Hunt for Heritage Apples in Central Park
Sunday, September 13
with naturalist/author “Wildman” Steve Brill
At 11:45 AM Sunday, September 13, America’s go-to guy for foraging, “Wildman” Steve Brill, will lead one of his world-famous walking tours of Central Park. Thanks to its varied habitats and combination of native and introduced species, Central Park is a great place for edible and medicinal wild plants and mushrooms. As the harvest season of autumn approaches, herbs, greens, nuts, berries, roots, and mushrooms all come into season simultaneously.
Burdock, an expensive detoxifying herb sold in health food stores, abounds in uncultivated areas throughout the park. So does sassafras, which tastes like root beer, makes a great tea, acts as a detoxifier, provides a seasoning for sweet dishes, and a thickener for gumbo.
Common spicebush, with berries you use as a seasoning, and ground ivy, provide additional beverages, while the Kentucky coffee tree makes the world’s best caffeine-free coffee substitute, and provides a superb seasoning for chocolate dishes.
Black walnut trees grow scattered in several locations in the park. The nuts, rarely available commercially, have a stronger, more earthy flavor than their commercial relatives, and this wild variety is loaded with nutrients.
Japanese yew bushes bear ripe fruit in the fall, as do wild raisin shrubs, and hawthorn trees. You can even eat the fruit of the wrinkled rose bush, called the rose hip. Just northwest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, massive apple trees drop their outstanding heritage fruit (the apples are red inside) on the heads of unwary sunbathers.
Among the many wild greens in season, we’ll look for field garlic, wood sorrel, sheep sorrel, lady’s thumb, Asiatic dayflower, chickweed, and the new growth of violets and dandelion greens, all as delicious as they’re widespread and common.
Spectacular mushrooms may also abound at this time. Huge hen of the woods (sold in health food stores as maitake), gigantic chicken mushrooms (which taste like chicken), golden-brown honey mushrooms, the prized prince mushroom, and savory wine-cap stropharia mushrooms can be emerging from trees or wood chips.
The 4-hour walking tour begins at 11:45 AM, Sunday, September 13, at West 72nd St. and Central Park West. The suggested donation is $15/adult, $10/child under 12. Please call (914) 835-2153 at least 24 hours in advance to reserve a place.
For “Wildman’s” 2015 tour calendar and additional info, visit http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com