Mallory O’Donnell has spent the last several years foraging in rural New Jersey and now shares their experiences, favorite ingredients recipes with the world through the blog How to Cook a Weed. In this episode, we discuss great ways to get started with foraging in your backyard or garden, how to stay safe while eating local plants and the benefits of seeing your immediate environment through a different set of lenses. If you are interested in truly eating local Mallory is a fantastic resource. Check out Mallory’s blog at howtocookaweed.com
Marjorie Alexander (00:00):
So Mallory, I am so excited to have you on. I been checking out your blog for the last couple months, how to cook a weed and it's so interesting. How are you today?
Mallory O’Donnell (00:11):
I'm great, thank you. Thanks so much for reaching out to me. I really appreciate it.
Marjorie Alexander (00:14):
Absolutely. So I want to start off a getting to know a little bit about how nature, the environment and sustainability played a role in your home or your life growing up. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Mallory O’Donnell (00:28):
Yeah, sure thing. Um, I think my, my folks were always fairly ecologically conscious growing up. Um, we were bigger early recyclers and in general those kind of ideas were floating around. But um, my focus I think early on was with nature and it was a, I think I turned to nature it sort of as a contra indicative thing to what was going on in the world or what I perceived as the world around me, which I'm not, but it was so negative or bad, but I never felt very comfortable with a modern sort of lifestyle in a certain way. Um, I just seemed, uh, struck me as a, I think very early on and struck me as kind of wasteful, um, and uh, but I think my real embrace nature was
Mallory O’Donnell (01:20):
as a sort of, um,
Mallory O’Donnell (01:23):
I don't want to say escape route because it sounds a little negative, more like a vessel for feelings that I had that I couldn't express in conventional ways or didn't have you need conventional ways. So I became really interested in literature that was reflective of that. I read a lot of the classic so if their college and stuff like that while I was in high school and then in college, um, and I always understood it, but I think I understood it more as an intellectual place and as a, a place to enjoy visually and experience, um, my real desire to understand it on a deeper level and really examine exactly what was happening in that space. I think came much later.
Marjorie Alexander (03:35):
so you are a professional in the landscaping industry. Uh, can you tell us about exactly how that transition happened from your childhood, your young adulthood, into the industry that you work in right now?
Mallory O’Donnell (03:50):
Sure. What's it's family business is family-owned and operated for almost 30 years now. Um, and it's a very small business. It's not a, we're not a big player. Um, and uh, it was always in the background. My Dad started the business in the eighties. Um, I worked as a kid growing up. I remember one of the first experiences I had, which, uh, I don't think I really recalled properly until much later, but my interest in sort of a writing in an academic things when I was working at a very early age in I think a junior high. And I remember pulling weeds at a property. I'm thinking, uh, does anybody know what these are? Is there a, is there a book about these [inaudible] there? Does anybody care or are they just obviously being sort of, not really understanding things at that point, but um, that's sort of a must have laid dormant in my mind for a really long time.
Mallory O’Donnell (04:46):
Um, so it was always in the background, but I, uh, pursued a lot of other interests and uh, I really wanted to move around the country a that I went to school in, uh, in New England and at Hampshire in Amherst, Massachusetts. And I lived there for a little while after I graduated. Uh, then I moved to Virginia and then I moved to Houston, Texas. So I traveled around a lot. I wanted, um, I kept looking for a change in my environment and I, and a broader group of people and a greater diversity of people and it's always been part of my feeling that this area where I live is a little, a narrow perspective on just the, there's not a lot of variety of people, variety of experiences to be had. So I wasn't working in the, in the business for that period. Um, [inaudible] would be, when I came back here, they're living in Houston for about six years or five years. Um, in that time I was, uh, I worked as a, a rare record and book buyer for different stores back when we had a record stores.
Marjorie Alexander (05:57):
Yeah. Uh, I, I feel you on that one. We have only, we have Amoeba here in Los Angeles and I think that they have a couple other stores in, in California, but you're right, totally a dying breed, unfortunately, except the, uh, history or bringing it back, sort of.
Mallory O’Donnell (06:15):
It's better looking situation now than it was in the early two. Thousands and mid two thousands when I was down at, that's for sure. It was really looking pretty grim there.
Marjorie Alexander (06:25):
So not long after, uh, 2011 when he did come back to the business. You also started your blog, how to cook elite, where you focus on a cooking, gardening, forging, and just overall living a wonderful life but not a ton of money. Can you tell us a bit about why you started that blog and what experiences you've had with your readers since then?
