396: Marie Viljoen on Wild Inspired Cuisine.

Incorporating wild ingredients into every day and special occasion fare.

Marie is a celebrated New York City forager, gardener, cook and author who has loved edible plants since her childhood in South Africa.  She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and leads acclaimed seasonal wild plant walks through NYC.

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In Marie’s new book Forage, Harvest, Feast, there is a groundbreaking collection of nearly 500 wild food recipes and features hundreds of color photographs as well as cultivation tips for plants easily grown at home. This cookbook is destined to become a standard reference for any cook wanting to transform wildcrafted and homegrown ingredients into exceptional dishes, spices, and drinks. 

In This Podcast:

Her curiosity, her love of gardening, and her creativity in the kitchen, come together beautifully and for our benefit when Marie Viljoen compiled recipes for her new cookbook.  She shares how she moved from gardening in 66 square feet to foraging all over New York City.  If you are ever in her city, you will want to take a foraging walk with her!


Listen in and learn about:

    • Foraging is not the usual career choice of young people
    • Planting her first seeds in her garden in Africa
    • The special parks and wild open spaces in New York
    • How she forages from the green spaces and uses her common sense
    • Her garden has many items that she has cultivated, and she forages there too
    • She uses field guides to help identify plants
    • Tip: take one plant and learn what it looks like at all its stages
    • Food scares in the news are basically coming from packaged foods
    • Her abundant garden in Harlem that was only 400 sq ft
    • Her very prolific blog started as a joke for her cat, then transformed to share her garden with her mom on another continent
    • Being surprised at what may connect with others in her blog
    • Her moleskin notebooks that had a lot of data and no index of the notes
    • Working with Chelsea Green and getting tremendous support
    • One of her favor recipes is Elderberry Syrup, and then a pork pie with elderberry
    • Having a library of flavors in her head and using that to adapt recipes with wild herbs and plants
    • A dozen recipes with purslane
    • Finding a 5 ft plant of American Burnweed and wanting to know what it was
    • Her research that showed early settlers not liking it, but Native Americans using it a lot
    • Education taking place on her foraging walks with picnics afterwards
    • Her experience with a Japanese lady who comes on many of her foraging walks and shares her Japanese food knowledge of plants and dishes

As well as:

Her failure – The time she messed up a precious batch of fermented common milkweed by not tightening the bottles

Her success – The complex vinegar that she made and has become a regular addition to her cooking

Her drive – She is insatiably curious and discovers new things all the time and that drives her to share

Her advice – Go out for a walk, find one interesting plant, take it home and identify it!

Books written by Marie:

Forage, Harvest, Feast: A Wild-Inspired Cuisine

66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life, One Woman, One Terrace, 92 Recipes

Marie’s Book recommendations: 

Billy Joe Tatum’s Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook: An Illustrated Guide to 70 Wild Plants, and over 350 Irresistible Recipes for Serving Them Up

How to reach Marie:

Instagram: @66squarefeet

Blog: 66squarefeet


Note: You can also find these books mentioned above at one of our favorite local independent bookstores and have the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting a small business.

Some of the links in our podcast show notes and blog posts are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase, we will earn a nominal commission at no cost to you. We offer links to items recommended by our podcast guests and guest writers as a service to our audience and these items are not selected because of the commission we receive from your purchases. We know the decision is yours, and whether you decide to buy something is completely up to you. 

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