A Walk on the Wild (Edibles) Side


Illustration by Becca Stadtlander from “Salad From the Sidewalk,” the illustrated accompaniment to this column.

When I went foraging with Philip Stark and Tom Carlson for what became the first of the California Matters series of videos, I had an idea of what to expect. I spent a lot of time in Vermont in the ’70s and, armed with Euell Gibbons’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus, I learned about eating dandelion leaves, roots, and the base where they met, as well as crowns and even the little balls of unbloomed flowers (actually the best part, sautéed). I learned, too, about milkweed, a plant that can be eaten at several stages.

Most of the other ostensibly easy-to-find plants, however, remained elusive, largely because I found books inadequate for identification purposes and I had no guide – I was on my own. (I was finally shown wild asparagus by Lidia Bastianich in Istria, Croatia, 30 years later.)


Looking Back: Grow-Your-Own

Whether you’re cooking it, eating it, growing it, or reading about it, food brings people together. Welcome to #BittmanTopics: a place where we can all share ideas about a different food-related topic each month. In case you missed the first installment, here’s how it works—and check the archives for past months’ conversations.


“Inspiration today brought to you by #vegetables. Go to the #farmersmarket. Fall in love. Take something home you’ve never tried before.” –@melinahammer

At first, grow-your-own suggests gardening—and it seems we’re all either gardeners or one degree of separation from one—but this month, we also talked about foraging, raising animals, and eating locally in a broader sense. In response to my Times op-ed “Let’s Help Create More Farmers,” I heard from many who agree we need to create new policies that make small farms more financially viable and had great ideas about how to make that happen. Also this month, my web series, California Matters, launched with an episode about urban foraging, and you all helped ring it in with a tweetchat. We’ll be having another one next month, so stay tuned.

Here’s just a handful of my favorite comments and photos that you sent me in June. Even though the month’s over, keep tagging your photos, recipes, and relevant articles with #BittmanTopics so I can follow along:


“Leslie and Doug of Peach Mountain. Heirloom organics and garden starts. #bittmantopics #ysgram #mvohgram” –@thevillagegravy

“We need land and farmers, but we need markets and a form of shared risk. Anyone who contributes to a food hub should be eligible for the loan forgiveness-including those who market, distribute, promote, prevent loss, and process excess into value-added products that also support the local farmer. CSA member fees should be tax deductible. Small farmers have to be supported once they get the land.” –Carolyn Hennes, Facebook


“You guys! We got some goats! Very exciting day here at @skylinefarm ” –@halflighthoney

“I have been growing my own vegetables for decades. When we first moved here in the “country” area of San Diego County, we also raised our own animals- it was the time of people returning to Mother Earth (early 1970s). We chose to live here so we could give our children a taste of what this type of life where we were responsible for much of what we ate. We are still here and still have chickens for eggs in addition to a very large garden. I can much of our produce for winter in things like pickles, roasted tomato sauce, salsa, jams and marmalade.I am a college professor with a degree in home economics. I have run a culinary arts program and taught adults in cooking classes much of my adult life. Food is an essential part of my life. I try to pass on this love and caring to my friends, family and students. Currently I am teaching canning classes at Olivewood Gardens for women whose first language is Spanish. Over the many years I have tried to improve my gardening methods. I learned about composting from Olivewood Gardens and have had great success with that and using the manure from my chickens. Even in the drought, I can have my garden because I have taken measures to conserve everywhere else in order to grow this food.” –Cathie Roberson, markbittman.com


“@markbittman is doing a chat on foraging and gardening (and eating!) at 3ET. Here’s our herb garden. #BittmanTopics” –@ourdailybowl

I asked on Facebook what you’re all growing and you responded with full inventories of, really, everything under the sun: from tomatoes and herbs to cucuzza (“squash that looks like and grows as big as a baseball bat,” according to Marily Cura) and sea buckthorn. It seems to be growing season nearly everywhere—in driveways and studio apartments, on fire escapes and balconies, from the Bay Area to Scandinavia.

