At 11:45 AM, Saturday, November 16, in the playground at Dykeman St. and Broadway, America's go-to guy for foraging, "Wildman" Steve Brill, will lead one of his world-famous foraging tours of Inwood Hill Park.
Inwood Hill Park is one of the best places for foraging in late fall. The city's hilliest park, with a large, mature forest, meadows, thickets, and cultivated areas, it's loaded with wild plants, even after the heavy frosts typical of the day after Thanksgiving.
This is the time to hunt for roots. Here are some of the species we'll be hunting: Burdock, an expensive detoxifying herb sold in health food stores, abounds in human-disturbed areas throughout the park. The root is great in soups, stews, rice dishes, or for making the Japanese delicacy kinpira gobo.
Scrub the root, slice razor-thin diagonally, and cook in moist heat 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. It's fantastic!
Sassafras root, the original source of root beer, is a sure find. You can use it to make beverages, or as an exotic-tasting, cinnamon-like seasoning.
The black birch tree, on the other hand, contains oil of wintergreen, and provides the raw material for birch beer. You can freshen your breath by chewing on the twigs, or use them to make tea. A strong tea provides non-steroidal anti-inflammatory aspirin-like compounds, good for pain and inflammation (it's used in commercial massage liniments) and for preventing heart disease. You can even use it as a first-rate flavoring ingredient in puddings.
Another root the group will look for is the tuber of the hog peanut, a legume with a flavor akin to raw peanuts.
There are still more roots to seek: near the park's summit, an overgrown area conceals wild carrots, a tastier version of the familiar garden vegetable, with a light beige taproot.
Peppery-sweet common evening primrose roots sometimes grow nearby. You can purchase a prostaglandin-rich oil pressed from the seeds in health food stores for PMS and other ailments. But you can't beat soups, stews, and grain dishes that include this root.
Pepper sedum is an unusual herb that grows on bare rock at the edge of a precipice. A tropical plant without the ability to die back in the winter, it's in season all year. It grows where it does because it needs the heat the sun-baked rock provides in the summer to reproduce. The plant tastes somewhat like black pepper and makes an excellent seasoning for any savory dish.
Everyone will also find plenty of leafy green vegetables and herbs on this tour, since plants that tolerate the cold abound in this park. We'll be finding chickweed, which tastes like corn, parsley-flavored goutweed, bitter-savory dandelion greens, lemony curly dock and bitter dock, pungent garlic mustard (which also has a delicious horseradish-flavored taproot), spicy field garlic, with delicious leaves and bulbs, wild lettuce, only good in the cold weather, and possibly pineapple-weed, a pineapple-flavored relative of chamomile.
And when it looks like the tour is over, we'll stop to collect large quantities of the pods of the Kentucky coffee-tree, for making the world's best caffeine-free coffee substitute, followed by savory gingko nuts, on Seaman Ave., just outside the park's exit.
The 4-hour walking tour begins at 11:45 AM, Saturday, November 16, at the playground at Dykeman St. and Broadway, which is not in Inwood Hill Park.
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