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January 8, 2020 60 mins

Host Michael Ruhlman speaks w/ chef Matthew Accarrino, doctor Todd Pesek and farmer Nancy MacNamara about foraging, the power of vegetables, hidden complexities, and more.


Accarrino's San Francisco Restaurant SPQR: https://www.spqrsf.com/

Dr. Pesek's book "Eat Yourself Super": https://www.amazon.com/Eat-Yourself-Super-Bite-Time/dp/1614481679

Nancy MacNamara's Honey Locust Pharm House: http://www.honeylocustpharmhouse.com/

Michael Ruhlman's new book "From Scratch": https://www.amazon.com/Scratch-Meals-Recipes-Dozens-Techniques/dp/1419732773

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:11):
Nature grows them and you go get them right. So
that's foraging. But in a way, fishing is foraging. Hunting
is foraging. If you look, this concept of foraging is
all around us. Welcome to From Scratch. My name's Michael Ruhlman,
and I've spent the last twenty years in professional kitchens,
writing about and with the world's best chefs. From Scratch

(00:34):
is a podcast about cooking. In this episode, we'll talk
with one chef and two non chefs about the same theme.
The great thing about the cooking life is that you
never stop learning. In this show, I want to go
to the edges of what I know and then go
beyond together with you, with all chefs, home cooks, and
everyone who cares about food and cooking. Today's theme is foraging.

(01:00):
In this episode we speak with three foragers. A farmer
in Newburgh, New York, a chef in San Francisco who
personally forages for his restaurant, and a medical doctor who
has committed his research and his medical practice to the
study of plants and their culinary and medicinal uses. In

(01:22):
nineteen seven, chef Jean George von g Richton opened his
eponymous restaurant in Manhattan, which received four stars from The
New York Times upon opening. His mandate in opening any
new restaurant in New York City is to give people
something new. One of those new things he did in
the mid nineteen nineties was to find a forager, a

(01:44):
farmer and purveyor who could scour the fields and hills
of the Hudson Valley for as many of the natural
roots and shoots and leaves that he could use in
his kitchen and serve to his customers. The person he
found was Nancy McNamara, the daughter of farmers of Jacksberry Farm.
Vanga Richton would bring to the United States a French

(02:05):
forager named Francois Coupland, who had worked with Michelin Starred
chefs Michelle Bras and Mark Varra. Cooplin knew that this
part of America grew one of the most diverse ecosystems
of edible foods in the world. He helped to train Nancy,
already in natural forager in the myriad plants that grew
naturally throughout the Northeastern United States. When Jean George opened,

(02:28):
all kinds of weeds and groundcover would be on his menu.
Wood sorrel and mug wart, sassafras, ground ivy, nettles, chickweed, yarrow, amaranth,
lamb's quarters, the seeds of Queen Anne's lace, and mustard garlic. This,
Jean George told me was unexplored territory in American restaurants

(02:50):
at the time. Foraging wasn't new. It was how humans
have been surviving from millennia. But in our modern system
of food production, we have largely forgotten the richness that
grows all around us. Here was the beginning, then, not
a foraging, but rather the use of foraging by four
star restaurants that would twenty years later find its greatest

(03:11):
and most famous forager, Renee red Zeppe of Noma and Copenhagen,
who would take foraging to its farthest extremes. So far,
how did I get here? By Matthew Acarina, I guess
that's Matthew Acarino of sp q R, a Michelin starred
Italian restaurant in San Francisco and a veteran of some

(03:31):
of the finest Michelin starred restaurants in America and Italy.
But this was only after he had to give up
his dream of becoming a world class cyclist. My best
friend's father was a big fan of sort of classic
you know, there's some classic Faustokope and Eddie Murks and
all these tort de France kind of greats. And at
the time, he would literally rustle us out of bed

(03:51):
if you like three in the morning, and that's when
Tordo France coverage is on. Back then, I'm in third
grade or something and say you gotta get up and
watch this. And we watched this half an hour coverage
of tor de France. It was just snippets of whatever
was going on. So but back then we're getting told,
you know, and he was literally telling us the stories
of how Eddie Marks won the Tour de France only things,
so you're just being indoctrinated. And then let's go for

(04:12):
a bike ride. I'm well, let's we're gonna go for
a bike ride. He takes us on his his you know,
fancy Italian handmade bike. I'm on my BMX bike and
he takes us for an eighteen mile bike ride and
I literally thought I would die, um, but I was hooked.
He was an active cyclist as a youth, with genuine
aspirations of turning pro but that came to an abrupt

(04:35):
and shocking halt. You know, who thinks of freebee actiment
is going to change their life. But I had a
had a bone tumor in my right leg. That's how
they discovered it. It was well, it was a birth
at birth. I have a void in my right femur.
As I get taller and older, this void grows longer.
I think of it as like an egg that gets bigger.
And so yeah, here I am racing bikes and criteriums,

(04:56):
which is fast races around basically four corner course. It
is more or less crashing into telephone poles, all kind
of I mean, this is all kinds of things that happened.
And you know it's it's a frisbee game. Running down
the hill, jump up, catch of frisbee and and land
on my right foot and have my leg just go
out from underman and I and I kind of I

(05:20):
didn't pass out, but I come to on my back
with my right heel in the air and go, oh,
I think something's wrong. I remember I was outside of
my high school and I remember sitting there and going
like I think something's wrong, and everyone's like, no, no,
you'll be okay. You know what, It's like, Hey, my
heels in the air. I was completely you're in such
shock that you're just you know something's wrong, but but

(05:42):
I'm in such shock. And then all of a sudden
everyone started to figure out and it's like, oh, and
they all freaked out. And I remember everybody else freaking out,
and I was still pretty cool about it. But that's
why I go to the hospital and I nearly lost
my leg, and that was a huge moment for me.
I think, really, I didn't realize it at the time,
and I don't think you realize that kind of stuff
at the time when you when you have this very

