Central Park provides a great window into the world of wild foods of mid-spring. It's the peak of the season for wild salad greens, and we'll be finding great quantities of ingredients: Spicy mustard greens, such as garlicky garlic mustard, hot hedge mustard, and even hotter poor man's pepper, will abound on lawns or under trees anywhere, and lemony sheep sorrel grows in sunny places. Offset their flavors with milder-tasting greens such as violet leaves, greenbrier, amb's-quarters, Asiatic dayflower, and chickweed, also quite abundant. With the inclusion of tender, cucumber-flavored cattail shoots, you'll have the best salad you've ever eaten. Wild mushrooms, if present, will provide a gourmet side dish. We could find fairy ring mushrooms, wine-cap stropharias, or chicken mushrooms on this tour, especially if there have been days of torrential rain beforehand.
Burdock root is one of the few wild root vegetables that remains in season throughout the warm weather. Add razor-thin slices to soups or rice, or marinate and slowly bake them, to make vegan jerky. And at this time of the year only, you can also cook the immature flower stalks, which taste like artichoke hearts, before peeling them. Pokeweed, another seasonal potherb, is superb, properly prepared (otherwise it can kill you!) Flavor it with tamari soy sauce and garlic lightly browned in olive oil, as in Basic Pokeweed.
If you'd like to make an exotic Central Park dessert, why not stew apples or pears with some of Central Park's wild sassafras and wild ginger, add some nuts, then toss in some sweet, vanilla-flavored black locust blossoms?Notes:
The four-hour walking tour begins at 11:45 AM, just inside the park.
- Participants should be dressed for the weather, and be aware of very bad subway service.
- Trains are often cancelled 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. Dogs are permitted.
- Children are encouraged to attend.
- There's no smoking whatsoever at any time.