Mallory O’Donnell (06:51):
Um, it really, uh, arose out of instagram. Um, that was where I started documenting what I was doing and I think at first I was documenting it for myself. I don't think I really, I'm not a great Hashtag or I'm not good at pushing my agenda on social media. It's really from an innate desire simply to record what I'm doing and what's happening because I found it kind of interesting. Um, and then I realized that other people felt the same way. Um, but, uh, I just became really immersed in it. There was, you know, a couple of changes took place after I moved here. Um, you know, home life changes and things like that and just attitude changes and I started incorporating a lot more wild food into what I was already doing, which is kind of a cultural Milan of peasant and grandmother cooking. I've always made really simple earthy hardy foods and tried to be very local, uh, from what I collected and cooked with.
Mallory O’Donnell (07:53):
Um, and then it just kind of, there was a point at which I said, you know, I really should just eat my environment and not look outside at not, not even if I get a creative idea, you know, I shouldn't necessarily pursue it if it involves, why don't I get to take that creative idea and see if I can work with something that's um, that's here in front of me. Um, and somewhere in the midst of that, you know, it started as kind of that idea. But, um, I think what drew me there was the flavors, just the, the fact that this food has such a distinctive has such a distinctive characteristic stamp of time and place. It's, you know, it's, it's a much abused notion now, but terroir to split my neighborhood tastes like because everything's from here
Marjorie Alexander (08:45):
for a while. But I did not realize that you have over 11,300 posts. So when you said, when you said it started instagram, I'm thinking 2000, was instagram even around back then and it was, um, obviously you were like the first user because you have 11,000 posts.
Mallory O’Donnell (09:05):
It's not even that, it's not even that long ago. Um, um, I think I'll be in my fourth year this summer. Yeah. Well, well, what I think what I try to do is there's a lot of, um, I, I want to write about, um, more about applying the plants. I'm not really interested in like making a field guide or anything like that, but instagram sort of can be a field guide or at least a help in addition to that. Um, although I really counsel against people using it as an exclusive source. But the thing is every, you know, every March 30th you will, you know, you'll get a flash of what's going on out there right now. And that's why there are so many posts. Because I'm not posting once about Dandelions, I'm posting about dandelions. Every time I collect them and every stage of their growth in the winter, I occupy myself with doing barks studies.
Mallory O’Donnell (10:00):
I go to trees that I know that I collect food from or that are just interesting trees and I get a really Nice capture of the bark and you'll see three or four of them every day usually. And it's just, it is like a diary. Um, and the best part is looking back and going, uh, not only, uh, is it, is it helpful to see where I've come or what new things they will learned, but also that I can, uh, it's very helpful in terms of just the schedule of eating wild food. You see something when you collected something and you go, oh my God, I got to get to that tree right now. Um, you know, it's, it's ready again or whatever. So it's helpful like that too. But it did start as kind of a journal.
Marjorie Alexander (10:41):
So I do have to ask and just to go back for a second, anyone that is interested in visiting Mallory's Instagram, it is mallory, l o donnel at Mallory l o O'donnell on instagram. And like I said, over 11,000 posts. I'm insane that the textures, the flavors, the colors are so fascinating on here. And obviously this is from your local environment. Where are you located? Around abouts?
Mallory O’Donnell (11:09):
I'm in a western New Jersey, which a might not be readily apparent for a lot of people that think New Jersey is. I'm a big city scape. I live in a farm, a lot of farms, a lot of, a lot of preserved land. Um, when I left here in 2001
Mallory O’Donnell (11:30):
I expected when I came back 10 years later, I visited I think once or twice, but I expected a great change in the landscape and there really hasn't been. Um, it's a commuter neighborhoods. A lot of people come out here to have kids and, and uh, you know, how we have a fairly good school system, um, but it's a lot of people that work for big corporations and commune and uh, and then a lot of preserved land, a lot of open space and quite a few farms. The farm situation here is, it's a lot of agribusiness type stuff, but there's also some good local farms and they're really starting to bring it back because the, the, the landscape itself hasn't really changed that much over the last 10 years, which is a good thing.
Marjorie Alexander (12:16):
So I have to ask because I know several people that I know personally that will listen to this episode and think for foraging, how do you know what the heck you're eating? And of course, to get super dramatic about it, how do you not die? But I mean, I mean, but, but really, um, I know that there are several foods that if you don't cook them can, you know, be upsetting to your stomach or a several foods that have something that looks very similar that can be, you know, that's basically not a edible for, for humans at least. Um, how do you get around that? And you said earlier that you try to be careful about saying people should only use instagram as their field guide and maybe incorporate some other sources, uh, for, for what to eat in their local environments. How do you educate yourself about what's around you, what's edible and what's not?