(06:04):
real like okay, so I'm not going to ride a bike,
maybe I'm not gonna walk, maybe I'm gonna miss a leg.
So you can you're just trying to pick up the pieces.
But here I am. I could, I can lay around.
I can watch a lot of cooking shows, and so
here I'm watching. You know, one of the shows I
watched was Ameral Legassi, which ended up being one of
my first I wrote the guy a letter, really because
I was taken with what he was doing. I'm standing

(06:25):
on crutches in front of the stove. My dad comes home,
is you know, I said, Dad, I need you to
go to the store and get me um. I need
Gorgon's old cheese. I need this kind of dry age steak.
And he's like, what, you know, I was watching too
much TV. But that was my world for a little bit.
But you're isolated, and all of a sudden, now you're
isolated and you're removed from from all the things that
you thought were normal. But it also it really intensified

(06:46):
my interest and I think my appreciation and learning about
what ingredients and cooking were. And I really the same
way that I had delved into classic cycling at the
beginning with my friend's father and was indoctrinated with that,
this was my indoctrination into what the history of great
cooking you know in Europe but also in America, really

(07:08):
was about and paid attention to that. And so when
Julia Child and Jock and all these other people are
referencing these great chefs, I'm like, who is that? You know?
This is before you can just search anything, right, so
you have to actually do a little work, open some books.
It's amazing how powerful TV was to people your age.
You were young, very impressionable. You like cooking, and suddenly

(07:31):
the whole country is also becoming more interested in cooking
and Julia. I mean I started cooking because of Julia, basically,
and she made me want to go in and make
an apple pie and I was fourth grade. It's amazing
how powerful that this TV and that I've realized over
time is what what the power of sharing stories with people?

(07:51):
Because that's really what they were doing, is they're sharing
what they knew, you know, when when you would watch
those shows, what was the most interesting was that they
were sharing a bit about things, the places they had been,
the things they've done, the people they had done them with,
interspersed with those recipes. It wasn't just about the recipe,
It was about the story. So luckily I wasn't good enough,

(08:16):
and I stopped riding bikes and actually stopped riding bikes
and became a chef, or became a cook. So you
left Colnity School. You worked for a lot of very
well known chefs, including we were talking about per Se.
You were opening sus Chef there. That was a big
turning point for me in my career because at that
point I had worked in a lot of great restaurants,
but I've never were I've never seen anything. I don't

(08:38):
think that I ever will see anything like what per
Se was at that time, which was a caliber. I mean,
the kitchen is bigger. The kitchen is bigger than most restaurants,
you know, in multiples, right, so, and and the amount
of equipment and but and it wasn't built. I mean

(08:59):
they brought the stove into the building and then closed
the curtain wall in the building the time Warner Center, right,
and it's like, you know, there's nothing that there wasn't
that stove didn't come up in pieces. They used a
crane and brought it in. Um. He really knocked it
out of the park for everybody there in terms of
what we had to work with. Would you take away

(09:20):
from that kitchen that giving giving people the tools is
the first step, right, That's always been. I mean that
if you want to produce something really really excellent and
you give them the tools, then the race is on.
You know, but sort of asking people to to go,
you know, and people will follow you into hot lava

(09:42):
if you give them the tools. And that doesn't mean
you have to have the most expensive kitchen. I mean
what I have here at sprs incredibly humble. The kitchens,
postage stamp, it's not you know anything. The bathrooms, the
bathrooms that per se are bigger than than my kitchen. Um.
But I mean I just look your pants. Those are
ten years old. They look brand new, right, elbow grease. Yeah,

(10:07):
But that's that's the son of a chef who cares
about what's important and correct and and and that's what
Pride doesn't cost money, you know, pride to something you
have inherent. And so when when you come into this
space and you come into this kitchen, might take away
from those kind of experiences was that you can run uh,

(10:29):
you know, a taco truck, a burrito stand, a little
Italian restaurant or a really really big, best in the
world kind of restaurant. But the ethos to run all
of them is pride and that you apply your craft,
your trade and the best way possible and show people
give them the tools. And the tools aren't always physical.

(10:50):
Sometimes they're mental consistency. I mean, all those things all
play into success. And so we shopped for the raw ingredients,
we apply the cook techniques, we apply a philosophy, and
we try to connect with actually serving people. And but
and so, and that's whether a taco truck or a

(11:12):
Michelan three star or a home kitchen. Even in a
home kitchen, these rules apply a good tools, good ingredients,
and the best. You know that that's an amazing thing
you when you're cooking are a lot of the most
amazing food I've ever had is has been cooked for
me by people's grandma's or mother's right, and you look
at those people and that it's it's an interesting it's

(11:34):
an interesting um trajectory where you have this person that
they use the same pot, the same ingredient, they go
to the same store, they buy the same stuff, they
make it the same way. Then they do it for
thirty years. Now walk into any restaurant kitchen and look
for that. You got anyone who's been making the same nioki,
the same way, on the same thing for thirty years.

(11:54):
The accumulated wisdom within that process is insane. You get
good at it. Yeah, and that's and that's what you're saying.
But and that's the that is to me is the
pure magic. You know, the pure magic, because they don't
who aspires to Does my grandma aspire to make a
better or different version of that sauce. Absolutely not. She

(12:15):
she made that right, right, and so it was became.
But within that is the consistency, which is king in
a professional kitchen and the home kitchen as well. But
I mean, you know your favorite dishes that anyone ever
made for you, you you went back for him, what if
they were different? I mean that This is the whole point.
This is why we measure our recipes and grahams. I mean,

(12:35):
this is the whole. This is why we understand ratio.
This is why we all this stuff is an effort
at consistency. You're trying to create an environment with all
the tools that you need, you can do that. Then
Matthew discovered through his Italian elders a kind of foraging
that was simply a part of life and cooking in Italy,
going and visiting my family who still live in pulia

(12:58):
Um and we would to my aunt Columbina's olive ranch
on on this beautiful wind swept hillside overlooking the Adrian
Headache and with surrounded by um pomegranates and blood oranges
and sunshine and olives and all these things. But then
they would say, well, we're gonna make um let's make lunch.

