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Central Park (Teens/Adults)

at "Wildman" Steve Brill - Central Park

Course Details
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Central Park, Manhattan
5th Ave & E 106th St
At E 106th St
New York, New York 10029
$20 Ticket is for 1 person only.
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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 13 and older
Average Class Size: 35

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this nature class:

September 6, 2020

Thanks to its varied habitats and combination of native and introduced species, this world-famous park overflows with wild food. 

Wild fruit far surpassing anything available commercially also fills the park. Japanese quince fruits will be falling to the ground in the Conservancy Garden. Thickets will still be lined with such sweet, apple-flavored hawthorn berries. American hackberry trees will be ripening throughout the park. The outer coating of the fruit tastes like M&Ms!

Wild greens also thrive in meadows and along trail edges. We'll hunt for purslane, lamb's-quarter (a wild spinach), wood sorrel, sheep sorrel, poor man's pepper, lady's thumb, and Asiatic dayflower. There will be culinary and medicinal herbs such as epazote, wild bay leaves, field garlic, sassafras, and spicebush leaves. The group will also get to gather caffeine-free coffee, good for a beverage and to season chocolate, courtesy of the seeds from the Kentucky coffee-tree.

Gourmet wild mushrooms pop up in Central Park after it rains. On this tour, we'll hunt for hordes of ringless honey mushrooms, gigantic chicken mushrooms, brittle russulas, and prized bolete mushrooms.

September 20, 2020

Thanks to its varied habitats and combination of native and introduced species, this world-famous park overflows with very many kinds of renewable wild foods in early autumn.

If the weather has been rainy, the mushrooming should be excellent. In past years, we found hundreds of prized honey mushrooms on both the east and west sides of the park, and they may be back again under similar circumstances. Other great species we may find include purple-spore puffballs, chicken mushrooms, and hen-of-the-woods, a.k.a. maitakes.

Honey Mushrooms

These tasty mushrooms are deadly, but only if you're a tree, which they parasitize. For humans, they're choice!

Many common wild greens will also abound. We'll hunt for lamb's-quarters (a wild spinach), sour wood sorrel and sheep sorrel, spicy poor man's pepper, mild lady's thumb, sour curly dock (not to be confused with Moe dock and Larry dock, Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!), huge bitter dock, and string bean-flavored Asiatic dayflower.

We'll also cover culinary and medicinal herbs such as burdock, sassafras, and common spicebush. The latter also bears oblong red berries that make a fantastic, allspice-like seasoning.

Speaking of fruit, there's usually a huge crop of flowering quince just north of the Conservancy Garden, and a few minutes walk from there, along the southern border of The Meer, there grows a huge Kentucky coffee-tree. This import from Dixie has already dropped hundreds of seeds on the ground, which you can roast and use to make the best caffeine-free coffee substitute in the world. The seeds also make an outstanding seasoning in chocolate recipes, such as "Wildman's" Kentucky Chocolate Truffles and Kentucky Hot Chocolate.

A few yards from the coffee tree grows an equally impressive, if more common, black walnut tree. The ground will be littered with nuts in spherical green husks, that look like refugees from the tennis courts. We'll stomp off the husks and crack open the tasty nuts with rocks.

Black Walnut

These nuts are unfamiliar to most non-foragers, but they're one of the best you'll ever taste!

We'll also look for other fruit, such as hawthorn berries, related to apples, and with a similar flavor. The fruit of the hackberry tree, on the other hand, tastes like the candy coating of M & M's. Wild raisins, a.k.a. Northern black haws, with a flavor of prune butter and a texture of bananas, will also be ripe.

October 11, 2020

We’ll encounter the deep taproots of burdock growing in disturbed habitats not far from where we begin. This European nuisance plant, with its prickly burrs, is really highly nutritious and tasty. Health food stores sell it in tiny quantities at high prices as a detoxifier, and to help improve liver function and skin problems, but you can cook the roots and use them in soups, stews, or Japanese dishes. Properly prepared, you can even make "Wildman's" Vegan Beef Jerky.

