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Most of Kim Dyla’s time is spent outside, whether on her seven mile walks or in her garden. (Photo credit: Lilly Parnell)

Southold resident Kim Dyla walks over seven miles every morning. Dressed in yoga pants, boots and a tick-protective shirt, she spends the beginning of her day walking the calm streets of her neighborhood, strolling the perimeter of Hogs Neck Bay as she listens to an audiobook. On most summer mornings, she returns with a bounty of foraged produce. 

“I’m an opportunistic forager,” said Dyla. “I started walking after I retired and I’d go on about two-hour walks and I just started to notice things that I had never seen back in Chicago.” 

In her most recent forage, Dyla came across cherries and mulberries. (Photo by Lilly Parnell)

During these walks, Dyla forages for an abundance of often-overlooked fruit. She began to forage simply out of curiosity. Using Google, she researched what she saw – Kousa dogwood, autumn olives, wisteria and wineberries. Soon, Dyla would bring a knife on her walk to cut away mushrooms and plastic pint containers to fill with berries. 

Foraging is commonplace for many locals on the North Fork, whether people actively seek out products or if they simply come across edible produce in the wild, like in Dyla’s case. Beach plums, for example, are not often found in grocery stores, yet grow in abundance in low-lying, scratchy shrubs along the shoreline. Oyster mushrooms are another common foraged item, found fruiting on dead or dying trees, logs or stumps.

“Google is my tool to make sure the things I forage for aren’t poisonous,” she said. “For example, I recently came across a chicken of the woods mushroom and I googled to see if there are any poisonous look-alikes. If I’m ever unsure I pass it by. And well, I haven’t died yet.” 

Much of what Dyla grows in her garden are fruits she’s never tried before. (Photo by Lilly Parnell)

Dyla, a retired software developer, moved to the North Fork with her husband from Chicago in 2008. It was the first time the pair had land and although she never gardened before, she began to plant things in her backyard. Twelve years after she first put seeds in her yard, Dyla’s garden is lush with life. 

“I started with a packet of tomato seeds and planted them all. I didn’t know any better and had too many tomatoes. Now I know, but I’m always learning,” said Dyla. 

On her half an acre of land, Dyla has nine raised beds where she plants things on purpose. However, the majority of her yard is chaotic – overtaken with kiwi and apple trees, grape vines, pink, black and red currant bushes, almond trees, gooseberries, quinces plus much more. Yet, the chaos is admired and desired by Dyla. 

“I started to plant things and suddenly my whole yard became a garden,” she said. “I let plants go where they want to grow, there’s no organization. I think I have well over a hundred different things growing in my garden throughout the year.” 

When a tiny hoverfly landed on her finger, rather than swatting it away, she gently moved her hand to allow the bug to crawl back onto a plant. Her respect for Mother Nature is apparent in every aspect of her garden, which is teeming with an abundance of pollinators and sometimes even small critters.

“I don’t mind sharing my garden with the animals,” said Dyla. “It offers so much produce there’s no way my husband and I could possibly harvest and eat it all.”

Dyla utilizes her bounty of produce in the numerous projects she has going at once in her kitchen – experimenting with what she grew as well as foraged for. She has a passion for Asian food, specifically Thai cuisine. At any given time you can find Dyla teaching herself how to make soy sauce and miso paste. She is always canning jam or making ice cream from scratch. Her countertops are lined with a pasta maker, a coffee roaster, an oat mill and a dehydrator – to name a few of her ongoing projects and experiments. 

Dyla’s fridge is filled with many of her experiments. (Photo by Lilly Parnell)

“I love my projects,” said Dyla. “But most of my creativity comes from making strudel. My grandma made apple and cheese strudel and I just started experimenting with different things in the garden and decided pretty much anything that could be made into a pie could also be made into strudel.” 

During one walk, Dyla came across huge oyster mushrooms. Cutting the fungi from the tree they grew on, she returned to her kitchen where she sauteed them with rosemary, thyme, squash and sage from her garden. The vegetables and herbs were laid onto her homemade strudel dough before they were topped into a bechamel – made with raw milk from Ty Llwyd Farm.

