Herbal Sea Salt Master Recipe: aka Herbal Finishing Salts

Herbal Sea Salt Master Recipe: Herbal Finishing Salts Makes about 3/4 cup

These zesty, pungent herbal salts can replace plain salt in many recipes and are especially tasty on salads, cooked veggies, grains, eggs, fish, roasted meats, popcorn, bread, etc. To make a delectable dipping sauce for bread pour 2 tablespoons of cold-pressed olive oil into a small saucer and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of Herbal Sea Salt.

Read More

Mint Lassi Master Recipe

Mint Lassi Master Recipe

Makes 16 oz

Enjoy a traditional East Indian drink that is refreshing, cooling, tart, and slightly salty. It’s also full of hydrating electrolytes. On hot summer days when I work in the gardens and sweat profusely, nothing feels more replenishing.

Read More


OSTRICH FERN = FIDDLEHEADS Here I hold the dry and spent fertile frond of the ostrich fern, the delectable fiddlehead we gather in early spring. Scientifically named Matteuccia struthiopteris, this native American perennial sprouts two kinds of fronds, the non-edible spore producing one I hold here, and the luxurious (though sterile and now gone) green one that can reach five feet in height, and whose new spring growth produces the fiddleheads we gather. 

Read More

Callaloo = Amaranth = ΒΛΗΤΑ

Callaloo = Amaranth: Just passed a store in Astoria Queens, NY where callaloo was for sale among other fresh produce. Love seeing wild greens as part of the food offerings in urban settings.

Read More

Mayonnaise Master Recipe & All Its Herbal Variations

I find it extremely satisfying to blend up my own mayonnaise and I especially love to include the seasonal flavors of the field. Today's version is made with 3 tablespoons of wild bergamot leaves and 3 field garlic bulbets that have just emerged, making it even more delicious! I use whole eggs in this batch resulting in a lighter, thinner mayo. I am excited to share my master recipe here with you and hope that it will unleash your mayo-making talent. Please let me know how your mayonnaise turns out in the comments. 

Read More

Elderberry Syrup: An Immune Booster

Elderberry Syrup Master Recipe Makes about 20 oz

Flavorful and sweet, elderberry syrup can be added to smoothies, herbal teas, mixed drinks, and fermented sodas, or diluted into hot water or cold sparkling water. For a visually appealing and tasty treat, drizzle this dark magenta syrup onto yogurt, ice cream, custard or cheesecake. It also tastes great spread on pancakes and waffles, or used as cookie fillings. 

Elderberry syrup can also be taken straight by the tablespoonful for nutritional and therapeutic support. Elderberries are rich in iron and bioflavonoids, and are an immune system tonic. They are helpful in preventing infections such as colds and flus; however, if already infected, they help us move through the illness.

To help with proper identification and harvest, please see our illustration below.

Elderberry identification page from our Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender. Book link:  http://bit.ly/1Auh44Q

Elderberry identification page from our Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender. Book link: http://bit.ly/1Auh44Q


  • 4 cups fully ripe elderberries, stems removed (weighs about 23 oz). When fresh elderberries are not available, I use frozen ones.

  • 1½ cups maple syrup or honey (I prefer maple syrup as I usually don’t cook honey.)

Optional ingredients:

  • Add one or a combination of the following freshly ground, dried spices: 1 teaspoon aniseed, ¼ teaspoon ginger, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, or 1/8 teaspoon cardamom

  • 1 lime, zest and juice

Elderberries and maple syrup simmering on the stove.

Elderberries and maple syrup simmering on the stove.

  1. Mix elderberry, sweetener and optional ingredients in a nonreactive 2–3 quart pot, cover, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  2. Remove lid from pot and gently simmer mixture for 5 more minutes.

  3. Remove from heat and purée mixture with a hand-held immersion blender or food processor.

  4. If you would like the syrup to be smooth and seed-free (which I recommended), strain it through a fine-mesh sieve.

  5. Use right away. Or, to store, pour hot syrup into very clean glass jars, cap with tight fitting lids, label, leave out at room temperature to cool, then store in the refrigerator where they should keep for at least three months. For longer storage, freeze the syrup or seal in a hot-water bath.

Elderberry syrup in jars.

Elderberry syrup in jars.

Recipe excerpt from our Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by (me) Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender. Book link: http://bit.ly/1Auh44Q


Wild Grape Leaves: Harvesting & Stuffing

There's an exciting bounty to be had in turning wild grape leaves into delicious, nutritious food. Typically used for wrapping around savory rice fillings, with or without ground meat, grape leaves can also be wrapped around other foods such as fish, meatloaf, and more. In our area we are lucky to have an abundance of wild grape vines that appreciate pruning, and in return they reward us with a substantial supply of leaves. Cultivated grapes grown without chemicals provide another great source for leaves; perhaps a grape grower in your area will kindly share some leaves from mid spring through early summer pruning (usually they throw these away). Cook them up fresh and preserve some by marinating, dry canning, freezing, or lacto-fermenting so you can enjoy them throughout the year. You'll find detailed instructions below.

Grape leaves fall into the category of “wrap cookery,” along with cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and other wild leaves. Essentially any leaf that is tasty and tender yet strong enough to wrap around food falls into this category.