(13:19):
And then they go to we have to go to
the wild caper bush and get these leaves, and we
have to go to the carib tree and get this,
and we have to go get this wild arugula and
this wild fennel and all these things. And then so
that was my first and I was like, so I
don't understand. I thought, like, do you have to plant
food and then get it? You know, so if there's
if it's not in this like this strip of dirt

(13:40):
that you said, was you know your farm, then you
But that was a revelation to me at that and
I think it was all twenty two. But then you're
in a professional kitchen. You start to go, oh wait,
but like these black trumpet mushrooms, Oh, you can't grow those,
these ramps, you can't grow Nature grows. Nature grows them,
and you go get them. Right, So that's foraging. But
in a way a fishing is foraging, right, Hunting is

(14:03):
for it. I mean all you're you're going out, you're
it's a non specific right. You're finding wild things, correct,
And so if you look at this concept of foraging
is all around us, and I think what John George
got onto what you know, renee really popular eyes for
a whole generation of cooks that I see come through
my kitchen. Now is this notion that um wild food

(14:26):
is all around us for the taking. Happily, Matthew has
been able to ride bikes again from San Francisco to
l A and even competitively, but daily he rides with
an eye trained on the plants that he passes on
the roads and trails through Golden Gate Park and as
far north as the Napa Valley. Competitively riding bicycles again

(14:49):
means I spend fifteen hours a week on a bicycle
I have. I have a lot of scenery to take
in in that period of time, so I know where
all these spots are. I endlessly transit at a much
slower speed. Well, we don't realize in the car we're
going so fast and we're so focused and then necessarily
so on some things I had. Then on a bicycle
it's a bit slower. And the repetitive nature of the
courses and all these things I do, which is very

(15:11):
similar to kitchen life, where there's repetition. But I see
this stuff, and so I see the rugal eye, I
see the geranium, I see the wild onion flowers. I
see the wood sorrel and I know where the patches are,
where the things are, and I connect to that and
literally will go through and communicate with my sux chefs.
Or we're all living in a city as well, we're
all in bicycles going back and forth to work, because

(15:32):
it's really the nobody's driving. I mean, if you're driving,
you're late in San Francisco. Um. I don't think any
differently about foraging than I do about going to the
farmer's market or working with any other purveyor that I
work with to gather things. And if I'm going in,
we harvested bags fall in assertion flowers this morning, and

(15:53):
if I pay someone for those, the cost of those
assertion flowers to pay that then is passed onto my customer.
But I don't know that knowing how many there are
out there, what costs so much because it's not the
desertion flowers, so they don't cost anything. They're just there right,
So it's it's either our time to acquire them or

(16:14):
the ability. And so a lot of the forging thing
is about getting fresh ingredients into the kitchen in the
quantity that you need. And then utilizing them for what
you want to and trying to be inspired by that,
but also for you as a chef, and you know
you're not getting all your produced by yourself and gathering,
but still it's it's it must feel to you a
connection to the earth, into the world that you live in,

(16:35):
bringing food from the hills around you into your restaurant
and serving your customer. Yeah, and I think it's a
philosophical thing for me. I'm one of six kids in
a family I rarely got, you know, the first shot
at a pair of clothes, you know, it's kind of
hand me down. And and I work with Peter Jacobsen
up up in Yonville, who is Thomas's original farmer, And

(16:59):
you know, the French laundry and the cadre of restaurants
there in Yahville still pull from that farm. So if
I go on that farm and I'm looking for figs,
Bouchon Bakery's got them. French laundryes got them. You know,
I'm not the first person in line for that fig
I don't think, especially because they can walk over and
get them before I can get there. Right here, I'm
sixty miles away. So Peter brings me stuff. But the

(17:20):
but the reality, the reality is that I've looked for
the opportunity, so I've and the opportunity fig leaves. So
we use ton of fig leaves, make fig leaf gelato,
fig leaf custers, infuse them in all kinds of things.
We've used them to wrap things. There's that's zero value.
I can harvest five garbage bags of fig leaves in
two minutes and no, and there's no competition for that.

(17:41):
My perspective is all about harvesting opportunity, and so I'm
constantly scanning my ingredients and and how I'm cooking and
all those things and looking for the opportunities within them
for utilization, for flavor, for drawing things into my cooking
and into how how I'm dealing with being a chef.

(18:03):
We went and got the New Zealand spinach this morning,
and I mean, I can buy cultivated spinach by the
pounds and by the bag um and do make, you know,
extract chlorophyll from it or saute it or turned into
pasta dough or nioki or whatever it's going to be.
But this New Zealand spinach is really hardy, and it wears.

(18:24):
It wears a bit of its stores almost like ice
plant stores, a bit of moisture and structure on its exterior.
Really it almost looks like crystals, and it gives it
gives you this firmer texture, but it also feels really fresh.
But we actually make an assertion pesto and and folded
in with barato cheese and then put in a canister
and charge it and and aerate it and serve it
with summer squash and desertion pesto and all the desertion

(18:46):
flowers and bring that. So but pesto, I mean, pesto
was just pounded, right, So it's the technique. So I
learned how to make basil pesto. I understood it, understood
what what had to be in there. I understood that
nuts could be optional, that maybe cheese could be optional,
that I could add other things. So if became this paste,
this herb paste that that had flavor. So we make

(19:07):
this desertion pasta. We don't put nuts in it. Um
we put a little basel on it, but not much frankly,
and but we've made it with wild rugle. That we've
changed it so that that's like again learning the rule,
so you can break it Matthew walks the walk making
use of all he can, and it's highlighted by his
love of pasta fillings, something all cooks can and should

(19:27):
take note of. Being in a utilization focused kitchen. Pasta
filling is like a diamond for utilization. I mean, because
you could take all the short ribbed trim and all
of the mushroom trim and add flavor to that and
bring it into this feeling that's not terribly attractive. It
looks like, you know, a puree of ingredients. So what
do you do with it? Now? Once I put it

(19:48):
inside pasta, that's like, now it's sexy, right, so right,
And it's like, this is basically flat pasta, flat pasta,
and then we covered it, and then we roll it,
and then we poach it, and then we bake it.
And so you have this basically perfect hockey puck on
top of it, nice golden brown slices of seared Porcini

(20:09):
mushrooms George Porcini in the filling, and then a little
light beschamal next to it. But so it really looks
very elegant, looks really polished, but the flavor is really
really good. You can forage all you want, utilize all
you want, clean your pots every night till they look
brand new. But if the food doesn't taste good, it's
all for naught. Chef's food and that of his staff

(20:31):
was fabulous. When we come back, we'll talk with an
uncommon kind of furager, a man named Todd Pessick. I'm

(21:01):
Dr Todd Pessock. I am a fourth generation Appalachian root
doctor who went to medical school. I get asked often,
you know, are you a real doctor? And I usually
ask back the question, well, what is a real doctor?
Modern medicine is relatively new, right, and the primary tool
that we've really had have been plants in the plant world.