“[My garden] is not so much a ‘what’ but a ‘where’. While I fought it all the way, my husband convinced me to move the garden right outside the kitchen door here in Iowa. (It had been at the end of our lot.) I can’t believe how much it’s influencing what we eat. I get up in the morning and notice that the chard or a pepper or the dill or the beans are growing, and then I know what we’ll have for dinner.” –Kendra Hanzlik


“figs and herbs aplenty at @esynola. really hoping i manage to keep the garden this beautiful (and alive) all summer… #BittmanTopics #gardening #gardeneducation” –@remyrobert

“Delicata squash, heirloom tomato, microgreens, chard, sugar snap peas, nasturtium, lettuce, basil, parsley, hardy kiwi vine, blueberries. – All in a limited .04 acre proportion, tucked in among the perennials garden and in pots and trays. The more I try the more space I find. Maybe going more vertical next year!” –Eleni Triant LaSenna

“I dug up the front lawn of my rental home in a small town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and created a large spiral garden. This year 4 families are enjoying the produce..Tomatoes, medicinal herbs, jing and burgundy okra, sunflowers, cocozelle, patty pan, kabocha and rampicante squash, scarlet kale, french gherkins, amaranth, shiso, rhubarb, japanese eggplant, beets, carrots, heirloom tomatoes, heirloom beans, cabbage, urfa biber peppers and so on…milkweed, bee balm and other flowers mixed in for the pollinators.” –Annette Abigail Wells

“Hakarei turnips. That and love are all we need.” –Elizabeth Meister


“Salad ready purslane #foraging #volunteer #bittmantopics” –@thevillagegravy

Looking Back: Grilling on #BittmanTopics


“The summer grilling season has started! Baby back ribs with tangy BBQ sauce and grilled veggies” -@traceysivak‘s Memorial Day dinner

introduced #BittmanTopics as a way to share ideas about what—and how—we’re eating, and this month, we focused on grilling. Many of you were proud to announce you have year-round cookouts while others in colder climes are just now getting back to the fire. Most of us associate grilling with meat, but throwing some vegetables on the barbecue is actually a great way to practice “less-meatarianism”:—I shared my recipe for Mexican-style corn and you all shared your own favorites here and onFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Below are some things you had to say and eat last month—check back tomorrow for June’s topic.

Grilled wings by my friend and colleague Kerri Conan: "The rub: Equal parts sumac and pimentón, less ground garlic and chili powder, salt and pepper; indirect fire."

Grilled wings by my friend and colleague Kerri Conan: “The rub: Equal parts sumac and pimentón, less ground garlic and chili powder, salt and pepper; indirect fire.”

The question of the month: “Currently raising my own pork, lamb and beef, looking for best all purpose combo grill/smoker – suggestions?” –@vpfarming
One colleague, Daniel Meyer, built his own smoker, which worked well until it burnt to a crisp. We like Webers, Big Green Eggs, and old-school campfires. But I’m eager to hear what you all use.

“My grill never hibernates.” -Kathleen Harold, Facebook

“Hibernate? Nay!! I grill year round. Yet another gift of So Cal life.” -Rachel Wooster Gangsei, Facebook

“Grilling in celebration of spring,” from @cherthollow Farm. That’s goat on the kebabs!

“Grilling in celebration of spring,” from @cherthollow Farm. That’s goat on the kebabs!

“Made Grilled Broccoli With Chipotle Lime Butter for some friends a few weeks back. There was a look of despair on one guests face when I revealed there was not enough for seconds…” -Phil, markbittman.com

“I enjoy grilling Veggies after marinading and rubbing them with Himalayan pink salt, fresh napoletano basil, savory, lemon juice and Fresh lime basil.” -Bonnie Hiniker, Facebook

“Lamb chops coming off the grill.” -@thevillagegravy

“Lamb chops coming off the grill.” -@thevillagegravy

This Month on #BittmanTopics: Grilling

Whether you’re cooking it, eating it, growing it, or reading about it, food brings people together. Welcome to #BittmanTopics: a place where we can all share ideas about a different food-related topic each month. In case you missed the first installment, here’s how it works, and here’s what we talked about in April.

Photo by Francesco Tonelli for the New York Times

Photo by Francesco Tonelli for the New York Times

For many of us, May is a transitional month: it starts as spring and ends around Memorial Day, often with heat and humidity. Grills are coming out of hibernation; I’d like to hear what you’re doing about that.

There is nothing more iconic than the burger, and there’s no denying that the grilled burger is pretty tasty. But there are lots of ways to venture beyond the basic, whether you’re doing it for taste or because the true cost of a cheeseburger is so high. You don’t even need meat: I’ve been doing the less-meatarian thing for a while now (and even wrote a book on it), and most of these 101 fast recipes for grilling are vegetarian. Have a look.

Photo by Sam Kaplan for the New York Times

Photo by Sam Kaplan for the New York Times

Meanwhile, what’s your favorite—or most unexpected—thing to throw on the grill? How do you cook vegetables outside? Do you cut back on meat when you’re grilling, or go (forgive me) whole hog? Whether you’re a grillmaster or a first-timer, join us this month on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or in the comments below with #BittmanTopics. And keep an eye out for details about a tweetchat, which I’ll be hosting later this month thanks to Natalie Shrock’s suggestion on Facebook.

