June 16, 2019
Inwood Hill Park is one of the best places for foragers to search for wild foods in late spring. The city's hilliest park, with a large, mature forest, meadows, thickets, and cultivated areas, it's loaded with edible and medicinal wild plants.
Red, white, and pink mulberries will be at their peak now. Too perishable for commercial use in the US, we'll get a spectacular harvest simply by shaking the branches over a drop cloth. Related to figs, these sweet berries are especially tasty and nutritious.
Daylily flowers will also be at their peak. Used in traditional Chinese hot-and-sour soup, these "golden needles," from an invasive Asian plant, have taken over sections of the woodland's understory. Add them to salads or East Asian dishes, or stuff them.
Most roots are out of season now, but burdock, an expensive detoxifying herb sold in health food stores, is an exception, and it abounds in human-disturbed areas throughout the park. Instead of brewing it as a tea, it's so abundant, you cook the root like a potato, or marinate and bake slices to make "Wildman's" Vegan Beef Jerky.￼
There are plenty of late spring herbs and greens in season. We'll find mugwort and motherwort, both tonics for the female reproductive system. Since I've learned these herbs, I've never suffered a single monthly cramp!
We'll also be finding Asiatic dayflower, greenbriar, lady's thumb, lamb's-quarters, and goutweed, all great for salads, sandwiches, and soups.
Common milkweed needs to be boiled to remove the bitter sap, but it has a flavor all its own, and we'll find it all over the fields near the park's summit. Sassafras root, the original source of root beer, stays in season all year. You use it for tea, for making root beer, and as a cinnamon-like seasoning.
Another tree we'll look for is the black birch. It grows in the woods, has twigs that taste like wintergreen, and provides the raw material for birch beer. You can steep the twigs in hot water to make a fabulous tea with anti-inflammatory properties similar to those of aspirin. Or thicken the tea with agar, season and sweeten it, and make black birch Jello!
We'll hunt for the flowers and tops of garlic mustard, which taste like garlic, and jewelweed, a panacea for skin irritations that cures mosquito bites and prevents poison ivy rash.
With lots of rain beforehand and a bit of luck, gourmet spring mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms, chicken mushrooms, fairy ring mushrooms, and wine-cap stropharias may be emerging.
August 3, 2019
This is one of the best places for foragers in late summer. The city's hilliest park, with a large, mature forest, meadows, thickets, and cultivated areas, it's loaded with wild plants. This is a great time for berries. We'll be harvesting wineberries, blackberries, cornelian cherries, and elderberries, all different and all delicious.
Most roots are out of season, but burdock, an expensive detoxifying herb sold in health food stores, is an exception, and it abounds in human-disturbed areas throughout the park. Instead of brewing it as a tea, it's so abundant, you cook can it like potatoes or even marinate and slow-bake it, to make the "Wildman's" Vegan Beef Jerky!
Sassafras root, the original source of root beer, stays in season all year. You use it the roots of this renewable tree to make tea and root beer, or as a cinnamon-like seasoning, and the young leaves are the classic flavoring and thickener of gumbo.
Another tree we'll find is the black birch. Its twigs taste like wintergreen when you chew them, and they provide the raw material for birch beer. You can steep the twigs in hot water to make a fabulous tea, with anti-inflammatory properties similar to aspirin. Thicken the tea with agar, season and sweeten it, and make Black Birch Jello, or cook the twigs in coconut milk with raisins, a sweetener, sweet herbs, and tapioca, then remove the twigs, to make "Wildman's" Stick Pudding!
There are plenty of summer herbs and greens in season. We'll find mugwort and motherwort, both tonics for the female reproductive system. Since I've learned these herbs, I've never suffered a monthly cramp! We'll also be finding Asiatic dayflower, lady's thumb, lamb's quarters, and goutweed, all great for salads, sandwiches, soups, and stews.
Wild seeds are in season too. We'll hunt for the spicy seeds of garlic mustard, walnut-flavored seeds of jewelweed (the juice in the stem is also a panacea for skin irritation—it cures mosquito bites, prevents poison ivy rash, and more), and the fiery seeds of field garlic.
With lots of rain beforehand and a bit of luck, gourmet oyster mushrooms, chicken mushrooms, chanterelles, boletes, and russulas may be emerging.
Nov 2, 2019
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 in late fall.
This is the time to search for roots. Here are some we'll be finding: Burdock, an invasive, Eurasian, expensive, detoxifying herb sold in health food stores, abounds in human-disturbed areas throughout the park. Scrub the root, slice razor-thin diagonally, and cook in moist heat 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. It's fantastic.The root is great in soups, stews, rice dishes, or for making the Japanese delicacy, kinpira gobo. You can also marinate and bake it, to make the "Wildman's" Vegan Beef Jerky.
Sassafras root, the original source of root beer, is a sure find. You can use it to make beverages such as tea or root beer, 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 or birch beer. A strong tea provides non-steroidal anti-inflammatory aspirin-like compounds, good for pain and inflammation (it's used in commercial massage liniments). It’s also fantastic for seasoning 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 the root in soups, stews, and grain or bean dishes.
Pepper sedum is an unusual herb, often used as an ornamental, 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, and 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 in 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, pungent garlic mustard (which also has a delicious horseradish-flavored taproot), spicy field garlic, with delicious leaves and bulbs, lemony-flavored curly dock, and wild lettuce, only good in the cold weather.
Even though it's too late for most mushrooms, there are some species that don't mind the cold, and they grow here. With lots of rain beforehand, and some luck, we could find oyster mushrooms, tree ears, and enoki mushrooms.
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 Emerson Playground exit.
- Participants should be dressed for the weather, and be aware of very bad subway service. Trains are often canceled due to track work.
- No sandals (there are mosquitoes, thorns and poison ivy). Everyone should have plastic bags for veggies and herbs, paper bags for mushrooms, which spoil in
- Plastic, containers for berries from late spring through fall, water and lunch, and extra layers when it's cold. Digging implements and pocket knives are optional.
- Please bring plastic bags for vegetables and herbs, paper bags for mushrooms, drinking water, and a pen (to sign in).
- Dogs are permitted. Children are encouraged to attend.
- There's no smoking whatsoever at any time.
$20 Ticket is for 1 person only. Accompanying Adult must purchase ticket separately.
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