(21:22):
Todd Pessock, whose name is spelled p E. S e K,
graduated magna cum latti from Northeastern University with a degree
in biochemistry and earned his medical degree from Ohio State
University and the Cleveland Clinic. But his passion has been
to travel to remote areas of the world biodiversity hotspots

(21:43):
to study longevity and the teachings of the elders of
these communities who do not rely on traditional Western medicine.
I've spent cumula of years in in Belize and Guatemala
and Peru and Um. You know the no forest ecoregions
of those areas of traveled throughout India the Western Ghats,
and I want to make it clear for the audience

(22:05):
that you've been very remote places that you've spoken to
tribal groups, tribal elders to learn what they know, what
they've known and learned over centuries, if not millennia. Yeah,
the ecosphere or our biosphere is threatened with rainforest resource
exploitation and exchange and deforestation and so on and so forth.

(22:27):
People are aware of that, and obviously we need to
be proactive in shifting that. But what people are less
aware of is the fact that the ethnosphere is disappearing
even more rapidly than the ecosphere. And what the atmosphere
is is humanity is diverse understanding and appreciation of ability

(22:48):
to utilize the natural world, you know, harmoniously sustainably coexist
in the natural world. And I selected my research sites
internationally on the basis of them being both bio diversity
hot spots, so areas that were in need of intense
intervention to preserve the natural areas, but also um that

(23:12):
still had traditions and the atmosphere intact. And really what
that comes down to, Michael as mountainous areas in the
world that are hard to get, hard to get to
or problem exactly. Yeah. And so my journeys and research
brought me into all of the backwood areas of rural Appalachia,
to you know, the May Mountains, highlands of Believes in Guatemala,

(23:35):
to the Andean Highlands of Peru, and the Amazonian backwaters
blackwaters areas of Amazonia DRD. What I admire so much
about that is that you're trying to gather the collective
wisdom of various ethnospheres and bring them all together to
see what we can learn. Is that correct? Absolutely? Yeah.

(23:55):
Dr Todd did all this while he was still in
medical school. The school was aware of this and asked
him to give a talk to the doctors of the
Cleveland Clinic about plants and medicine in these remote regions.
He had never presented much of anything before to a
group of doctors, let alone the long coded august Head
staff at one of the most notable hospitals in the world.

(24:18):
He was in his mid twenties and practically shifting his pants,
he said, when he stood before the group. He was
so nervous, and the title of my presentation was Plants,
People and Global Healing. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I walked in. You know, the can imagine an auditorium
of medical doctors with their stethoscopes, and these are some

(24:40):
of the best doctors in the in the land. Absolutely yeah.
And one of them stood up and he said, you know,
I don't believe in herbs. And he started to leave,
gets up, starts heading out. I said, you know, doctor,
we're all entitled to our own opinions, but before you leave,
I have a question for you. He turned around and
I said, um, when's the last time you've administered a
patient morphine? And the physician, being a pain management doctor

(25:03):
and an anesthesiologist, actually started to chuckle realizing that, you know,
morphine came from a plant. His colleagues started to chuckle,
and he actually sat back down and grew into being
one of my bigger supporters throughout medical school. And I
like to tell that story because it's it's really illustrative
of the fact that people are, you know, willing to learn,

(25:25):
they are open minded. If the timing is right. Much
of modern medicine comes from ethnobotanic leads and or the
plant world. Modern medical blockbuster drugs come from plants. For example.
You know, our first line treatment for diabetes and modern
medicine is met forman, which is a botanical derivative from

(25:48):
French lilac. And you know the list goes on, from
the painkillers to the cardiac glycosides, the heart medications, blood
pressure medications. You know, you name it. Dr Tell my
wonderful listeners, how we met. We met in the woods.
I met Dr Todd in Cleveland while working on a

(26:09):
book called Grocery the Buying and Selling of food in America,
using a family grocery chain high Ends as my anchor
for the story. One of the chief executives of this
grocery store two dozen stores in Cleveland and Chicago with
sales of around six hundred fifty million dollars, Chris Folts.
He told me the story of how he met Dr Todd.

(26:30):
Todd had a holistic medical practice in Cleveland where the
grocery chain I was writing about his base. One of
the managers of their wellness section looked for holistic doctors
in the area called Todd out of the blue to
ask if he'd give a presentation at one of their stores.
Todd was a fan of Hyans and said sure. The
manager and the marketing director were so impressed they pleaded

(26:53):
with Folts, basically the CEO under Jeff and Tom Hinen,
to meet with Dr Todd. Here's what Folks told me.
Upon seeing Dr Todd in the lobby of the Hinans headquarters,
I thought this will be a short meeting. He had
a Peruvian pullover on, kind of like a combo sweatshirt poncho,
some baggy beige work pants like a mechanic might wear,

(27:15):
and some of those hippie santic canvas shoes, and of
course there was the Ponytail, a thirty five year old
hippie with a medical degree. Two hours later, Chris told
me we ended the meeting and we're setting up our next.
Three months later, we contracted with him to be our
chief medical officer. That was ten years ago. Dr Todd

(27:35):
Pessick may well be the first chief medical officer of
a grocery store ever. Naturally I wanted to talk to him.
He asked me to meet not in his offices, but
rather in the Cleveland metroparks called the Emerald Necklace. Miles
of forested land that encircle Greater Cleveland. He wanted to
meet in the woods so that I could get a

(27:56):
true sense of him, he said a again. From that walk,
Todd explained it this way. What happens is picture this
in winter it's snow. If you were living like our ancestors.
The first thing that happens is the running of the sap.
You drink the sugary goodness after a winter of nothing,
and the first things that come up are the alliums,

(28:18):
wild garlic, the ramps, wood leaks. Here are some seeds.
He bent to pick up ramp berries and seeds and
hands them to me. Alliums up regulate your body's detoxification systems.
They're rich in sulfides, they're antibacterial, and a kidney and
liver cleanse. Then you start to see the reducers. These
are like the spring tonics, too, thwarts the diuretics detoxifying.

