Foraged Flavor: Eat Well From Your Backyard

I finally have a backyard after more than 15 years of city apartment living. My yard even backs up to a small but lush wooded area, which I’ve enjoyed from a safe distance because I’ve forgotten how to identify poison ivy. But one peek inside Foraged Flavor by Tama Matsuoka Wong had me traipsing along the perimeter hoping to spot patches of edible plants with fantastical names like mugwort or bee balm.

The book is more than just an encyclopedia of edible plants; it’s a curated guide to wild plants that are delicious enough to be served at one of the country’s top restaurants. Wong, you see, is the official “forager” for chef Daniel Boulud’s New York restaurant Daniel, where she works with chef de cuisine Eddy Leroux, the book’s co-author, to bring the plants she forages onto the menu. They narrowed the book’s focus to 71 edible plants that can be found around the country and include simple recipes that highlight each – like Wild Garlic Greens and Potato Pancakes or Sheep Sorrel Risotto – organized by season.

While the plants I found around my yard didn’t match any in the book, I’m not giving up. Wong writes that the plants growing in an area can change every two weeks. So I’m going to continue to examine the plants around me; after all, dinner may be waiting. In the meantime, here is an appetizer recipe from Foraged Flavor that uses amaranth leaves. More commonly known for its nutritious, edible seeds, amaranth’s leaves are also high in vitamins A and C. Here are some photos to help identify amaranth. Happy foraging!

Amaranth and Feta Phyllo Triangles
Serves 4; makes 8 triangles

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 ounces (2 cups packed) amaranth leaves, roughly chopped
1 to 11⁄2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, to taste
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
2 large eggs
4 (16 x 12-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Pour off half of it and set aside. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the amaranth, red pepper flakes, 2 generous pinches of salt, and 1/4 cup water. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the feta and eggs and mix to combine.

3. Lay one of the sheets of phyllo dough on a smooth work surface. Cut the sheet in half so it becomes an 8 x 12-inch rectangle. Lightly brush the top surface of the rectangle with the reserved melted butter, then fold it in half so it becomes a double-layered 4 x 12-inch sheet with the buttered parts on the inside. Divide the amaranth into 8 equal portions (about 3 tablespoons each). Place one portion on the bottom left corner of the phyllo, 1 inch from the end. Fold the corner up over the filling into a triangle shape. Press down to seal. Continue to fold up the sheet as you would fold a flag. Press the end to seal. Brush the top of the triangle with melted butter and sprinkle with grated Parmesan, if desired. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining phyllo sheets.

4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Serve warm or let cool and then freeze. To reheat, defrost on the baking sheet and then bake.

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