Red Buds, Spring Onions and the Fuss about Foraging

The forsythia may be blooming, but the edible flower we’re eying this May Day is Eastern red bud. With wild comestibles popping up all over, our current issue includes two impassioned pieces about the pleasures and pain of foraging foods on the East End.

The first comes from a reader, Carrie Wood, who farms on Shelter Island. She questions the accuracy and honesty of some statements made in our fall 2012 story (“The Anti-Restaurant”) on the Sayville-based popup restaurant group Lost and Found. In response to the chefs’ boast about the rarity of their all-local menu—Wood notes that “producing a totally local menu for sale to the public is a near impossibility”–and that Lost and Found isn’t the only restaurant group aspiring to this. “Yes, there will always be frauds in the world, but educating the public to recognize what they are eating and to ask where it came from is the way to proceed.” Wood is a fervent believer in the power of local and foraged foods; she grows and enjoys them herself, although she cautions to know what you’re picking and to beware overharvesting. “I am hopeful that chefs Doug, Kyle and Dan agree with me when I say that I don’t wish to see the last beach plum preserved under glass in a museum.”

And, in “The Accidental Forager,” Joanne Pateman visits with several of our region’s foragers–amateur and professional, budding and veteran. Pateman gathers plants with the chef at First and South in Greenport, head of sales at Lenz Winery and Josephine Smith of the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center, among others, and finds that the East End is blessed with a bounty of wild edibles throughout the growing season (wild onions are popping up in virtually every lawn and field margin right now), that avid foragers have honed their craft with the help of friends and neighbors, and that people forage because the harvest is so darn fresh.