Going Vegan, if Only for a Day

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 9.32.18 AMIt’s not worth trying to persuade anyone to become vegan, for a couple of very good reasons: one, it’s a losing battle, and two, it’s far from certain that a diet with no animal products is best for everyone. It’s increasingly evident, however, that a part-time vegan diet — one that emphasizes minimally processed plant food at the expense of everything else — is the direction that will do the most to benefit human health, increase animal welfare and reduce environmental impact. The remaining challenge, an undeniably big one, is to figure out how to make such a diet, which you might also call “flexitarian,” the standard.

My own diet, which I call Vegan Before 6 (and wrote a book about), is one way of tackling part-time veganism, but it isn’t the only way. An intelligent adaptation of the Mediterranean diet, one of the popular “fast today, feast tomorrow” diets or even a so-called paleo diet — one that stresses vegetables rather than animal products (our great ancestors, after all, were gatherer-hunters who saw meat not as routine but as an occasion to feast) — can put you on the right track.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Vegan

What Can’t You Make With Chickpeas?

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 10.06.13 AMI’m partial to chickpeas — or garbanzo beans, if you prefer — and not because they were among the first legumes I ever ate. (My mother would open a can and put them out at parties, with salt and pepper; you can do better than that. Sorry, Mom.) They have what to me is an irresistibly robust and nutty flavor, and a texture that can run from crunchy to tender.

In addition to canned, you may see fresh chickpeas; peel them and cook them quickly, as if they were favas or peas. Increasingly you can find chickpea flour, also called besan or gram flour, in Indian markets, where it’s most common, though it’s also becoming more popular as a flour substitute for the gluten-intolerant.

But dried is the most common form. Dried chickpeas take longer to cook than other beans (two hours is a likely cooking time); use enough water, and the process is stress-free. One major benefit to cooking chickpeas yourself — aside from the superior flavor and texture — is that the water you cook them in becomes particularly rich and flavorful by the time they’re done. Save it for soups like the cold one here, which is a refreshing riff on hummus.

Read the rest of this article, here

Posted in Recipes, Vegan

Healthy, Meet Delicious

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 10.21.27 AM

There was a time when few of us thought about what we ate, but that’s been turned upside down since the reigning wisdom first decried salt, then cholesterol, then saturated fat, then almost all fat, then red meat, then carbohydrates and so on. Recent culprits include so many foods and foodlike substances that at least twice a week someone asks me: “What’s left to eat? I feel like nothing is safe.”

Before the end of innocence, when hyperprocessed food dominated the diet, we might eat a breakfast of Pop-Tarts or another sugary pastry, followed by a lunch of burgers, fries and a shake, and a dinner of meat-laden pizza, and feel not even a twinge of guilt. Now, almost nothing can be eaten without thinking twice.

Read the rest of this article here.

Posted in Food Politics, Vegan

More on Milk

Not surprisingly, experiences like mine with dairy, outlined in my column of two weeks ago, are more common than unusual, at least according to the roughly 1,300 comments and e-mails we received since then. In them, people outlined their experiences with dairy and health problems as varied as heartburn, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, eczema, acne, hives, asthma (“When I gave up dairy, my asthma went away completely”), gall bladder issues, body aches, ear infections, colic, “seasonal allergies,” rhinitis, chronic sinus infections and more. (One writer mentioned an absence of canker sores after cutting dairy; I realized I hadn’t had a canker sore — which I’ve gotten an average of once a month my whole life — in four months. Something else to think about.)

Although lactose intolerance and its generalized digestive tract problems are well documented, and milk allergies are thought to affect perhaps 1 percent of the American population, the links between milk (or dairy) and such a broad range of ailments has not been well studied, at least by the medical establishment.  

Yet if you speak with people who’ve had these kinds of reactive problems, it would appear that the medical establishment is among the last places you’d want to turn for advice. Nearly everyone who complained of heartburn, for example, later resolved by eliminating dairy, had a story of a doctor (usually a gastroenterologist) prescribing a proton pump inhibitor, or P.P.I., a drug (among the most prescribed in the United States) that blocks the production of acid in the stomach.


Read the rest of this column here.
Posted in Vegan

Got Heartburn?

In the wake of my column about dairy last weekend, a half-dozen or so of my friends and relatives have gone off dairy to try to conquer chronic heartburn; the success rate seems to be around one-third, which is pretty impressive. But I’m wondering how many of you have experience with dairy and heartburn or other chronic conditions, and whether you’re willing to share your stories. If so, please email me at dairy.nyt@gmail.com. I’m going to follow up with a column next week. (I won’t use anything beyond the most general information without clearing with you first, but please make sure to email me from a valid email account.)

Posted in Vegan