(28:43):
He spotted a large patch of low growing plant with
delicate lavender flowers. Right here is one of the best.
It's wild geranium. And then you roll into summer when
food abounds. He paused to quote, throw the fields and
the forest are a table, always spread as you move
into fall. He went on, anti parasitic plants abound, and

(29:07):
then you roll back into the famine of winter. Your
dietary focus shifts to mineral laden root veggies, things that
are underground, and things you've gathered. Tree nuts and seeds
and dried lagoons. Hickory, beech nut acorns are all edible.
Chestnuts used to be a staple until the chestnut light
decimated the landscape and food supply. Our ancestors ate plants,

(29:30):
and when in famine, the animals that ate plants. But
that's more rare than people realize. He stopped to look around.
Everything here has a purpose. And I fed you sassafras,
and that's what I remember. You also fed me nettles
stinging metals, and you said, this is the way the
druids did it. That's correct. How did you know that

(29:51):
druids did it that way? Well, most people's that eat
nettles and wood nettles, um, you know of old ways
of doing it without stinging their tongues. And why assas
fress good? And why should we know about it? Why
should we care? Why should I know to be able
to isolate it? In a metro park of a major
American city. Why should I know about stinging metals? Food

(30:15):
and medicinal benefits The main topic of this podcast of foraging, right.
You know, you see all these different foraging resources, and
you know there's chefs foraging here and foraging there, and
you know, foragers foraging for chefs and all these these
different things that are that are great. I mean, we're
starting to connect people more to what I believe, you know,

(30:36):
is really the diverse history of humanity. Think about foraging
as a luxury kind of a thing now, but in
fact it's not, and it never was. It's really a necessity.
It's millennia of shared learning in the natural world that
have enabled our species to figure out what is edible,
what is nutritive, what is medicinal, what can hurt you,

(30:58):
what can kill you. There's like four hundred thousand species
of plants out there, and most of them are edible
in some way, shape or form, whether it's a root, shoot, tuber,
and sometimes one has to do certain things to it
to make it more edible, palatable, or even non poisonous.
For example, in your book, you allude to mixed realization

(31:19):
process in the preparation of corn, so a lot of
these plants out there have to be prepared in the
right way. Doctor Todd is referring to how dried corn
was mixed with ash in Mexico. Now we use lime
to release the skin of the corn and make all
vitamins accessible to us. This is the corn we know
as hominy and gives us grits and puzzoli without the

(31:42):
next realization, we can't digest its nutrients. But Todd, as
a physician, was primarily focused not on a delicious corn stew,
but treating disease. Chronic disease burden is largely driven by
inflammation and to the major constructs that drive the inflammation
are sugar and fat. So too much sugar, too much fat,

(32:04):
sugar toxicity, and fat toxicity. When you think about the
fat aspect, it's too much fat period, and then too
much of the wrong fat and not enough of the
good fat, the right fat. And really what it comes
down to our essential fats omega, fats three, six, and nine,
the threes and the sixes are essential and um our
ancestors ate them in equal portions. Traditionally equal part threes

(32:27):
equal part six is modern man and women are consuming
a more along the lines of one part threes thirty
part six is. This was later confirmed to me by
an internal medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic, Roxanne suit Call,
with whom I strolled the grocery store. When we got
to the oil aisle, this is what she said. Before

(32:47):
the twentieth century, people ate a one to one ratio
of threes to sixes. But now, because the processed food
industry is based on seed oil, the standard diet is
fifteen or twenty to one of six is to threes,
And if you're a kid living off fast food, that
ratio is as high as forty two one. So there's
pretty good thinking that the omega six predominant diet is

(33:10):
partly responsible for all these autoimmune and anti inflammatory diseases.
So that's why I don't eat any of these seed oils.
I'm getting what I need in the etemami and in
the nuts. You don't have to go out of your
way to measure this. You just have to eat food
and it takes care of itself. But a huge aid
in all of this, Michael, are the diverse bounty of

(33:33):
phytochemicals and in particular, secondary plant metabolites. In all of
those four thousand species of plants, most of which are
edible in some way, shape or form. On any one
given day anywhere, there are forageable, edible plant stuffs, you know,
that have nutrient density profiles that aren't in more conventional

(33:53):
kind of grocery. What would you like to see chefs
foraging for? What kind of stuff? Would you like to
see them foraging and figuring out ways to get on
their menus. I love the fact that chefs are utilizing
their acumen and their abilities to connect people, you know,

(34:14):
to the planet in meaningful ways by illustrating wild foods
and foraging. And I'd like to see them also follow
those aspects of foraging that teach how to be a
conservationist and um, teach people to know specifically what they're gathering,
and you know, respecting the native populations of plants. And

(34:36):
I do see some out there doing that, and it's
really great. A good example of what I'm trying to
say here is another recipe that you talk about in
From Scratch, which I think is a beautifully done book, Michael,
It's really wonderful. Um Um. I really like the curry section.
Curry is, as you allude to in the book. Is
this a morphous kind of term that really means diverse

(34:59):
variety things from a collection of spices to sauces or whatever.
But you know, the fact of the matter is curries
are all over the place, and a traditional description of
a curry one thinks of termeric, ginger pepper, you know,
those kind of things. But there there are other curries.
There's Mestizo curies, there's Creole curries, there's Jamaican jerk curries.

