Foraging in Central Park with "Wildman" Steve Brill
What did you do over your Labor Day weekend? Well, aside from checking out the food trucks on Governors Island for the Parked food festival, I ended up looking for some real locavore eats. On Monday, I joined about 30 other people for a tour of the edible plants that can be found in Central Park. “Wildman” Steve Brill has been leading tours of this and other areas in and around the city and upstate to show people the bounty that can be found right in their back yards.
This activity has long been on my to-do list; I’ve read stories about it for years. Brill is a font of amazing information and stories about the plants and herbs that are right under our noses. I still wouldn’t really feel confident about going around and picking things out of the ground to eat or to cook with, but he makes it seem like it could really be possible to find some great culinary and/or medicinal items in and around us in our local parks. There were several folks who were repeat customers on his expedition.
He hunted down the local apples that we gathered and American hackberries that we sampled. Some impressive poison ivy was pointed out to us, from which we were told to stay away. At the same time, we were shown the plant that would take away the ivy’s itch, should we get too close to it. I never knew that a sprinkling of epizote on cooked beans could cure farting, but I do after yesterday’s tour. I also discovered that sorrel in several forms grows in Central Park and, when tender, is great in salads and soups.
The tour was about four hours long, including a brief lunch break (pack your own) and a bathroom break along the way. He gears his talks to the audience, allowing children to be the first to sample some of the pickings. The amount of information that he shared and the number of photos that I took were too much and too many to post them all here, so I put them on Facebook under the blog’s account.* Please check them out there. Unfortunately, I think it was too early to be able to pick my own mushrooms. I was so hoping that we could find chanterelles so that I could have some for dinner that night!
*Caveat - This was my first time on the tour so I tried to take as many notes as possible and have tried to be accurate regarding the plants we saw; however, no one should just pick what he or she finds on the ground and eat it without being absolutely certain of what it is. My notes should not be taken as a guide to your own foraging efforts.