Hunt for Wild Raisins in Prospect Park
Saturday, September 12
with naturalist/author “Wildman” Steve Brill
At 11:45 AM, on Saturday, September 12, America’s go-to guy for foraging, “Wildman” Steve Brill, will lead one of his world-famous foraging tours of Prospect Park, beginning at the Grand Army Plaza entrance.=
A great abundance of edible and medicinal wild plants and mushrooms makes this park a great place for edible and medicinal plants and mushrooms in the fall. Burdock, an expensive detoxifying herb sold in health food stores, abounds in cultivated areas throughout the park. You can also use this invasive Japanese staple as a superb root vegetable.
The root of sassafras, which tastes like root beer, makes a great tea. Common spicebush (which also has allspice-like berries), and ground ivy (a gentle herbal diuretic), provide still more beverages.
Everyone will also find plenty of spectacular-tasting leafy green wild vegetables, such as spicy hedge mustard, lemony wood sorrel, parsley-like goutweed, spinach-flavored lamb’s-quarters), corn-flavored chickweed, pungent poor man’s pepper, string bean-flavored Asiatic dayflower, and lettuce-flavored lady’s thumb. These renewable “weeds” readily regenerate whether they’ve been harvested, mowed, or combined into an amazing salad.
Nuts are coming into season. Hickory nuts, delicious but never commercialized (mainly because the trees don’t produce good crops every year), litter the sidewalk 1/4 mile south of the Picnic House.
Hazelnut bushes drop their nuts along the edges of The Mall just north of the skating rink, but we’ll have to race the squirrels get them. Beech trees grow throughout the park, but whether this year’s crop will be a boom or bust is anyone’s guess.
White oak acorns, scrumptious after leached of their bitter tannin, are also widespread. And the first flavorful black walnuts will be dropping onto the paths in various locations.
We’ll also find the seeds of the Kentucky coffee-tree, for making the world’s best caffeine-free coffee substitute, and for flavoring chocolate recipes.
Gourmet fruits are represented by native hawthorn berries, relatives of apples, used in herbal medicine as a heart tonic. There may also be a bumper crop of Northern black haw berries, a.k.a wild raisins. These sweet fruits resemble raisins, but taste like a combination of bananas and prune butter. We’ll also find trees full of crab apples, but you won’t be able to approach these if you’re a physician, since just one apple a day keeps the doctor away!
Spectacular mushrooms will abound if there’s been enough rain beforehand. Huge hen-of-the woods (sold in health food stores as maitake), gigantic chicken mushrooms (which really taste like chicken), golden-brown honey mushrooms, and savory wine-cap stropharia mushrooms could pop up anywhere.
The 4-hour walking tour begins at 11:45 AM, Saturday, September 12, at Prospect Park’s Grand Army Plaza entrance. The suggested donation is $20/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