(35:20):
There's there's curries here in this neck of the woods,
aren't native. Appalachian curries are just as much intoxicating to
the senses as a tie green curry or you know,
an Indian forward front coriander human curry. What's an Appalachian curry? There?
There are a lot of different plants, you know. I've

(35:42):
had curries with mixtures of a hundred or more herbs
and spices, and one of the main ones that we
use here is spice bush. And Todd had found some
on our walk, along with the sassafras and nettles and
solomon seal and wild geranium and squirrel corn, and back
in the pulpit was spice bush. Found throughout the northeast

(36:04):
and Midwest and southern United States. At the time they
were small green berries. I crushed them between my fingers
and they smelled like lime leaves. Come fall, they will
have grown turned red and take on a flavor like allspice,
which Todd will harvest and grind for his own seasoning.
And the reason I wanted to mention spice bush is

(36:24):
because it's a good example of what I'm talking about
in terms of the subtlety of flavors and the shifting
temporally of possibilities. You know, the spice bush, for example,
if you want the pepper forward flavors of the berries,
you harvest them early in the summer when they're green,
and you dry them, as opposed to the latter seasonal harvest,

(36:49):
where the seed is more fully mature and it has
more of the allspice connotation to it. So my point
is you can make curry or that blend of spice
is from any neck of the woods with the correct
wherewithal you can seem a little complicated and confusing to
focus is as complicated as all this. I would tell

(37:09):
people who want to get interested or you know, involved
in forging, don't ever eat anything you don't know, and
so the way you do that is you go out
with people that know and and you start to learn. Um.
There's a whole series of ways that you could begin
to broaden your knowledge, but greens tend to be really easy.
Last question I wanted to hear from you is what
are you cooking now? What am I cooking now? Yeah? Nothing? Nothing,

(37:32):
Because it's January. I do some cleansing this time of year,
coming off the holidays and the richness of the food
and all that kind of stuff, which is really a
wonderful time of year for me, and I kind of
settle into some deep nurturative broths as I kick off
my my big January cleans on Monday, I'm preparing I

(37:53):
call it my super broth, and it's got literally a
hundred different things in it, and a lot of that
stuff is from wild harvesting year round. So you'll do
how long will you cleanse for the whole month? Three weeks?
Three and a half weeks, just broth any solids. Um.
Sometimes I'll do herbal teas that do honor and pay

(38:13):
homage to the liver. Right, they call it a liver
for a reason. UM called it dire You gotta love
your liver. Yeah, so what do we want to eat
to help our help our little what kind of types
of foods after this? Your greens in general that are
more rich in sulfur and sulfur based compounds. Um, that's

(38:35):
all of your brassica, that's your cabbage, that's your I mean,
realize that that's really all the same plants. I mean,
from kale to cabbage, to collared to cauliflower to broccoli,
which just immature inflorescences of the plants relatively similar across
the board, and a little bit of fermentation to that
will help tremendously. But anyway, those plants have within them

(38:57):
plant phytochemicals and compounds that enable your liver to produce
the most powerful antioxidants that your body uses to stay healthy.
Part of the problem with modern day health issues really
stem from a lack of that. I mean, people are
rushing here and rushing there and scarfing down this and
that and the other. There's you know, a lack of
a reverence just a simple process of sitting down present

(39:19):
with your plate of food. I mean, the digestive process
starts with smelling and then salivating, and then salivation actually
proceeds chewing to emulsify the food with salivary MLAs and
light page which really start breaking down food. You know,
I had a one wise elder. He laughed, and he's
like two once for every tooth in your mouth. And

(39:40):
you know, of course there's he only had one tooth,
but he was a hundred and six. There's some wisdom
to that, right, I don't know. I love that guy.
He's published his ideas and recipes in a book called
Eat Yourself Super, a super Food's Journey for the Happy, healthy,
and hungry, and he gives a version of his super
broth on page one f Dean and it's really your

(40:01):
basic veg stock on steroids. Todds will have things like spice,
bush berries and his but his recipe for non foragers
includes one red medium onion, one medium white onion, two carrots,
eight celery stocks, eight clothes, garlic, a dike on radish,
a butter not or other winter squash, a medium zucchini,

(40:21):
a medium yellow squash if it's in summer, Spanish black radish,
medium gold or red beat, a turnip, roots and tops,
a bunch of kale, one bunch of parsley, one bunch
of cilantro, one half bunch rainbow shard, one half bunch
mustard greens, one half cup dried seaweed, one half small
red cabbage, one half small green cabbage, one lemon cut
in half, one thumb sized piece of ginger minced, two

(40:44):
teaspoons turmeric, one cup dried maya taki or shotaki mushrooms,
a table spoonf of sea salt, a teaspoon of black pepper,
and two cayenne peppers. Simmer that for an hour, strain,
and you've got your super broth. You can also eat
the vegetables afterwards. You can even dehydrate him. It's a
fabulous broth. When we come back, we'll talk with Nancy

(41:05):
McNamara of the Honey Locust Farm in Newburgh, New York.

(41:37):
They call it be Ophelia, the Joy of Being with plants.
In Newburgh, New York, an hour north of New York City,
Nancy McNamara still lives and cooks in her childhood home,
a yellow sided two story house with a brick foundation
and a bright red front door, wood burning stoves outside

(41:57):
and in her rustic kitchen. Man I ask how old
are you? Um? Seventy something, so that generation that generation.
I'm a bona fide baby boomer for sure. Foraging is
a major, a major thing, um and always has been
and probably always will always has been, always has been

(42:20):
since you were a girl. Yeah, but I didn't know it.
So I used to play in the yard all day.
My grandmother was a charter member of the Newburgh Garden Club,
and I used to follow her around and plant pansies
and whatnot, you know. And my folks are always working
close by and there and farmers. My dad raised crops,

(42:43):
and then farmers would bring crops from the surrounding area.
So I got to know everybody in the neighborhood. And
when I was like nine, ten years old, I got
a pony, and then I began to ride around the neighborhood.
I wrote, I will there was a long time ago,
you know, and and there was no There were a

(43:06):
few houses and every all my neighbors were farmers. There
was no suburban. It was rural anyway. So um no,
I I just had a very intimate relationship with the
with the natural world. And I kind of roamed around
and been had my launch out. I knew where the

(43:27):
best plums and peaches and pairs were you know, as
a season revolved, I used to make salads, salad for
my dollies in the summer. Nancy's childhood home is surrounded
by trees and greens, hoop houses, and wild edibles. When
I arrived in late fall, it looked all but deserted.

