The day chef Didi Emmons first stepped foot onto a Dartmouth farm named "Eva's Garden," she felt something change.
"Yeah, it was like a wonderland," Emmons said. "I was tasting everything. I knew it was all edible. But I couldn't recognize every herb."
That's because there are more than 200 uncommon herbs, greens and edible weeds growing on the almost three acre farm. Emmons calls it a Shangri-La of flavor, whose high-priestess is Eva Sommaripa, a woman who is a veritable encyclopedia of botanical knowledge.
"This is African basil," Sommaripa says, knees down in the dirt. "This is perilla, or shiso. That's black kale. And that one? Cilantro. Over there, calaminth. Oh, and this wild one. This is oxalis."
I tasted the oxalis. It was a revelation. It felt like a lemon drop exploding on my palate.
Though Emmons was already a successful chef — she opened The DeLux, Pho Republique, and Veggie Planet — after that first day at Eva's farm Emmons thought, "Oh my god. I have to say here for an extended period of time. This is just not going to be enough."
And so she did. For a year she followed Eva and her garden through four seasons, foraging, experimenting, and cooking as Sommaripa harvested dozens of exotic herbs.
Emmons documents the year in a new book titled "Wild Flavors: One Chef's Transformative Year Cooking from Eva's Farm."
Emmons says the year changed her and the way she cooks. After a weekend on the farm, she'd have more energy. After a week of eating the herbs, she'd lose a tummy roll.
"What Eva's all about," Emmons said, "is that being connected to your food source means incredibly delicious food. It also means that after being disconnected from your food and not knowing where it came from, you just enjoy it so much more when it's grown right there at your feet."
- Didi Emmons, chef, author of "Wild Flavors: One Chef's Transformative Year Cooking from Eva's Farm"
- Eva Sommaripa, owner, Eva's Garden
This program aired on October 28, 2011.