Mallory O’Donnell (13:15):
Well, the first thing I think is you want to have multiple sources, not photo sources are you need to find a mixture of media, both photographs, drawings and text. Um, field guides. There's a lot of good books out there. I'd be happy to send you a bibliography or whatever if you'd like. I'd be awesome. That's part of what I want to do in the future, both with the website and with what I'm working on is to sort of unite the resources that are out there. But my real big piece of advice would be used as many resources as possible. If you have a person who knows the plants, that's obviously the first and best resource. Um, if there's someone in your area or experience for you or there's a lot of foraging guides that offer themselves, some are free, some are not. Um, and if you have a mushroom club, those are good. I'm in the New Jersey mycological society. I definitely recommend joining one of those if you're curious about mushrooms, because mushrooms are a landmine hosts a lot of toxic species that are very common as with plants.
Mallory O’Donnell (14:23):
Um, the, the question everyone always asks is how do you know what to eat and how do you not get sick? But the only way to really do that is to really understand what something is before you put it in your mouth. Take your ti.
Marjorie Alexander (14:36):
me. Don't, don't be keen to, uh, to look like a photo and match it and go, oh, that's what that is. I'm gonna, I'm gonna. Take that home and cook it tonight because that's not what's going to happen. You've got to watch it and compare it with multiple sources. If you can. A really good thing for, for, um, herbacious plants or weeds is you want to see the plant flower. A lot of plants look really similar when they're just green leaves,
Mallory O’Donnell (15:04):
but when they flower, you get a lot closer to an identification of them. And a lot of the field guides that are available are going to focus on the flowers. Um, so that's helpful. Um, there's a lot of really good resources on plant identification. I sort of, I think I use instagram a bit to express my aspect of that or my need to help people along with that, but um, my interest is more in taking those materials that are out there, helping people sort of sift through them and then what to do with it when you have it because that's really what's not well documented is um, the cooking aspect of this and the food use aspect of it isn't as, I don't think it's as well documented or, or put together, um, in terms of the resources that are out there.
Marjorie Alexander (15:52):
So I want to get a little bit more into the topics that you cover in your blog specifically. What are some of your favorite recipes that you've shared with, with your readers online?
Mallory O’Donnell (16:02):
Yeah, um, I really like making, um, I don't even want to call it a, you know, not necessarily recipes, but I liked making pantry items, like making a fermented foods. I'm brewing wild t's, uh, using those as ingredients and cooking. Most of my cooking itself is, is a sort of ad hoc and thrown together. It's, it's really simple food, but the, I have an endless amount of resources that I can play with because I use these ingredients to create sort of more, um, to try and go for more creative applications with them. They become more like pantry items, freezer items. Um, I really like to encourage people to use to try and use acorns and process acorns. There's a, there's a huge bounty of those which doesn't all have to be set aside for wildlife. There's a, there's a, there's a sustainability to acorn harvest thing as long as you do it in the right fashion. Um, but, uh, I don't know. I think some of the more inspired things that I've done have been more about taking something that doesn't.
Mallory O’Donnell (17:16):
Mallory O’Donnell (17:18):
necessarily get much use in the wild through community as an edible. Like a good example would be a hemlock comes out, cones are edible, but no one really uses them because they're, they taste so intense. But when you grind them up and make a salt or you dry them and make a sugar, um, or dry them even further or they become almost like seaweed in flavor and you can make a things like for a cock gay from them, um, and you know, use them as a, almost a six, almost seaweed from a tree, but when they're fresh, they have a very citrusy flavor, which you can capture an assault and seasoned something where then it becomes some new flavor that you've never really had. But it's something that if you picked it up and ate it off the tree, you would probably not want to immediately gather a ton of them.
Mallory O’Donnell (18:06):
Um, so I've tried to stress some of the more unconventional, uh, ingredients and trying to make culinary goal that to them, if you would like making stocks where you incorporate for, um, one of my favorite things I make is just is just called the brothel fallen leaves. And it's just, it's food safe leaves that are either Brown Browning on the tree are fallen and you clean them up. You can put them in a pot. And what are, and you create a broth that's almost a mushroomy earthy, rich, and deep. Um, you know, you get the right flavor balance has a really shocking flavor that you wouldn't necessarily expect just from a bunch of it literally scattered Foley's
Marjorie Alexander (18:54):
where you are now in your journey with, with foraging and cooking the world around you, basically, hence the name, how to cook a lead that has required a fairly intense amount of study over the years. How would you suggest that someone gets started with foraging or, or started with something that they just have in their backyard? Maybe they're not, um, you know, going too far out into parks or the nature around them, but something just in their backyard that they know is edible for a beginner, how would you suggest that they bring those items in and start working with them?
