Do This!: Foraging for Food is F’ing Fun {in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with Leda}

Leda Meredith's Foraging Tour in Prospect ParkNo, no, I’m not going to start living off the grid and shorning sheep to make my own clothes. But I did learn a very valuable lesson that foraging for wild edibles is not only fun and fairly easy once you know how to ID certain plants, but it also saves you the $12 /lb price that you would otherwise pay at the farmers’ market for these prolific wilds.  After a lovely two hour foraging SideTour with enthnobotonist and locavore expert, Leda Meredith, I came away with some great knowledge and edible treasures that I plan to do something spectacular with this week. Pokeweed and Field Garlic Tart anyone?

Interested in digging for edible gold?

Sign-up for Leda’s next Foraging Tour Here

So, first things first, some rules to abide by when foraging in public spaces like Central Park or Prospect Park:

  • There is no law against foraging, but there are laws against damaging park property, so don’t start cutting down trees and foraging for park benches.
  • There are laws against walking with gardening tools — keep your shovel at home!
  • You’re not supposed to take things out of the park. That said, there are numerous invasive, prolific plants that the park hires people to weed out, many of which are edible. This is where you come in. A new meaning to “will work for food.”
  • Forage a good 50 feet away from walking paths to avoid the “dog” path and undesired fertilizer.
  • The NYC public parks can’t afford to spray pesticides or any other chemicals, so it’s one of the safest green areas to forage. Steer clear of where they do scatter rat poison, however — these areas will be clearly marked.

So, what did we find?

Wild Violets

Leda Shows Off How to ID Wild Violets

Wild Violets

  • ID: heart-shaped leaves with teeth on edges. Purple flower.
  • Edible: Leaf and flower. Roots are toxic.
  • Medicinal: Good for respiratory issues.
  • How to Eat: Mix in a fresh salad or candy the flowers. Dry for tea.

Burdock aka Gobo Root (forgot to Snap a shot)

  • ID: Big fuzzy leaves with ruffled skirt edges. Harvest root of a first year plant before it flowers
  • Edible: Roots and immature flower stalks (use like Italian cardoons)
  • Medicinal: Good for skin issues and liver cleansing
  • How to Eat: Saute like kale
Bishop's Elder

Bishop's Elder

Bishops Elder 

  • ID: 3 parted leaves. Extremely invasive ground cover. In the celery family, so has a hairless stem that has a curve like a celery stalk and smells like celery when you smell the stem.
  • Edible: Fresh or dry stem and leaf.
  • How to Eat: Great for soup stocks.
Sassafras Leaf Trio

Sassafras Leaf Trio

Sassafras Tree

  • ID: 3 different leaf shapes on each stem: oval, mitten, three-prong “fork.” Leaf smells like root beer when you rip the leaves.
  • Edible: Root and leaves
  • How to Eat: Boil the root and use sweetener and seltzer water to make root beer.  Leaves can be used to make file powder for gumbo. Or just scratch and sniff the root beer scented goodness for kicks.
Red Bud Tree

Red Bud Tree

Red Bud Tree

  • ID: Buds grow out of the bark. Darker red/pink than a cherry blossom.
  • Edible: Flowers
  • How to Eat: In the bean family so tastes slightly like a bean. Serve in salads, add to ice cream or cookies.
Juneberry Tree

Juneberry Tree {will be a May-Berry this year!}

Juneberry Tree {no berries yet!}

  • ID: Smooth gray bark, 5 pointed berry that looks like a blueberry when the fruit blooms. Smooth oval leaf with teath.
  • Edible:  Berry
  • How to Eat: Just as you would a blueberry.
Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard 

  • ID: Serrated heart-shaped leaf. Grows tall. Small stems grow outward that become seed pods.
  • Edible: Leaf, root and stem/seeds
  • How to Eat: Leaves taste like broccoli rabe and can be prepared as such. Root tastes like horseradish. Stick like flower stems will become seed capsules and can be used as mustard seed.