Foraged Cherry Strudel 

Foraged cherry filling

  • 8 cups cherries
  • 2 tbs Luxardo maraschino liqueur (optional)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Juice from 1 lemon


Pit the cherries. Foraged cherries are small. Pitting will be a pain so if you can pawn that task off, do it. Foraged cherries have so much flavor, it will be worth the effort. The pits can be used to make almond extract.

Macerate the cherries with the other ingredients for an hour or so. Drain and reserve the juice for another recipe. 

Ricotta filling

  • Half gallon of raw or whole milk
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Zest from 1 lemon


Heat milk and vinegar. When the temperature reaches 185F, curds will form. Tip: use a chopstick. Turn off the heat. Drain curds and cool. Beat in sugar, zest, and egg. Cover and refrigerate.

Chocolate chips

When it comes to chocolate, I think less is more. So I use less than a cup of mini chocolate chips. If you like more, use more.

Cookie or bread crumbs

  • 1 cup crushed cookies or bread crumbs. Bread crumbs can be lightly toasted with 2 tablespoons butter.

Strudel dough

  • 250 grams high gluten or bread flour
  • 100 grams water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 stick melted butter


Knead until blisters form in the dough. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Place a tablecloth or bedsheet on a square or rectangular surface. Dough can stretch to 4 feet long by 4 feet wide. Lightly flour so dough won’t stick. Tablecloth is used to roll up dough.

Use a rolling pin to get the dough as thin as possible but don’t get overly obsessive about it. Think large dinner platter.

Lift the dough off the floured tablecloth and stretch the dough. Think a much slower version of how you see pizza dough stretched. No need to throw it in the air. The weight of the dough itself helps it stretch. When it becomes unwieldy, put it down. Brush with melted butter to aid in further stretching and so that the dough doesn’t dry out.

Finish stretching by hand. Final dimensions 4’ x 4’. Don’t worry if yours is smaller.

Making strudel might be intimidating but it isn’t hard. It does take patience and practice. 

Cut off thick edges. I brush them with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Since I bake it with the strudel, I put it on the top rack of the 350F oven. Pan gets turned at 9 minutes and pulled at 18.

Use a pastry brush to splatter butter over the dough. Think Jackson Pollock.

Spread cookie or bread crumbs along the length of an edge. Crumbs prevent wet ingredients from tearing through.

Add the ricotta filling, cherries, and chocolate chips.

Use a tablecloth to roll up the dough. Place on jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper. 

Brush with melted butter.

Bake in a 350F oven for 50 minutes. Turn the pan when you take out the sugared dough bits.

Serve topped with powdered sugar or ice cream or nothing at all.

With a glance at her Instagram profile, @thescratchiest – a name bestowed upon her by a reporter from Edible Magazine in a 2014 article – her culinary creativity is apparent. Photos of homemade date and tahini ice cream topped with bright green mint leaves, berries of every shade of red growing on bushes and, of course, plenty of recipes for both sweet and savory strudel can be found. 

“I don’t really have a process, I just use whatever fruit looks interesting to me at the time and I look up recipes using Instagram as well,” she said. Like right now I’m obsessed with using red currant. I like to grow things in my garden that I never tasted before.” 

She is excited about finding wineberries during their upcoming season. Wineberries are an extremely tart, jewel-red berry that Dyla came across during many of her foraging expeditions. Dyla is also preparing to plant mulberry trees in her yard after she rediscovered the dark purple berries on her walks. 

“I grew up with mulberry trees in a small town in Illinois, so I recognized those immediately,” said Dyla. “I discovered a tree near Jockey Creek and so I like to stop there and look out at the water and munch. I don’t always need to make something out of the things I forage because I have so much in my yard. But, [my forage] usually makes a good snack as I walk.” 

Whether it is starting a garden or learning how and where to forage, Dyla encourages anyone curious to just start learning and Googling. 

“Just start,” she said. “I didn’t start gardening until I was in my 50s. There’s always something to learn. It’s about the journey, not the destination.”