Mallory O’Donnell (19:37):
Well, I think you hit the nail on the head with a question right there. The best place to start is your backyard or your front yard in the city, a local park, or even what's growing through the cracks in the sidewalk. I don't want you to grow through the cracks in the sidewalk, but if you look at the, the plants, if you observe the plants, you're going to start to see them everywhere. A plan ideas, uh, is a very complicated thing in terms of going about it from your own ground level. But if you've got enough resources and perhaps a little guidance along the way, once you see that plant, then you start to be able to unravel the mysteries of the other ones. And then once you've seen something, you've realized that it's everywhere because most of the plants that are edible are introduced by humans and their common, the common weeds that grow in the sidewalk that grow in your front yard or especially in your garden.
Mallory O’Donnell (20:28):
That's actually, if anyone has a garden, I always steer them there first because most of the plants that pop up in your garden are there not only edible, but when you would want to lead them to make way for your other plants is when they're at the peak of their ability. Uh, when you want to collect dandelions is right when they pop out of the ground and spring, but pull the plants out of your garden, grows the roots or dry the roots and make a seasoning salt with it. Eat the fresh leaves. They're delicious at first they get more, better later on, but you can, you can cook them a bit. Um, and it's kind of ironic that people will pull these quote unquote weeds out of their gardens and then just throw them in the compost pile. Well, hopefully
Marjorie Alexander (21:13):
if I gave up my community just couldn't get there enough, but I had a community garden plot and dandelions. And, and so I experimented with using the roots, uh, in teas fresh. I didn't dry them or anything and it's quite tasty. I was really surprised or put a combined that with mint to make a mint. Dandelion tea is actually really, really good. Um, what are some other, uh, super simple ones that are maybe very common that people might be able to look out for?
Mallory O’Donnell (21:49):
Uh, well definitely a chickweed is a big one because it's a, it comes out in the, especially in more urban, uh, or I guess you'd civilized areas and towns and then in a, especially in a, I see we chickweed all the time and the planner pots of, uh, of, you know, different little local businesses in towns around here that's a good one and it comes out again in the spring. Um, and it's a very distinctive in the way it grows. It grows like a dense matt. Uh, it's not very similar looking to too many other plants and doesn't have a lot of toxic lookalikes. It flowers fairly early and you can still usually get fresh greens before it flowers. You're able to buy it when it's good and it's something that people can eat raw, which I think people enjoy when they, um, they start working with wild plants because a lot of them are, a lot of them require a little bit of preparation or they become a lot better if you prepare them. Um, but that's a good one to start with. Personal plan is difficult to mistake or anything like that.
Marjorie Alexander (22:54):
I'm sorry, could you start over again? Just hit your mic right in the middle of that word. I didn't hear it
Mallory O’Donnell (22:58):
all that. So, um, yeah, personally in is another very common, um, that comes out a little later in the year towards the summer. Um, very difficult to mistake for other things. It's almost succulent like an aloe plant, but smaller and tends to grow in a city gardens very healthfully because it grows very well in poor soil. Um, that's a great plan. Has A, you see it a lot and in farmer's markets in the city when it's, when it's in season, um, and it, uh, it has, uh, the highest concentration of Omega three of any plant on earth. It's really nutritious. Yeah. Lambsquarters is another common one. I'm very distinctive. It's looks like spinach a bit, but it's downy covered with a soft hair grows in a very characteristic kind of way. So it's sort of tough to mistake and it's everywhere. It's a very common plant of disturb ground know, uh, again, uh, of your, of your garden and your space like that.
Mallory O’Donnell (23:59):
Those are, those are some of the best things to start with. The other thing I think that doesn't get enough push, especially for early forwarders, is trees because trees are really difficult to miss. Identify. They have so many different characteristics you can look at from their bark, which is there all year round to the buds which might come out in fall or winter or spring. They flower every tree. Flowers, even if you don't really notice the flowers, they're there. And then of course the leaves which are there for most of the year. Even the way the leaves change colors distinctive. Um, you know, certainly my hickories turn a very bright orange, yellow and you get to know the trees and you're going a sudden they realized that there's a lot of edible things going on there and they're largely sustainable. They're not, um, they're not, um, they're parts that you can use without really doing much damage to the tree and you don't have to upper tree to eat acorns or to eat black walnuts, which, you know, I, I see literally probably hundreds of thousands of black walnuts just sitting on people's lawns were a all year long around here.
