13 and older
This vastly underappreciated park offers all the best wild foods of the rich seashore habitat. The sandy soil is poor, limiting tree growth but benefiting plants that can take advantage of the unblocked sunlight and nutrient-poor soil. Many species get a head start in late winter and early spring, and the same plants appear in late fall, induced to grow by similar length of darkness and temperature conditions.
A few yards from where the tour starts, we'll find a disturbed habitat, typical of urban parks, loaded with burdock, one of the largest, tastiest, and most nutritous of the root vegetables. The fields south of Ave. U provide greens such as curly (yellow) dock (no relation to Moe Dock or Larry Dock—Nyuck! Nyuck! Nyuck!), bitter dock, garlic mustard, field garlic, sheep sorrel, poor man's pepper, lamb's quarters, and winter cress, each with their own flavors and uses.
The sun and sand make this one of the best habitats for root vegetables. We'll be finding stands of sweet wild parsnips (try making "Wildman's" Baked Wild Parsnips), peppery common evening primrose roots, highly-flavored, white-colored wild carrots (Queen Anne's lace), plus sassafras, the original source of root beer.
Fruit and berries are still going strong in late fall. We'll find winged sumac, which makes pink lemonade, and autumn olive berries, which taste like a combination of raspberries, currants, and pomegranates. There should also be plenty of black nightshade. Eating the leaves, even cooked, can be dangerous, but the ripe berries are safe and delicious, with a flavor akin to sweet tomatoes.
Late-season mushrooms, such as oyster mushrooms and enokis are always a possibility, but with ample rain beforehand, huge quantities of gourmet, blue-tinged blewits, growing in a woodlot just West of the handball courts off Gerritson Ave., are very likely, as they had appeared there en masse on a previous tour.Notes:
The 4-hour walking tour begins at Ave. U and Burnett St.
- 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.
If you can't attend the class you signed up for, please call or email "Wildman" Steve Brill a day before the start of the class. No-call/no-show creates an inconvenience to all participants since we can’t tell if absentees are having transportation issues, and this delays the start of the tour/class.
Kindly note that price posted is our suggested donation only.