I’m personally a foraging enthusiast but it’s not a passion that members of my family share. Still, I haven’t given up. I have taken them on a foraging field trip with a local expert.
I make a point of showing them edible plants in our neighborhood. I have shared videos on foraging that my husband now enjoys.
And, I’m pleased to say that foraging has sunk in with my kids. When we are out walking the dog, they will point out edible plants to me. I don’t care that they are mocking me gently; they have absorbed the joy of foraging!
Today, I’m so thrilled to welcome Andrea Wang! I met her at a book event for her picture book, The Nian Monster. I also enjoyed collaborating with her on Asian Culture and KidLit series:
September 2018: Cover Reveal! Andrea’s MAGIC RAMEN: The Story of Momofuku Ando
February 2019: Cover Reveal! Mia’s Sumo Joe
April 2019: Ramen Noodles & Chinese Connection
June 2019: Tempura and Chankonabe (and how it’s related to our books!)
August 2019: Nissin Sports Advancement Foundation, Sumo for Girls
October 2019: It’s a Small World: Nissin Connection
She’s here to talk about her new picture book, Watercress, which has received rave reviews and is my pick for Caldecott contention! We hope you will be inspired join us in our foraging adventures with her picture book list.
We are also giving away a copy of Watercress along with a signed bookplate! To enter, please use the Rafflecopter at the bottom.
Hi Mia! It’s great to be back on the Pragmatic Mom blog – thank you for inviting me!
My newest picture book is called Watercress and it’s about a young Chinese American girl whose immigrant parents spot watercress growing in a drainage ditch by the side of the road. They make her and her older brother get out and help them harvest it, much to her embarrassment. She refuses to eat the vegetable at dinner that night because it makes her feel even more like an outsider in her mostly white, rural town. It’s not until her mom shares a story from her own childhood growing up during a famine in China that the girl understands why her parents behave the way they do. She stops feeling ashamed of her family and starts creating new connections to her heritage.
Since the book published, readers have been sharing their own stories about foraging. They’re not all Asian, and not all immigrants, either. People from all different cultures and backgrounds collected food from the wild when they were young, and some still do. It’s actually a hip thing to do now! So I thought I’d share some picture books about foraging, in case it’s something you and your family are interested in.
Watercress by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin
“I take a bit of the watercress and
it bites me back with
its spicy, peppery taste.
It is delicate and
like Mom’s memories
This is such a beautiful ode to being a bi-cultural child, trying to navigate being “American” while also finding a place for ancestral culture and heritage. It’s not an easy line to walk, especially when the memories from the past are haunting, and there is so much pressure to fit in. Andrea’s story is as spare and gorgeous as a poem and she retraces her memories of being ashamed of foraging for watercress growing up in Ohio. Yet, this food memory also connects her to her mother’s past and creates new sensory memories so strong that they are able to break the bonds of shame and illuminate an immigrants’ life of struggle and success. For what do our immigrant parents want from their children most? For them to live a life with less suffering than what they experienced. Andrea Wang’s parents would be so proud of her and this beautiful book that celebrates the American immigrant experience. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Picture Books to Inspire Foraging
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
This is the first picture book that I remember reading about foraging, and I’m not sure I knew that blueberries grew on bushes until then! The illustrations in this book are beautifully spare and really evoke the time period. I love how there is a hint of danger when Sal and her mother encounter the bear cub and its mother, but that everyone reacts with gentle surprise. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui
I love everything about this book, which also happens to be the inspiration and mentor text for my taking the Watercress manuscript out of the drawer and revising it. It’s about a young Vietnamese American boy who goes fishing with his father before dawn – they are fishing for food, not fun. It’s a poignant, lyrical ode to immigrants. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow
This book tells the fascinating story of a young Korean girl who wants to become a haenyeo like her grandmother. The haenyeo are women free divers, who dive off the coast of Jeju Island to gather edible sea cucumbers, abalone, and other ocean treasures. It’s a lovely celebration of a cultural tradition, an intergenerational bond, and the ocean itself. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
We Wait for the Sun by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe, illustrated by Raissa Figueroa
In this picture book memoir, young Dovey follows her grandmother through the dark woods in the hour before sunrise to find blackberries. It feels a bit scary to Dovey, but her grandmother reassures her, imparting wisdom and courage along the way. The glorious, golden illustration at the end, with Grandma Rachel soaking in the dawn’s light, shows the fearlessness and joy that inspired Dovey to become a force for civil rights. [picture book biography, ages 4 and up]
Finding Wild by Megan Wegner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Helpin
This is an inspiring, gorgeous book about what “wild” is and where to find it. It’s not specifically about foraging, but it does mention finding honey and blackberries in the wild and could spark fun conversations with kids about what other foods they might’ve found in the wild, or what “wild” tastes and smells like to them. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
In Watercress, the family eats the vegetable stir-fried, which is how I prefer it. I don’t follow a formal recipe since it’s so simple, but this is how I make it:
Stir-fried Watercress Recipe
1-2 tsp cooking oil
1 bunch fresh watercress, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic, sliced
toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high to high heat. Add garlic and stir quickly with a spatula. After a few seconds, add the watercress and continue stirring for 1-2 minutes, until the watercress has changed color and the stems are tender. If the bottom of the wok runs dry, a couple of tablespoons of water can be added to keep the vegetables from scorching. Add salt to taste and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy!
One More Foraging Picture Book with Recipes!
Cooking with Bear: A Story and Recipes from the Forest by Deborah Hodge, illustrated by Lisa Cinar
For those who want to forage and cook, here is another picture book with both a story about foraging and recipes. And … there’s a recipe for watercress soup! [picture book recipe book, ages 4 and up]
Watercress Picture Book with Signed Bookplate GIVEAWAY!
We are giving away a copy of Watercress along with a signed bookplate! To enter, please use the Rafflecopter below. We can only mail to U.S. and A.F.O. addresses.
Photo Credit: Elaine Freitas Photography
Andrea Wang is the award-winning author of The Nian Monster (APALA Honor, PW starred review) and Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando (JLG Gold Standard Selection, Sakura Medal, Freeman Book Award Honor, SLJ starred review). She has two books releasing in 2021: Watercress (JLG Gold Standard Selection, starred reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, PW, Horn Book); and The Many Meanings of Meilan, her debut middle grade novel. Her work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. She is also the author of seven nonfiction titles for the library and school market. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in the Denver area with her family. To learn more about Andrea, please visit her website and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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