Mallory O’Donnell (25:10):
And even really obvious fruits like apples, there are tons of, uh, apple trees were planted here in people's yards and people have gotten accustomed to this sort of fear of things that are natural that they won't eat apples that are, you know, the common misconception is that abandoned apple is full of worms. It's not cut open hundreds of apples every year and you really don't find a lot and usually you see the warm out of the apple and there's a whole. Yeah, I think most people don't collect them because they're just, they don't look like supermarket apples and people are afraid that they'll be made sick by something because it wasn't sprayed. But I think it might be the other way around.
Marjorie Alexander (25:55):
That's such an interesting point. Yeah. Apples that aren't shiny enough, which by the way, before the apple gets to you, if it's shiny, sometimes these shine it with natural stuff and other times they shine it with a plastic bpa actually. So that's something to chew on, something to sleep on. It just a little disturbing. But yeah, I mean if the opposite isn't round enough, were shiny enough or read enough for green enough, you know, um, it can definitely scare some people off which is, which is unfortunate son. I'm glad that there are people like you out there, uh, doing the work of, of increasing curiosity about natural ingredients that are out there that we can take advantage of for free that are just in our were around town things that we pass every day in and help us see the beauty in those things and actually incorporate those things into our lives in various ways. So thank you so much for that.
Mallory O’Donnell (26:53):
Wow. That makes it sound like what I do is important and that's really,
Marjorie Alexander (26:58):
it is important.
Mallory O’Donnell (27:00):
Wonderful. I just, I think that we need to, all of us, I think as a species we need a major category shift in terms of how we think about things and I think food is a good way to start for some people because it's immediately gratifying. You, you, you take something wild that you collect yourself not only as the experience itself healthy and positive because you're not walking in the woods or you're, you're cleaning up your garden or whatever, but you also come out with something that maybe creates a taste that you didn't know was out there. It can really inspire you to do more things like that. But I think most of all I just, it's so honest that comes from the place we are and a lot of times it, it, we put it there and then all these apple trees were planted by people that wanted to eat apples. They didn't anticipate. We would just let them rot on lawns because they're not golden. Delicious.
Marjorie Alexander (27:53):
Isn't that the actual name of the apple? Golden delicious is like a, um, I don't, I don't know if that's the name of the company. Gave the apple or if it's the name of that specific, I don't know, but yeah, I've seen that in an apple catalogs or whatever
Mallory O’Donnell (28:09):
and it's uh, you know, it's one of the lamest apples in the world. The old abandoned the orchard. Apple will have a lot more flavor and a lot more interesting things going on with them. But uh, yeah, it is, it's a, it's staggering in a way. What are, how quickly our adjustment to a very mechanized, very processed food source has happened. It's only really been, you know, the matter of a hundred years or so that we've really gone full full gear and it's really only a matter of since the fifties that America really went over the top and just everything we eat is probably, you know, it's processed. Um, I, I think that's, that's always one of the things that makes me laugh a bit when people say, how do you not poison yourself? And which I think is a very legitimate question. Don't get me wrong. The first thing is I learned what's, where and what I can eat.
Mallory O’Donnell (29:05):
That was the first thing I said, what, where's my hemlock? Whereas that is, that's going to kill you instantly. I mean, it's not a pleasant thing, but um, but, you know, when I put something in my mouth, I know where it grew. I knew what the soil it grew in was. I know what the botanical name of the plant is. Um, I would venture that most people are walking home from the supermarket with packages that have things in them. They can't even pronounce much less know what it is. And that's really very different way to think about things. Like, you know, a thing. I don't ever eat processed food. I don't want to joyless. I live in New Jersey. I'm going to have a slice of pizza when I want to.
Marjorie Alexander (29:46):
Well, I could not have said it better once you get into our [inaudible] sustainable questions here, if you're ready. Absolutely. Awe of which is, can you share with us one long standing habits that you believe has significantly positively impacted your life?