Mugwort (forgot to Snap a shot)

  • ID: Serious invasive. White fuzzy stem, deeply divided pointed leaf, silvery-white underside of the leaf, spicy taste.
  • Edible: Leaves and stem
  • Medicinal: Muscle relaxer, will make you break a sweat if you need to cleanse, use as a bath or as a tea, good for stress and unblocks just about everything. Will also make you have vivid dreams if you put under you pillow!
  • How to Eat: Best for seasoning to add a little spice.
Pokeweed

Pokeweed

Pokeweed 

  • ID: Extremely prolific, but only in-season for 3 weeks. Will come back in the same spot each year, so once you find your hunting ground, you can easily go back.
  • Edible: Whole thing — leaves and stem. But once it gets bigger and branches out and the stem becomes dark magenta it becomes toxic and you don’t want to eat it any longer. Best when it is only one stalk.
  • How to Eat: It’s like asparagus! Have to double boil it first — blanch in one pot, drain and then blanch in a second pot of boiling water. Saute it, grilled it, roast it, you name it!
Dandelion Greens

Dandelion Greens {which will be bitter now that they have flowered!}

Dandelion Greens 

  • ID: Serrated leaf, yellow flower, low to the ground.
  • Edible: Early Spring the leaves are best before they flower — then they get bitter. The roots and flowers are also edible and apparently very tasty.
  • Medicinal: The root will release a milky sap that are good for warts.
  • How to Eat: Good in a salad or lightly sauteed. Flower can be used to make wine! Recipe here
Lamb's Quarters

Lamb's Quarters

Lambs Quarters 

  • ID: White dusty powder on the leaves.
  • Edible: Leaves and stems.
  • How to Eat: Rinse well and saute. Off the charts nutritious compared to spinach!
Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

Field Garlic 

  • ID: Looks like chives, hollow stem, smells like garlic
  • Edible: Whole thing — bulb to stem.
  • How to Eat: Just like a chive — anything you want a mild garlic flavor added to.
Samora Elm

Samora Elm

Siberian Elm Samaras 

  • ID: Small seed in a green translucent leaf.
  • Edible: Whole seed/leaf when tender enough to pierce the seed with a fingernail.
  • How to Eat: On a salad, in a muffin or just as a field snack.
Spice Bush

Spice Bush

Spice Bush 

  • ID: Smells spicy when break the leaf. Oval leaf with a lopsided point at the end. Tastes like all spice.
  • Edible: Leaf
  • How to Eat: Great for iced tea. infuse or make sun tea. Don’t boil or will get bitter flavor.
Other Wild Things

Other Wild Things

Other Wild Things 

  • ID: Shirtless Man Hanging Upside Down in a Tree

The Booty — Violets, Red Bud, Pokeweed, Field Garlic…stayed tuned for a MUST MAKE TART recipe coming later this week. Olive Oil Crust, Greek Yogurt Dollops and Wild Goodies…

Wild Edible Booty

Wild Edible Booty

Note: Although these pictures and notes can serve as introductions to wild edibles, I have not provided extensive ID characteristics in the descriptions for someone unfamiliar with the plants to safely identify them. If you’re interested in venturing out to forage, I recommend doing online research or signing up for an introductory tour with Leda before chomping on random weeds.

More Leda and Brooklyn Coolness:
Do This!: Learn Lacto-Fermentation {Kimchi! Chutney!} with Leda Meredith
Do This!: Brooklyn’s Depressingly Awesome Industry City Distillery Creates Handcrafted Vodka
NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Frej Should Be Your New Dining Kinfolk

About these ads

1 Comment

Filed under Do This!, NYC Best

One response to “Do This!: Foraging for Food is F’ing Fun {in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with Leda}

  1. Looks like it was an awesome tour! Be careful of field garlic’s poisonous lookalike, star of bethlehem. Stem is flat with a thin white stripe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s