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Wild Flavors

Wild Flavors by Didi Emmons
One Chef's Transformative Year Cooking from Eva's Farm

“With brilliance, love, and a sense of humor, Didi Emmons captures the wild and wacky spirit of Eva Sommaripa and her world of herbs. . . . You’ll want to dive in, roll up your sleeves, and start cooking with lovage, purslane, and all kinds of plants you may never have heard of before, but probably could find in your own backyard.” — Jody Adams, chef, Rialto Restaurant

“Didi Emmons, a local rock star of vegetarian cuisine, has written a lovely and unique cookbook, jam-packed with yummy recipes. . . . This book fills an important niche in the cookbook world.” — Melissa Kogut, executive director, Chefs Collaborative

“Didi Emmons has long been a hero to me. She teaches, tempts, and transforms all of our senses, even our common sense. Let her artistry open our eyes and taste buds to the wild flavors all around us. Enjoy!” — Frances Moore Lappé, author of EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want

This is a cookbook about a farm, a farmer and a cook. Eva Sommaripa is a driven, uncompromising 70 year-old farmer growing exclusively for Boston’s top chefs. Her bucolic slightly chaotic 2-acre organic farm began 40 years ago. Growing over 200 unusual herbs, greens, and edible weeds, the farm is a visual and culinary odyssey, analogous to the Louvre, it can not be seen in a day. Over the past decade, Didi Emmons, chef and author, has been visiting Eva regularly. She has been cooking from her garden, absorbing knowledge of the plants and learning about Eva’s unconventional strategies to sustainability.

On its most basic level, Wild Flavors is a seasonal cookbook celebrating greens, herbs, weeds, and foraged food. Forty six plants and 150 recipes are featured, including under-appreciated herbs like chervil and tarragon, nutritious weeds such as goosefoot and chickweed, and sumptuous greens like dinosaur kale and baby mustard. These are plants that are easy to grow (especially the weeds!) and are increasingly available in farmer’s markets. The timing couldn’t be better. Americans are sorely lacking the critical micro-nutrients that leafy greens provide mainly because so many animals are fed corn.

Many of us are questioning industrialized methods of vegetable and meat production in this country. Embedded in this book are lessons on how Eva surpasses the conventional food system. For instance, if you grow your own herbs and greens, you can use and enjoy many more parts and stages of the plant; the bud, the flower, the root, the stems, the seed, etc. Conventional growers are much more limited, they only sell what is familiar or traditional. A core belief held by Eva is that sustainability requires participation and education. Connecting with our food sources is one of the most important beliefs towards this end.

Eva’s approach to sustainability can be quirky and amusing. Her tiny house operates less as a home and more as a mudroom. She is a radical salvager and barterer, known to bring Tupperware to a dinner party or take in a fresh killed deer in exchange for kale. She eschews the supermarket or any store for that matter. “The supermarket is the great disconnect,” Eva muses, “it’s like consuming food blindfolded” referring to how we are kept in the dark as to where our food is from or how it was grown.” Didi, through her longtime involvement, gives an intimate look at the life of one of New England’s most progressive farms. 

This book is divided by the four seasons. Each season offers occasion to celebrate one of Eva’s abiding principles — communing, bartering, preserving, and salvaging. This book will inspire readers to get more involved in obtaining (or growing) and preparing healthy, sublime local food. Through a visceral connection between a passionate chef and a farmer, this book invites a new generation of readers to engage in the interconnectedness and health of the land, the animals, our neighbors and ourselves.

More Praise for Wild Flavors

"Chef Didi Emmons' intimate portrait of Eva Sommaripa, one of New England's most eccentric and charismatic growers, has lessons for us all. From arugula and basil, to spruce shoots and stinging nettles, this book tells you how to prepare, store, save and eat just about everything. Highly recommended!" -- Jane Black, IATP Food & Community Fellow

"Wild Flavors is a down-to-earth book rich in ideas and inspiration for people seeking to eat from their gardens and local areas. It's filled with mouth-watering recipes and valuable cultivation, shopping, and storage tips. But more than anything, this book is a celebration of the ethics and wisdom of Eva Sommaripa, the farmer whose herbs and outlook transformed Didi Emmons and prompted her to write this book. Eva has manifested throughout her life the kind of aspirations many are just now coming to hold. May this sharing of Eva's story help empower more people to realize their dreams of becoming more connected to the land and other creatures." -- Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved

"Award-winning food writer and Boston chef, Didi Emmons, has written a charming cookbook. Wild Flavors chronicles a year spent with farmer Eva Sommaripa on her incredibly forward-thinking farm, complete with 150+ innovative, explosively flavorful recipes that Didi developed to help you take full advantage of the best your farmer's market or natural foods market has to offer. You'll never look at produce quite the same way." -- Steven Raichlen, author, Barbecue! Bible, and PBS host, Barbecue University

"If you are a city person, like me, with a secret yen to forage for wild greens, Wild Flavors is an inspiration. Read it, and you will want to harvest, share, and eat everything you find. Emmons's friend Eva, a committed and skilled forager and grower, not only creates delicious meals from home-grown foods, but also creates a community built around wild foods as a way of life. Best, Emmons's recipes are lovely and easy to follow." -- Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies ,and Public Health, NYU, and author, Food Politics and What to Eat

"Wild Flavors ushers in a new era of cookbook writing. Much more than a collection of ingredient-driven recipes (brilliant, rustic yet modern, recipes), Didi also serves up engrossing stories peppered with practical tips, tools, and tidbits for foraging, growing, and preparing seasonal fare. This timely book not only underscores Didi's immense talent as an innovative chef, it showcases the joys of connecting with our food from seed to table." -- Bryant Terry, author, The Inspired Vegan