Learn How to Forage in the Heart of the Urban Jungle - Central Park Edition!
Foraging in Central Park's Urban Jungle Central Park is the most popular of parks for foragers. Because of its varied habitats and the combination of wild and cultivated, native, and exotic plants, Central Park is a great place to forage, even in the winter and early-spring. Here are some of the species we'll be finding: In the Ramble, we'll be finding large stands of field garlic, with mild-flavored onion-like bulbs, plus the tender young leaves, which you use like chives. The bland leaves of lesser celandine, magical in the way they remove the bitterness of dandelions (and other bitter greens), also in season, will be at their peak, and the leaves of goutweed, which taste like parsley, only better, will already be growing. The season's first sweet-and-sharp daylily shoots will be popping up along the embankment of the reservoir—a treat for all. Chickweed, which tastes like corn-on-the-cob, grows across from the Delacourte Theatre, and we'll find new, pungent, young garlic mustard greens, with their horseradish-flavored taproots just south of nearby Belvedere Castle. Wet lawn areas could feature spicy hairy bittercress and intensely flavored winter cress, while sunny, grassy spots with poor soil may produce shepherd's purse, the most mild-flavored of the mustard greens. A cultivated area near the lake is always overgrown with lemony flavored sheep sorrel, one of the tastiest edible "weeds". Edge habitats will feature bitter dock, so bad-tasting raw, it took "Wildman" 29 year to try it cooked, and discover that this super-abundant member of the buckwheat family is one of the best-tasting and versatile wild potherbs. Prepared like kale chips, it's even better. Ground ivy, a.k.a. gill-over-the-ground, is an attractive member of the mint family that's quite tolerant of the cold. This resident of lawns makes a delightful tea that's used in herbal medicine for water retention. Sassafras, the original source of root beer, is in season all year in thickets throughout the park. And we'll also find Kentucky coffee trees, with seeds you can use for making caffeine-free coffee, or to season chcolate. There will also be beautiful early season flowers to observe, including those of witch hazel, common spicebush, and carnelian cherry. The most spectacular flowers are those of the hazelnut bushes near the Delacourte Theatre, with long, pollen-covered male catkins, and tiny, radiating, crimson female flowers. And "Wildman" will have magnifying loupes so everyone can see them in their full glory! Here are some things to keep in mind: -Walks are called off for severely inclement weather. -Must be punctual and on-time! -BRING plastic bags for vegetables and herbs, paper bags for mushrooms, plastic containers for berries, drinking water, and a pen (to sign in). -No sandals (there may be poison ivy, bugs, and thorns). -NO SMOKING AT ANY TIME! -RECOMMENDED: Lunch, knife, digger, work gloves, note pad, whistle (so you won't get lost), insect repellent, sun hat or warm. -LISTEN to the weather forecast and dress appropriately. Bring one more layer of clothing than you think you'll need in cold weather. -CHILDREN of all ages are encouraged to attend, and to learn to understand and love their planet.
Naturalist-author "Wildman" Steve Brill is America's go-to guy for foraging. He's been leading foraging tours and providing demos for the public, for schools, day camps, birthday parties, museums, nature centers, parks departments, restaurants and chefs, garden clubs, hiking clubs, teaching farms, nurseries, and other organizations, in parks and natural areas throughout the Greater NY area, since 1982. He created his own website, Foraging with the "Wildman." His Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not-So-Wild) Places (William Morrow Publishers, 1994) is considered a classic on the subject. His innovative Wild Vegan Cookbook (Harvard Common Press, April, 2002) is changing the way people think of preparing gourmet food. His Shoots and Greens of Early Spring in Northeastern North America (self-published, 1986 and 2008) teaches people how the foraging season begins, and his Foraging with Kids introduces children to the natural world. His Foraging With the "Wildman" DVD is showing people how it's all done, and his iOS/Android app, Wild Edibles, is the best foraging app in America. But the world-famous environmental educator is still best known for having been handcuffed and arrested by undercover park rangers who infiltrated a tour, for eating a dandelion in Central Park!
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