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Hunt for Wild Nuts, Roots, and Greens in Central Park with "Wildman" Steve Brill

Hunt for Wild Foods in Central Park with America's Go-to Guy for Foraging

At 2:30 PM on Sunday, Nov. 10, America's go-to guy for foraging, "Wildman" Steve Brill will lead one of his world-famous foraging tours of Central Park, beginning at West 72nd St. and Central Park West.

Thanks to its varied habitats and combination of native and introduced species, Central Park is a great place for foraging in late fall. Herbs, greens, nuts, berries, and mushrooms will all be in season simultaneously.

The spectacular fruit and berries will surprise even experienced naturalists. Wild raisins, which taste like a combination of prune butter and bananas, droop from bushes in Strawberry Fields. Nearby grow wrinkled rose bushes bearing sweet rose hips the size of cherry tomatoes. Sweet, apple-almond-flavored red juneberries will brighten the park's upper West side. And tart crab apples, which taste like tamarinds, abound throughout the park.

Another fruit is the pod of the Kentucky coffee tree, growing a few minutes' walk north of the Boathouse. The seeds you find inside the pods and on the ground make the world's best-tasting caffeine-free coffee, even though this leguminous tree isn't related to coffee.

Burdock root, an expensive detoxifying herb sold in health food stores, grows in cultivated areas throughout the park. Sassafras root, the original source of root beer, grows in all the park's wooded areas. And European wild ginger grows north of the park's West 81st St. entrance.

Everyone will also find plenty of leafy green vegetables, such as lamb's-quarters (a wild spinach), chickweed (which tastes like corn), sheep sorrel, common mallow, garlic mustard, and field garlic.

While black walnut trees are coming to the end of their season, there will still be plenty of this year's exceptional bumper crop for everyone to gather as many nuts as they can carry. 

Central Park's ginkgo trees will be at their peak. Inside a malodorous orange fruit you'll find a white, almond-shaped kernel with a soft green nut inside. This Chinese delicacy tastes like a combination of green peas and Limburger cheese. Sold in health food stores and advertised on TV, Ginkgo biloba improves circulation and immune function.

Gingko Fruit and Leaf

This living fossil is a relic from the days of the dinosaurs. Chinese monks rescued it from extinction centuries ago, and after Western botanists rediscovered it, it was planted throughout the world.

Given enough rain beforehand and a bit of luck, gourmet oyster mushroomsbrick tops, and enoki mushrooms may be emerging from trees and stumps.

The 3-hour walking tour begins at 2:30 PM, Sunday, November 10, at 72nd St. and Central Park West.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 [masked].

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