Another detoxifier that grows throughout the park is sassafras, for tea, root beer, gumbo, or to season sweet dishes.

Other beverages include the common spicebush, with berries you use like allspice and leaves you brew into tea. Ground ivy is also an excellent wild mint tea and a gentle diuretic.

This is also the best time to gather wild nuts. You'll learn how to harvest and prepare rich-tasting black walnuts and savory gingko nuts.

Fruits and berries such as red juneberries will be ripe now. They're very tasty, even though they come from England! Hawthorn berries, Japanese quince, and wild raisins are also in season in the park right now.

There will also be plenty of leafy herbs and greens. We’ll be looking for winter cress, epazote, sheep sorrel, chickweed, lamb's-quarters, wood-sorrel, epazote, curly dock, bitter dock, field garlic, garlic mustard, and poor-man's-pepper.

If rainy weather prevails beforehand, there may also be lots of  gourmet mushrooms up and about. We’ll hunt for brick tops, pear-shaped puffballs, chicken mushrooms, hen-of-the-woods, and honey mushrooms, all exceptionally tasty.

Please Note:

  • 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.

School Notes:
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.

Still have questions? Ask the community.

Refund Policy
Participants can cancel the night before an event and get a refund.


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Questions & Answers (3)

Get quick answers from CourseHorse and past students.

Question from Regina M.
Can we bring a baby?
Answer from Brenda L. CourseHorse StaffCourseHorse Staff
Hi Regina, yes you can.
Question from Wendy
Do I need to purchase a ticket for 7 year old?
Answer from Brenda L. CourseHorse StaffCourseHorse Staff
Hi Wendy! Steve loves having kids on his tours. It’s half-price for them (you'll pay it at the location) and he would like to know in advance if you're coming with a kid. By the way, the books which Steve brings on all tours where he can park near the meeting place, are free for kids. Hope this helps!
Question from Wendy
Is it okay to bring a child? And when is the best time to go?
Answer from Kristle C. CourseHorse StaffCourseHorse Staff
Hi there! Yes, you can bring a child and as its the peak of the season, so it's a good time to go.

Reviews of Classes at "Wildman" Steve Brill (91)

(91 Reviews)
Central Park (Teens/Adults)
Reviewed by Mark R. on 11/2/2020
Instructor was extremely knowledgeable. It was difficult to hear the information though, as many children (and some adults) had frequent ongoing full voice conversations oblivious to the fact that some people were actually trying to pay attention to the speaker. Biggest disappointment though was the total lack of social distancing, with at least one pre-teen not even wearing a mask.
Central Park (Teens/Adults)
Reviewed by Nicole B. on 8/10/2020
This was a great class, super informative, fun, and family-friendly. A group of friends and I took the class together and it was really helpful for future foraging! I think a more socially distant approach could help during these times (maybe a smaller group?) as well as a shorter class time. Steve is amazing and we thank him for a great afternoon in Central Park!
Central Park (Teens/Adults)
Reviewed by marisa F. on 5/27/2019
It was the best ever course I had done, I learned a lot about foraging, I advise anyone to do so, there are lots of things to forage in the park anywhere and Steve Brill is the best, very knowledgable funny a true comediante, I sure will go to others foraging trips with him again
Central Park (Teens/Adults)
Reviewed by Molly H. on 10/8/2018
Fabulous! He’s great with kids and super knowledgeable. Would do it again
Central Park (Teens/Adults)
Reviewed by Anonymous on 9/25/2017
Class was great! Instructor was extremely knowledgable and had a sense of humor (sometimes a little "yuck yuck" but hey he was trying). Appreciated that he went through the plants on nutritional properties, as well as medicinal. With recipes and sometimes snacks to boot. I would love to do it again in another season to see what else is up there in Central Park.

School: "Wildman" Steve Brill

Foraging expert Steve Brill has shared his foraging wisdom at schools, museums, parks departments, environmental organizations, and with scout troops since 1982. He’s written three books and an app, stars in a DVD and maintains a website.

His History with Foraging 
As part of his exercise regime,...

Read more about "Wildman" Steve Brill

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