One day in May, in a venerable old cemetery somewhere in northwestern Connecticut, a trio of food professionals clusters around a handsome pitch pine tree delicately infused with essence of dead New England farmer. The three of them are greedily plucking pale green buds and stuffing them alternately into plastic baggies and into their mouths. “These are f———ing good,” says a test-kitchen chef from the Momofuku restaurant empire. “Great texture!” a colleague agrees.
Evan Strusinski, who makes his living foraging wild foods, steps back and sizes up the tree as if he means to collect the whole damn thing. He eyes the car in which they arrived and asks, “Does this Prius have a roof rack?” Then he eats a few more pine buds and his voice pitches up like Regina Spektor singing about tangerines: “Oh! They’re so poppy! So juicy! They inspire me to nibble.”
“Put it in light syrup, focus on the texture,” the Momofuku guy riffs. “Pine poppers! Serve ’em on ice cream.” Later they notice the l...