At 11:45 AM Saturday, Nov. 2, 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 makes this park a great place for foraging in late fall.
Wild American persimmons are one of the best-tasting fruits on Earth, and there are several trees just West of the lake. Smaller than commercial Asian persimmons, this native fruit is sweeter and creamier. And the trees in this park are still small enough that you can shake down any ripe fruit that's not already lying on the ground.
Linnaeus named this fruit Diospyros, the food of the gods. It was an understatement!
Roots will be doing great at this time of the year too. Burdock, an expensive detoxifying herb sold in health food stores, abounds in cultivated areas throughout the park. You can also use it as a superb root vegetable. And growing near the boathouse is common evening primrose. This peppery flavored native root thickens soups and stews, like okra.
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 leafy green vegetables, such as goutweed, lamb's-quarters (a wild spinach), chickweed (which tastes like corn), Asiatic dayflower, which tastes like string beans, garlicky field garlic, and mild lady's thumb. But the most surprising find will be Sechuan pepper, growing across the East Side Drive from the zoo.
Nuts are at their peak in the fall. Black walnuts, richer tasting than their commercial relatives, may still be around as their season winds down.
Nuts of the ginkgo tree will be at their peak. Health food stores sell extracts of this relic from the days of the dinosaurs to improve circulation and memory. But you can also discard the smelly fruit, toast the nuts, crack the thin shells open, and eat as is, or add to Asian recipes.
Gingko Nut and Leaf
This living fossil was planted throughout the world after a few trees that had eluded extinction were found in Chinese monasteries.
Late season mushrooms may also abound at this time if it rains a lot beforehand. Pear-shaped puffballs, blewits, brick tops, enokis, oyster mushrooms, and tree ear mushrooms may pop up anywhere.
The 4-hour walking tour begins at 11:45 AM, Saturday, November 2, at Prospect Park's Grand Army Plaza entrance. The suggested donation is $20/adult, $10/child under 12. Please call (914)[masked] at least 24 hours in advance to reserve a place.
For "Wildman's" 2013 tour calendar and additional info, visit http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com