#45 | Ginseng, Oshá Root, and Pesto
Years ago, hiking through the hillsides of western North Carolina, we came across some rare red berries that we knew better than to pick. Not because they were poisonous but because they were too precious. They grew from one of the most endangered medicinal plants on our continent: ginseng. Like most plants, if examined closely enough, this low-lying but powerful perennial bears lessons even for those of us who live far from where it grows. That’s part of the takeaway, at least, from a recent book by historian Luke Manget. “The history of ginseng in America, and in Appalachian states specifically, is also the story of ‘the transition to capitalism,’” writes Emily Baron Cadloff in her review of Manget’s Ginseng Diggers, which tells the history of the lucrative and over-harvested medicinal root in the more eastern reaches of the United States. “The popularity of ginseng pushed Appalachian communities further out of subsistence farming and into wage-earning roles.”
Closer to home, oshá root has long been wildcrafted for medicine, but concern of overharvest has grown in recent decades as commercial demand has increased. While the wild population is not yet listed as endangered, the lessons learned from ginseng have led some herbal companies to proactively seek alternatives in an effort to curb demand. Among one of our favorites is the closely related lovage plant, whose roots can be used as a respiratory support similarly to oshá and whose leaves provide a uniquely delicious flavor, vaguely reminiscent of celery mixed with cumin and parsley, that must be tasted to be appreciated. We have often wondered why lovage, a perennial that grows easily in gardens and can transform a meal into something divine, doesn’t show up on menus more often?
By the way, if you enjoy this newsletter, please pass it on!
Summer means pesto, and pesto means more than just basil. Pecans are an excellent alternative to pine nuts, and arugula, mint, and parsley are some of our favorite greens to use. And then, for those fortunate enough to find it, there is the aforementioned lovage. Our most recent pesto success went something like this: A small handful of walnuts, a half a small handful of parm, the juice from a fresh lemon, a couple cloves of garlic, a pinch of salt, and enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the food processor a half an inch. Grind it up and slowly add the leaves of whichever pesto plant you have, tasting along the way and adding more of any previous ingredients until it’s just as you like it.
Entrances & Exits
Los Poblanos has announced new leadership on their culinary team: following the departure of longtime executive chef Jonathan Perno, Chris Bethoney has been promoted to head chef, and Liz Gallery has been appointed culinary director.
3128 Social House recently opened their doors next to the already-open Gather. The venues share a chef—Joe Anguiano—and were formerly home to the Nob Hill Bar & Grill and the somewhat short-lived (and possibly to return to business across the street in the future) Daydream Rum Bar.
Last week we noted that Blood Sausage in Albuquerque had closed, but not that the proprietors’ Santa Fe venture, Liu Liu Liu, had also closed.
Not an exit, but a setback: Poki Tako was burglarized and vandalized in Santa Fe this week. Randy Tapia is raising funds to get his food truck up and running again.
More of a whisper of a future entrance: Tender Fire Kitchen, which started running pizza and movie nights in Santa Fe during the peak of the pandemic and is now serving at El Rey Court on weekends, plans to open a brick-and-mortar space next year at the forthcoming El Camino Crossing on Agua Fria.
Today until noon, Plantita Vegan Bakery is hosting their bimonthly popup at Reunity Resources in Santa Fe.
The traveling Thai street food pop-up Pranom Pop-Up is scheduled to be at Albuquerque’s Bow & Arrow Brewing July 6. We have missed their prior stops in Albuquerque but have heard good things.
The Lavender in the Village Festival is Sunday, July 24, in Los Ranchos—and, for those who want the lavender but not the sun, it’s preceded this year by a night market and concert the eve of July 23. In other lavender news, The Acre is doing a five-course lavender brunch today and the next couple Saturdays at their restaurant in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. And in Albuquerque’s North Valley, Eldora Chocolate is offering tours of their chocolate factory that include tastings of their lavender chocolate.
Speaking of lovage: it makes an appearance in “Ancient Roman Recipes,” a short and sweet episode of Here Be Monsters that features Sally Grainger, author of a reboot of an ancient Roman cookbook, Cooking Apicius.
From our Great Outdoors issue: “My original plan, when I accepted this assignment in early April, was to have a small picnic at Hermit Peak. . . . Eight miles round trip starting at over seven thousand feet, rising passed ten thousand at its highest point, and made famous by a monk who isolated himself up there in the 1860s—the hike sounded difficult, but, like my other picnic stories, I anticipated that this one would be as much about the journey as the food.”
Did someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here to keep it coming.
Do you have news to share? Upcoming events that eaters should know about? Recommendations or quests? Email us at email@example.com.