Urban Foraging with Wild Man Steve
A good portion of my research (not all, however) seems to be converging to two broader barriers to our connection to nature. One, lack of love for nature, and two, lack of knowledge around living with nature, both contribute to our fears and distancing. My experience last Sunday afternoon, while addressing both issues, primarily was directed to the latter. How can we be connected with nature without knowing what is edible and what is poisonous?
Last Sunday, my boyfriend and I ventured to Central Park in a rainstorm to meet Wild Man Steve Brill, his daughter Violet, and (somewhat to our surprise) 20 other eager students, for an Urban Foraging class. We spend 4 hours following Steve and Violet through the park learning about the various plants. The pair thoroughly covered identification, flavor profile, uses (culinary and medicinal), seasonality, as well as similar toxic plants to avoid.
At first, this last bit was somewhat discouraging. I thought, "maybe I should just stick to the farmer's market where everything is marked and labeled as edible". But, while embracing the land for small organic farming and stewarding the soil is better than our current relationship, it's still a step away full embracement of the truly natural and wild. So I required an internal perspective shift. Right now the potential for accidentally in-taking a toxic plant is quite daunting. But I imagine a future where I am much more well versed in plants identification - edible and inedible. This potential future knowledge and confidence calms my fears.
Along the way we encountered a surprising amount of greens, berries, roots, and mushrooms. Here's a list of some of the plants we encountered:
Poor Man's Pepper
Common Spice Bush
Sassafras (yes we can make sasparilla now!
One of my favorite parts of the trek was when Wild Man Steve shared with us a sample of one of the recipes in his cookbook. He took some plain-tasting leaves, baked them with some garlic and spices, and turned them into a delectable treat. I look forward to further investigation of this cook book and his app.
Since the class we have successfully spotted Sarsaparilla on the Highline and many instances of Wood Sorel. Even the times we don't see anything we know, I strongly value the new reason I have to take a closer look at my surroundings.