Mallory O’Donnell (30:12):
Definitely walking. Human beings don't walking up anymore. Or our bodies evolved over time to be primarily machines toe walking. I think some people would say climbing, walking is sort of how we observe the world for a really long time. We walked, we encounter things, we observed them, we studied them, learn what they were. Now we are constantly flying past them in machines or you know, writing machines on our way to work. I'm getting about in a much more mechanized way, which I think is really a fundamental change in how we observe the world. And I think that I learned to love walking. I don't know. No one likes it as much as me. I really learned to love it at an early age and I'm always forever walking everywhere. I, um, you know, I, I really encourage it because it forces you to operate on nature's time a little bit and, uh, to observe things a little more slowly and it's just a practice that I think I tried to do it every day. You know, I certainly do it every day, but I try to get outside and do it every day to not just walk around the house brewing, kettle, so sweet birch tree, but also get outside and move around. Um, I also think that it's a very helpful tool if you're trying to understand the edible world because you will see the same things every day and then you'll learn how they change over time and have a greater in a year, which is very important if you want to understand them.
Marjorie Alexander (31:49):
What is one new habit that you're cultivating your life right now?
Mallory O’Donnell (31:54):
OK. This is one of my, my, um, my favorite creation is actually I should have thought about when I met you asked earlier, but, uh, I had, uh, I've always had a really irregular behavioral pattern with coffee. I enjoy it, but I don't, I'm not a coffee addict. I don't have to have it every day. Um, and while I enjoyed making wild teeth and things like that and I would've, I've experimented with all different kinds. The thing that I really started doing last year that hasn't been made a big difference, I think in terms of my impact would be um, I started making a, it's like a Kombucha, but instead of using the cultivated tea leaves, I use the leaves of any of the species. Now we're, this is the cane fruit, so it's blackberry raspberry wine, Barry, all those guys, but the native black raspberry here, all those plants, they all have leaves that when dried are, they taste remarkably like tea, but they also have the same um, energy in them that allows them to create a Kombucha.
Mallory O’Donnell (33:00):
So I make our group who chose what I call it because it can be any of those leaves from that genius. Uh, I usually use the wild, a blackberry leaves. They have a really nice flavor and then wine berry, which is extremely invasive, uh, it's one of our most invasive plants. It's a, an Asiatic, a berry that was introduced, uh, sometime in the twentieth century and it's completely taken over a lot of the woods around here. So I use the leaves from that and uh, make a beverage that is essentially, you know, it's like a Kombucha, but it's, it's just flavored with plants that are in the neighborhood. And you know, I love coffee, I love tea and we've come a long way with fair trade and things like that. But you're at the end of the day, you're still consuming a plant that comes from the tropics. I mean, it's, it's going to have a, a, a, a ticket on it, you know,
Marjorie Alexander (33:55):
what is one item that you've purchased or acquired in the last year that has helped you live a more earth conscious lifestyle?
Mallory O’Donnell (34:04):
This was the hardest one. I couldn't really think of it. Um, I think a dehydrator. Um, and I had a dehydrator, but I've got a better. It's a, it's a small thing and it, and it was obviously a burns energy. Um, but the thing is, it's so perfect to create a whole set of food stuffs that not only have different flavors that I can experiment with, it changes the flavors of them. It also gives me a really big stock of things that I can eat in the winter because there's not a whole lot going on up there. Well, I always say there's a lot going on in the winter and people don't know it but, but it. But it really helps to create a larder to create a, um, a more, uh, sustainable winter food source. Because I can, you know, I've got tons of mushrooms that I can rehydrate, I've got, you know, the different leads and spices that I use. Um, lots of nuts, lots of acorns. And I think that, you know, it's a, it's a, it's a, it's a tech [inaudible], but it, I think it gives back a lot more than it takes.
Marjorie Alexander (35:16):
Does that work or is that totally works? I'm, um, I wasn't sure if it was too, like I get, you know, I think a dehydrators are awesome and they also, I think, um, help preserve some of the nutritious parts of the food we eat. Sometimes you cook things and you cook all the nutritious stuff right out of it. So I first, I don't know the, I don't know the science behind that. Um, so don't take my word for it. Read some blog by somebody who actually knows what they're talking about, but I do believe that that is the case. I am. I, I, this fourth question, I'm changing it in the new year and so I'm trying to gather my thoughts as to um, what, what my next question is. But I'm trying to remember who gave me the idea and I can't find it, but that's OK. I'll figure that out later. So this is a new question. New for 2018 that I'm trying out and we'll see how it goes. Uh, so I'm gonna throw you a little bit of a curve ball. Hope you don't mind. So what is one misstep that you've had in your journey so far that has taught you something? Invaluable.
Mallory O’Donnell (36:34):
Wow, good question.
Mallory O’Donnell (36:36):
Marjorie Alexander (36:38):
take as much time as you need.