Harvesting Tips for Grape Leaves

  • The best time to harvest grape leaves is from mid spring through early summer, when leaves are not too tough and leathery but large enough to effectively wrap around food.
  • Look for newer leaves that are lighter green and tender, found towards the tip of the vine.
  • The best size leaf to harvest is about the size of an average lady’s open hand, roughly measuring 5–6 inches wide; any smaller and they are too difficult to stuff; any larger and they tend to be too tough for eating. Also, choose intact leaves, minimizing ones with bug damage.
  • Remove the leaf stem completely or it can puncture the leaf when rolling or while in storage.
  • Store fresh grapes leaves as you would other leafy greens, such as kale or lettuce, by putting them into a plastic bag placed in the refrigerator, where they will keep for at least two weeks.
  • 1 lb of fresh grape leaves, appropriate for stuffing, equals approximately 200–225 leaves.]
Wild Grape Leaf page from our book   Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook   by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender

Wild Grape Leaf page from our book Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender

How to Stuff Grape Leaves

1. Spread grape leaf flat on a plate, unfolding any wrinkles. Face shiny side (the upper side of the leaf) down, with the stem remnant (leaf base) closest to you, and leaf tip pointing away from you. When using frozen or dry canned leaves, sprinkle them with a little water if they seem dry and brittle.

2. Place stuffing onto the lower center of the leaf, about an inch away from the leaf base.

·       If using a raw grain stuffing, use a heaping teaspoon per leaf.

·       If using a raw grain and meat stuffing, use a heaping teaspoon per leaf.

·       If using a raw meat stuffing, use a heaping tablespoon per leaf.

·       If using a cooked stuffing, use a heaping tablespoon per leaf.

3. Fold the leaf base (the edge closest to you) up over the stuffing and then fold the leaf sides toward the center, encasing the stuffing. Continue to roll toward the leaf tip, tucking the leaf sides into the center as you turn, rolling until the leaf tip is incorporated into the final cylindrical shape.

4. Stuffed grape leaves made with marinated leaves and a precooked filling may be eaten right away; ones made with raw filling and leaves need to be cooked and should be placed seam-side down in the cooking vessel to prevent them from unraveling. 

Spread out on the plate is a marinated leaf I picked and preserved in spring. It awaits a precooked filling. Below is the jar the leaf was pulled out of. I placed a 100 or so grape leaves in this wide-mouth pint mason jar and covered them with a marinade made of olive oil, vinegar, and sea salt. FYI, leaves were first blanched before marinating. The jar, tightly covered, was kept in my refrigerator. I can't say for how long since I forgot to label the jar. Was it last spring or two springs ago? Note to self: label all concoctions. In any case the leaves are still in excellent condition and ready to be filled.

To stuff marinated grape leaves, choose a precooked stuffing such as the Grain Salads (p. 136), Grain Pilaf Variations (p.  138), or Bean Salads (p. 139). Naturally, part of the fun is to experiment and invent fillings to suit your fancy. Fill each grape leaf with a heaping tablespoon of stuffing and, if needed, refer to How to Stuff Grape Leaves above. Note: 3 cups of cooked stuffing fills about 32 grape leaves. The stuffing I made yesterday (pictured in the photo below) is a winter variation made with brown rice (soaked and cooked), parsley, almonds (soaked, dried, and lightly roasted), raisins, scallions, dried peppermint, olive oil, vinegar, sea salt and pepper.

Grape leaf with a heaping tablespoon of filling placed onto the lower center of the leaf, about an inch away from the leaf base, ready to be rolled. 


All rolled up!

A plate full of stuffed grape leaves ready for the Valentine's day party. More will be served today at the neighborhood seed-sharing gathering. 

American Persimmon & Whiskey Infused Morello Cherry Enrobed in Bittersweet Chocolate

A visual journey — playing with unusual fruit and chocolate to create tasty treats for the holidays. 

American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) — a native American winter fruit, picked today on Dec. 10th in the Mid-Hudson Valley of NY. Right now they taste like gooey carmel meets Barhi date in the house of apricot.

On the plate with the American persimmons are Morellos, a black sour cherry we picked in July. We put the cherries up in whiskey and maple syrup. The liquid is poured off and sipped as a cordial and the cherries are eaten straight or coated in chocolate. 

Here is one of the jars we put up back in July.  (The photo was taken today.) The cherries are steeping (also referred to as macerating) in the liquid and left at room temperature. No heating or canning used here, just time. When making this, the ratio of cherries, to sweetener, to liquor can vary depending on ones taste buds. However one rule needs to be followed: the concoction needs to contains at least 20% alcohol when finished, also referred to as 40 proof. This amount of alcohol preserves the mixture. You can have a higher alcohol content if you like, but not lower, or funky things can happen.

I use organic bittersweet chocolate dollops with a 67% cacoa content that I buy at my Natural Foods Coop in bulk. I gently warm the chocolate in a double boiler, just enough to melt it. Caution: don't over heat the chocolate; proceed slowly and gently.

Tim is holding the persimmon by its calyx and dipping it into the chocolate.

American persimmon enrobed in chocolate.

American persimmon enrobed in chocolate.

Once dipped, the fruit is cooled by placing it in the refrigerator, freezer or the chilly outdoors until the chocolate hardens. 

The platter contains American persimmons and whiskey infused Morello cherries enrobed in bittersweet chocolate.

The platter contains American persimmons and whiskey infused Morello cherries enrobed in bittersweet chocolate.

Time to go to the potluck with our platter of unusual fruits dressed in chocolate. Note: make sure to warn folks about the seeds!