Wisconsin Public Radio recently aired a lovely feature in their ongoing “Wisconsin Life” series focused on watercress. As their Tumblr describes, “Carpets of watercress cover many Wisconsin streams and springs in the spring. The tender green leaves are a bright and nutritious taste of the season if you know how and where to find it. Dani Lind and Erika Janik take us watercress hunting in the Driftless area.” Check out the audio story as well as some lovely pictures at Wisconsin Life’s site.
For more on harvesting wild watercress, see this nice article (from 2008, but still fully relevant) by Karen Herzog for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It features the foraging of UW-Madison paleontology instructor Joe Skulan. As Herzog writes,
Wild watercress any time of year is more flavorful than supermarket watercress, Skulan adds. “It’s like supermarket tomatoes versus ‘real’ tomatoes. There’s no comparison.”
Winter watercress also is curiously fragrant.
“Everything’s more intense in the winter,” explains L’Etoile sous chef Pete Kelly. “Like spinach and cold-weather vegetables, winter watercress tends to be sweeter. It doesn’t look as good as it does in the spring, when it stretches to the light. But it tastes great.”
The title of this post comes from this recent piece in The New Yorker by Jane Kramer. (As of this writing, the article is not yet hidden behind their pay wall, so non-subscribers should read it while you can!) Kramer recounts several months of her adventures searching for food with some experienced foragers. Her many interesting finds include fennel, wild asparagus, and crespina in Italy; stinging nettles, yarrow leaves, and pea plants in England; and rose-hip berries, beach grass, and sea lettuce in Denmark.
The latter were found and sampled with renowned chef René Redzepi. Despite his restaurant Noma having been named Best Restaurant in the World for the second year in a row (in a flattering but not-unproblematic ranking), Redzepi comes across here and elsewhere as a thoughtful, passionate, engaging, and eminently likeable guy. For more on Redzepi and Noma, head to NPR for an interview that followed the publication of his cookbook, or check out the wonderful video below from Phaidon Press, publisher of Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine.
Eating healthful, local produce can seem like something privileged folks do, and for good reason. Compared to products made with heavily subsidized corn and soy, or cheap-labor produce picked at the behest of far-off corporations, local veggies, fruits, and animal products can come with a higher price tag that can be hard to manage for folks who are struggling economically. Felisa Rogers had that opinion, until her finances got so tight that foraging the countryside around Seattle became a way to feed herself and her husband. Check out her story at Salon.
Wisconsin Public Radio has been running a wonderful series of pieces called “Wisconsin Life.” Today they aired an interesting story about wild berries, noting that the berries we know and love in the U.S. are the ones that the Europeans who came here centuries ago knew and loved. Most berries native to North America are seriously overlooked these days.
More information about ground cherries can be found in this helpful PDF prepared by a great Madison-area CSA, Harmony Valley Farm. I wonder if there’ll be any ground cherries at the farmers’ market this fall?