(43:50):
The hoop houses barren mere feet from the root, nine
traffic lights, shopping marts, and gas stations. The greenery reduced
to groundcover. But even here party edibles flourished. Nancy began
to explain the most essential plants in the art. Why
are important because they are used as as stimulants to

(44:12):
produce rich soil. You know, they they work with with
the cosmos to stimulate action in in compost. I'll show
you the books you can read on me yourself. Um,
you know I'm not the best a word smith for

(44:35):
explaining all these things. In college, Nancy studied mythology. One
of her favorites was the green man. Found in many cultures.
This green man's face was covered with leaves, which in
some versions represented languages. To me, he represents the fertility
of the earth. Nancy kept this inspiration and decided to
give me plants to taste rather than explaining what they were.

(44:59):
She quickly and a surprising number of options within feet
of where we were standing outside our front door forage
anything right here, right as we speak, I can see
ground ivy. This is the ground ivy right here. If
your taste, it's got kind of goat cheesy kind of taste.
And then there's a patch of nettles over there. Nettles.

(45:20):
You have to blanch them first because you don't want
to get your mouth all tingly. And when I'm feeling gnarly,
I come out and pick them up with my bare hands.
Otherwise I use uh, rubber bluff. These are all culinary
herbs here. This is right here. It's a rhubarb, good one.
This is This is garlic mustard. That's probably violet, but

(45:44):
you can eat the leaves and the and the flowers
and also the roots of the violet. This is mother ward.
It is bitter, and I use a mother Ward a
lot because it relieves minor anxiety. And it's really I'm
gonna pick some before I go here. And with many

(46:04):
of these plants, she makes tinctures. You just kind of
steep the urban alcohol for like six weeks, and and
all the constituents come out in the uncle sometimes other
things like making emitters sort of. It's all you know,
it's all like ancient stuff. I even I even't make
a heart wine from from a recipe by Hildegard von Bingen.

(46:28):
She was like a twelfth century abbess. And you said
it was a heart. It's a heart wine. I have
some inside and I'll show you. Well, that's the sacred formula.
But our heart in it. No, no, it's it's for
your heart. Heart in it. No, but it's made from

(46:51):
the hawthorn berry. And they regulate your heart beat up
or down, I mean your blood pressure up or down,
and they really help steady your heart. It's really a
wonderful Wow. Is there anything that could hurt you if
you went out and ate it that was growing. Well,
there's a few things, but really not that much. There
are things that you could learn about the physiology of

(47:13):
the plants that could tip you off. Like many of
the plants we ingest have square stems, and um, that's
a good sign. That's a good sign. One of some
other signs well, the gestures gestures of the plants by
sometimes they have thorns that kind of tips you off

(47:34):
right away to toe mess with me. So you just
can't go out, Willy Nelly. Right, you can't do anything,
Willy Nelly. That's kind of a big mistake, no matter
what you do. Her farm got its name from the
honey locust tree, a giant centuries old tree with rough

(47:54):
bark and dried pods weighing down the old branches. The
honey locust's actually a leg you, oh, but it's it's
an incredible tree, fat, huge tree. And his name was
Nathaniel Barnes. He moved here in eighteen to build the
road nine w which used to pass right in front

(48:15):
hair from the house. So they probably stuck this uh
post in the ground to tether their horse and it
just started going and that was too. That was so
that's like almost two hundred years ago. And those tiny
pods attract hungry visitors. Animals love them. I used to

(48:35):
have goats and when they got out, I used to
find them mount hair grazing. Some guy from Alabama called
me up one time to buy some pods because he
wanted to put him in his corn patch so he
could catch the wild horse that we're eating his corn.
So you could use a mess bait through her mother

(48:57):
and father's Jacksberry Farm, Nancy developed a relationship with the
Alsatian chef. He was working with John George and growing
um the specialty produce, especially miss coon mix. It wasn't
very long before John George asked me to start foraging
for him. It was then that Jean George sensed foraging

(49:20):
was an exciting opportunity few American diners were familiar with.
So they came up here and we walked around and
we did we did a you know, a weed walk,
and they photographed everything that they wanted me to produce.
After her work was Jean George, Nancy found her niche
as a supplier of great plants to top chefs in

(49:43):
New York City. I worked with the Culinary Institute, and
I worked with quite a number of other chefs in Manhattan,
and I think I was probably one of the first
farm two tables, And as things progressed, I got better
at it. Having an art background. My priests and patients
were so lovely, you know. My herbs came in bouquets,

(50:05):
and and that made it really easy for chefs to me,
you know, explore the possibilities and create their their cuisine.
One of the first chefs that really delved into the
into the ephemera of springtime was up Paul Lebron things
for his plates and little flowers and culinary herbs have

(50:27):
gorgeous little flowers that are very aromatic, so we did
a lot of those for great Quin's. I think I
foraged the milkweed pods. Who you do with the milkweed pod?
I think you make like a pancake. Wiley Dufrayne asked
me to gross Bilanthe's for him because it has the
property of making your tongue kind of numb and tingly.