Mallory O’Donnell (36:41):
Yeah. It's not something I think about. I, I really am very, I'm, I'm sort of try to always look at everything as a step in the journey. So I even a misstep to me is a step that you needed to make to, to be inaccurate, but that's actually, that's what you're really asking. Yes. And that's a really clever question which makes it harder. It's good, it's good. Um, I think, you know, I think not. Hmm.
Mallory O’Donnell (37:18):
Mallory O’Donnell (37:23):
Repeat it to me again, how you phrased that. I want to make sure I'm sure I'm feeling you exactly.
Marjorie Alexander (37:30):
I actually think I, I messed up, messed up two words here, so it's slightly different. What is one misstep you've had on your journey so far that has taught you and invaluable lesson?
Mallory O’Donnell (37:46):
Mallory O’Donnell (37:50):
I think, um, and I hope it's a good answer. I hope it's so, it's, it's sort of appropriate, but I was very afraid of a foraging mushrooms for a really long time. Um, I came, I've come much more recently around to them and I think that the lesson I learned was that when you study something deeply, whether it's art or music or plants, the skill set is there for you to study the next thing just as deeply and being afraid or intimidated by them because I felt like I was doing it on my own. I didn't reach out to them sooner and I really wish I had because the adding that dimension to understanding has almost completed a picture of understanding at least the basics and fundamentals of the natural world around me because they're the sort of missing element there. The overlooked element, you know, there what decomposes most of what goes on out there and they tie it altogether in a way that plants don't, you know, they're, they're very curious.
Mallory O’Donnell (38:55):
They're more closely related, genetically speaking. They're more closely related to us than they are plants. They're, they're much more like animals. And I think not realizing that because of fear and not understanding that because a fear probably held me back in a certain way and that would be, you know, something I would think. But I think the lesson of learning that has made me, once I realized mushrooms aren't very scary at all or there are no more scary than lance, I should say. Um, I realized that there's sort of nothing like left to worry about or be afraid of a no reason to have any other big hangups about something.
Marjorie Alexander (39:33):
Excellent. Thank you for bearing with me.
Mallory O’Donnell (39:36):
No, no, no problem. Thank you for giving the time to think about it. So it's a really good question. Uh, it's a, you know, it's typical of what you're asking, which is stuff that provokes you to think a bit about what you're doing rather than just keep doing it.
Marjorie Alexander (39:52):
Do you have an internet resource other than your website, which will plug in a few minutes ago that you find helpful on a regular basis that you think most listeners would find beneficial?
Mallory O’Donnell (40:05):
Absolutely. Um, I use this as a resource for, uh, for foraging in terms of determining the credibility of lance also for a resource, uh, just for a reference or resource learning about, for instance, the 300 different kinds of offers that are out there. Um, but, uh, this is, there's a site called plans for a future m p, f a s.org, and it's primarily a horticultural project. It started a couple in Cornwall in the UK, started it as part of their sustainable garden, um, and it's become an online database with about 7,000 plants on it. Um, again, with those stressing the need to use more than one resource, I always take what's presented there with a pinch of salt as I would with any one source. Especially one that is edited by a group of people. It's like Wikipedia, you have to, you know, you can't just use it.
Mallory O’Donnell (41:04):
Um, and in some ways is a kind of wikipedia for edible and medicinal and sustainable plants. They researched the different horticultural aspects of them was zones will grow and where they're growing. And there's a few things I think they could add to spice it up, but I mean right now it's the most incredible resource that there is for, uh, for just having a database of merely every wild plant that you would maybe consider putting in your mouth. You can pretty much guarantee it's going to be on there. Um, I would make sure that you can it with another source and not just go by what they say, but what they say is usually quite helpful. They will always report any indications of toxins in any particular quant. So you can make sure that you're drawing something correctly. For instance, with the herb, like mellow, which needs to be dehydrated, proper, properly. Uh, you know, they'll, they'll, they'll, they'll hate you to the, um, the issues involved with that. And then they generally have a lot of great references with each plant, where or where the literature where it all comes from. A lot of traditional folk uses a lot of traditional edible and medicinal uses. I will be index there.
Marjorie Alexander (42:16):
Definitely going to take a look at that when we get off the call here. What is one book that you would recommend for sustainable minds out there that are hoping to shift their mindset specifically to become the change that they want to see in the world?
