- Courtesy Of Elaine Wang
- Watercress soup
May is peak foraging season in Vermont, but it's not all ramps and fiddleheads. The world of wild food stretches far beyond the springtime heavy hitters, and all kinds of Vermonters are out collecting the bounty in woods, fields, streams and lakes.
"There's a wonderful diversity of folks out pursuing these types of food sources — not just the dominant narrative of who you think is hunting and fishing," said Shane Rogers, the Milton-based host of "Vermont Wild Kitchen," a monthly cooking show on Facebook Live and YouTube.
"We bring in people from all across the state — all different walks of life, all different identities — that are foraging and cooking with wild ingredients," Rogers said. "We're working to bring new people into the world of hunting and fishing while also connecting it back to what it means to eat locally."
The show, which began airing in April 2020, streams live on the third Thursday of the month. Presented by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Rural Vermont, it features cooks in their home kitchens, including Missisquoi Abenaki chef Jessee Lawyer, who appears quarterly.
"They demonstrate how easy it is to use these delicious things that are available for everyone, and we get to talk about bigger issues around food sovereignty and access," Rogers said. "It takes some time and effort and encouragement to throw a line in the water for the first time, or to pick something like garlic mustard and feel comfortable eating it. We want to help people feel comfortable developing those skills."
Guest cohost Linda Lai Nga Li will lead the May 19 episode celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. South Burlington-based children's book artist and author Jason Chin and his father, Dr. Raymond Chin, will cook watercress, a round-leafed peppery green that grows wild along streams and other waterways.
Chin won the Caldecott Medal earlier this year for his illustrations of Watercress, written by Andrea Wang, about a daughter of Chinese immigrants growing up in rural Ohio, like Wang herself did. The fictional family harvests watercress from the side of the road and prepares it for dinner with garlic oil and sesame seeds.
After his Caldecott Medal win, Chin told Seven Days he grew up eating watercress soup; while working on the book, he learned to make the garlicky "dinner from a ditch" described in the book.
For "Vermont Wild Kitchen," Chin and his father will cook live at Craftsbury Public House, a nonprofit collaborating with the show for this episode. Powered Magazine, a nonprofit founded by Black, Indigenous and people of color that reconnects BIPOC communities with nature through outdoor activities, is also assisting with the episode.
"We want people to be able to tell their own story," Rogers said, "and to be able to demonstrate what makes these ingredients special to them."
Tune in to "Vermont Wild Kitchen" on Facebook Live or YouTube on Thursday, May 19, at 5 p.m. to cook along.