(50:49):
And I used to grow edible flowers all kinds. So
between the things that I grew and the things that
I foraged, I was able to um provide a lot
of produce. Where would you where would you do your
foraging and what would you find? Well, I had to
learn where to look for things like one year John
George wanted to encrust his lamb with garlic mustard and

(51:14):
garlic mustard um has the incredible ability has something similar
to anti freeze, and it and the leaves so that
you know, even as the weather gets cold, you could, um,
you know, use the leaves and they would be fresh
and green, and so um, I was out there foraging

(51:35):
in the snow sometimes another time he wanted sassafras, So
I had to scout sassafras, and where about all around
the woods around the house, and the woods down the street,
up on my dad's farm, anywhere along, you know, just
walking around, just walking around in orchards wherever. But things

(51:58):
took a physical turn for Nancy, very likely the results
of all her foraging. I can't remember everything, you know,
because of them, because the lime disease. Sometimes I have lapses.
So if I don't, I can't find a word. That's why.
How long How long did you have when you when
were your diagnosis? I had in a long time, and

(52:18):
I just thought I was just getting old, you know.
And then in in uh two thousand and nine, somebody
said how are you? And I said, not so good.
When I first noticed I had a tick bite and
may i'd go and get the prescription for antibiotic. I
took it. That was it, you know. I thought I
was good, good to go. But um, you know, after

(52:42):
a while, when I started having these symptoms symptoms, oh,
there are too many to deny. It could wherever your
body is weak, that's where they that's where they attack
you if you like, if you over strain your muscles,
it's going to attack your muscles or your bones. I mean.
I would be driving to the city and the pain

(53:05):
would be so bad that I would be in tears.
And then i'd make my deliveries and and during the
night I'd have pains that was shoot up and down
my arms and my legs, And I asked people, what
is this? What is this? Nobody had any answers. I
don't think they knew a whole lot about it at
the time. Now they know more. But I had to

(53:26):
find out for myself when I couldn't work anymore. I
didn't have any other means of, you know, making the living,
so I didn't have any health insurance, so I never
went to a regular doctor. You figured it out on
your own. I had to. And everybody told me I

(53:47):
was crazy and it was all in my head, blah
blah blah. But it wasn't. Nancy eventually read every book
she could find on the subject. Before I arrived. She
spread a half dozen across her kitchen table, such as
The Secret Teachings of Plants and Sacred Agriculture, The alchemy
of biodynamics. Eventually, she settled on several regular plant medicines

(54:11):
from her studies of ancient healing methods. It's a statists,
it is um Chinese wode. It's a die plant. They
used to use it for indigo. And this one is
splantheska mila. That's the tingly plant. She grew for a
chef to frame's psychedelic tasting menu. So he got the
seeds from Madagascar, planted them and they turned out to

(54:33):
be medicinal. And by the way, it's also reputed to
raise your testosterone level. Can't be all bad. And and
the other one is hunia, the chameleon plant. But these
are traditional Chinese medicine and um and they and they work.

(54:53):
How do you how much do you take? How do
you take them? Oh? I take a dropper full in
the morning and that seems to keep. But you know,
on the on the level, I mean, this is all
ancient stuff that we've forgotten about, because what did people
have back in in ancient times? They just certainly didn't
have pharmacies and doctors. Maybe they had you know, Hippocrates,

(55:16):
you know what he said, and that your food is
your medicine and I believe he was right because it
is for me. The thing is that many of the
books that I have, there are so many different takes
on the same thing that I have to read a
bunch of them, and by consensus, I figure out how
to use things. Nancy explained that her mother is considering

(55:41):
selling the house rather than saddling her daughter with a
tax burden she wouldn't be able to afford. I'm hoping
that we can save this farm for posterity through some
kind of um perhaps historic preservation. But we'll see. What
do they want to do now? They want to um

(56:02):
make this a condo with a food store, Trader Joe's
or Cumberland Farm, tear down this house and tear down
the real farm and put up a quasi farm. That's
that's altogether too sad. Well, it's just a joke, you know.

(56:22):
It's the way of the world. Things go funny that way,
and I guess we just have to laugh and move on.
I use these herbs on a daily basis. What am
I gonna do if I'm not here on this property?
But I guess I don't really need my soil. I
love my soil. I've been with the soil for so long,
and I've enriched it and I've tested it, and I

(56:45):
know this soil. The thing is that the soil is
like the cells of our body. It has a life.
I mean, we didn't used to know about the microbiome,
but now we know. If you look under a microscope
and your cells, you'll see all the things wiggling around.
That's all your cells all the time. So the form

(57:05):
of your body is not fixed. It's always in flux
and it's always flowing. So that concept kind of, you know, wow,
blew my mind because that's the truth. Now we know
about our microbiomes, and we know how important that is
to our health and our nutrition and all of our systems.

(57:27):
But but but to think about the fact that that
all of our cells are just all of this part
of this thing, like the soil. Our bodies are just
like the soil. There's no difference between working in the
garden and producing health in your body. It's really the

(57:48):
same thing. And that's a very spiritual idea. I just
want to teach everybody that they can go back to
farming and foraging and and just grow, going whenever they
need in whatever soil they have, even if it's on
their terraces. Chef Matthew knows it and brings it to

(58:08):
his restaurant every day. Dr Todd uses this knowledge to
treat his patients and feed his family, and Nancy hopes
to ease her fellow septagenarians into a healthy old age
while also supplying America's great restaurants. Thank you each and
all Matthew Acarino for the delicious food at his restaurant

(58:30):
SPQR in San Francisco. If you're ever in town, go
check out his menu filled with ingredients that may even
be picked from the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.
Thank you Dr Todd Pessick. Check out his book and
his teachings and eat yourself super And thanks to to
Nancy McNamara at Honey Locust Farm, not only for the

(58:51):
tour of her childhood land, her wisdom, but also for
her amazing nettle pesto. It was fantastic. Thanks Assie. My
new book is out now. It's also called From Scratch,
but it's all about cooking and ten meals that can
teach us all we need to know in the kitchen.
We'll have a link to it on the show notes

(59:13):
and on my site Ulman dot com. From Scratch, the
podcast is produced by Jonathan has Dressler. Our executive producer
is Christopher Hasiotis are Supervising producer is Gabrielle Collins. The
music is by Ryan Scott off his album A Freak
Grows in Brooklyn. From Scratches, a production of I Heart Radio.

(59:35):
For more podcasts from my heart Radio, visit the I
heart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to
your favorite shows. Your farm, more everything, Colder
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