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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.
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.
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.
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This class isn't on the schedule at the moment, but save it to your Wish List to find out when it comes back!
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,...
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Oak, elm, and beech once dominated midwestern forests. Discover ways humans, birds, animals, and insects have used and treasured these revered trees. Explore native habitat, historic uses, appearance in folklore, and contemporary species and cultivars available in the Chicago area today. This class will be taught online via Zoom. All registrations...
Tuesday Feb 2nd, 6:30pm - 8:30pm Central Time(3 sessions)
This lecture will take place online. Registered students will receive login instructions. Britt Zuckerman is Senior Landscape Architect at Dirtworks-a NY Landscape Architecture practice dedicated to creating spaces that bridge differences in age, ability, and culture through shared experiences and a close connection to nature. She will present recent...
Tuesday Mar 16th, 1pm - 2pm Eastern Time
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