Outdoors or online at foragingandfeasting.com, where you will also find more information as well as their entertaining Kickstarter video.