Mallory O’Donnell (42:31):
I thought about this one a lot too. And there are a lot of great books out there. And again, I'm happy to send you a but Morgan Index. Um, but a book I always turn people onto is more about simple living. Um, it's called honey from a weed. It's by a British woman named patients gray. It emerged in 1986, probably the, the nadir of anyone caring about wild food or indeed simple food. Um, it was really, you know, not, not probably not an auspicious time for her to publish it, but she was a, a woman who wrote about food and then ended up falling in love with the sculptor who traveled through, um, southern Italy, uh, Catalonia in Greek and the Greek islands in search of marble quarries. So she traveled with him as he went to these places to get marble to work on sculptures because there's only a certain number of marble quarries in Europe. And in each place she learned how the local people prepared food. There's some wild food in there, there's some, a little bit of everything.
Mallory O’Donnell (43:41):
Fish, meat game, uh, and always the stresses on a very simple dishes. Oftentimes she would have, you know, nothing more than one burner. Um, but there's just something so elegant and beautiful about the way in which this book represents a complete lifestyle that when you read it, you're taken away and you, you know, you want to live in a, in a half ramshackle hut and you know, in southern Italy somewhere and just and make these, you know, incredibly fresh sardine dishes or whatever it is. And she does incorporate, while she's very similar to me in that she makes Pesach Mermaid, you know, sort of peasant food, uh, with a, with a twist of wild ingredients and especially with the fresh Greens and weeds that grew in the area. But it's also a recording of a real simple way of life. But I think probably was very much disappearing while she was recording it. And I think that the beauty of it and the simplicity of it, I think encourage anyone I know who's read it to turn a little bit more inward and live a little bit more simply and honestly with what's around.
Marjorie Alexander (44:56):
And finally, it's been a long journey for you start to finish will finish. I mean, nothing's really finished is it? But if you had to create a, the same level of, of a following that you have with how to Cook [inaudible], um, what fundamentals or tools, resources, and connections would you put in place right away to ensure that you made it to this place that you're in? And I want to preface this with. I'm like you said you weren't really doing this too with the intention of making a blog that thousands of people were going to, to read every month. It really started out as more something for you that you then began to share, uh, with, with the global community. And I, for one totally appreciate that. And I know that you have a lot of other readers that appreciate it as well. But, um, what are some of the things that you would do, would have done earlier on to kind of get to where you are right now with the website?
Mallory O’Donnell (46:02):
I think in some ways, almost as though I'm in the time machine right now because I feel like I'm telling myself this right now, which is I need to. I have an enormous body of things that are written that I've been using because I'm working very seriously this winter on a book and that's my main focus and in the, in the, in the time of doing that, I've really been, not to be honest, in my opinion, a bit neglectful about posting more to the website and even to Instagram, um, that, you know, I could be saying more, doing more, but I'm sort of squirreling away nuggets or whatever and I think I really need to share more of what I'm working on as I'm working on it and open up the process more. Um, and I think I would probably tell myself to do that, to reach out more, to express more.
Mallory O’Donnell (46:54):
But also I'm in a larger sense to reach out to other people more and not just to document it for my own self and for my own purposes and my own needs. But in the last year I've met a number of people through a blog and instagram that I've changed my life that are other wild food aficionados that a restaurant, people that are experimental, creative chefs that are just good people and I think I would probably push myself to be more social with it and actually use it as a platform to engage more with people in the real world rather than simply just document what I'm doing when I'm looking on in a, in a bus, a stubborn and less selfish available think and share more and not be afraid to put a football.
Marjorie Alexander (47:40):
Well said. Thank you for that. So before we end here, I wanted to, once again for the website, how to cook a weed dark, which like I said, where you share a lot about cooking, gardening and foraging in your local environment of New Jersey, like you mentioned earlier. And also on instagram. Mallory l Donald's spelled m a l l o r y l o d o n n e l l and yes, that's a lot of letters. Of course. As always, I'll have all of these linked up in the show notes page for this episode so you can just go head to ACC, Annabelle, mine.com and search mallory and that episode should pop up immediately. So Mallory, do you have any words or parting pieces of guidance for sustainable minds out there? I
Mallory O’Donnell (48:34):
think that it's a popular and trendy thing. We'll talk about eating local, but I think to really do it takes a little bit of an extra step. I think that when you look around you, you should start to see not just an innocuous plants in agreeing landscape, but something a little bit more complex. Um, most of what's out there is, if not edible, important to know about. The plants that are around us are largely there because of our influence. We put them there. All the little leads you see going on the road side, those are all layer because some human being in the recent past decided they will work growing probably to eat them. Um, and I think that don't think it's a away or exotic thing or you have to be deep in the woods. In fact, deep in the woods is the last place to look for food. Look around you, look or look in your own civilized environment and you'll find these, uh, these little organisms that are despised by so many, but are actually full of nutrition and full of interest than full of, uh, full of good taste.