Now that spring is here, the parks are alive with children playing, bikes whizzing by, dogs running, and the best part: plants blooming anew. This makes it the perfect time to start exploring the wonders of Central Park, Forest Park in Queens and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and to uncover the plethora of edible plants that grow wild. This is where foraging expert Steve Brill comes in. Since 1982 this smart and eccentric naturalist has been taking people on nature walks around the city’s parks, and while he doesn’t list his tours as a class, the three-plus hour jaunt is all about learning what plants you can eat, what to avoid, and how to spot poisonous greens.
What to expect: Brill leads an excursion through the park with his trademark deadpan sense of humor, all the while pointing out this plant and that. Don’t be surprised if he jumps aside to wrestle some wild garlic out of the ground or stops mid-sentence to point out a green that can help ease the itch of a mosquito bite or the sting of poison ivy. He knows it all and can answer just about any question you might have about things growing. Right now, Brill says it’s the peak season for wild greens, and you can expect to find edibles including mustard greens, chicken mushrooms, burdock root, ginger and pokeweed, which he warns, is poisonous raw but tasty cooked with a dash of soy sauce. Be prepared to walk a lot, in sun and shade, with a break for a snack.
Price: Call or email for prices, 914-835-2153 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When: The next tour is this Saturday, April 12, at 11:45am in Central Park. For Queens explorers, his next walk is Saturday, April 19, at 11:45am, and for Brooklyn, head to Prospect Park on Sunday, April 20, at 11:45am. If you can’t make any of these, check out his online calendar – and reserve a spot at least 24 hours in advance. He does a tour each weekend in the city, and various tours on Long Island and Westchester throughout the month.
Where: Some of Brill’s Central Park tours start at Central Park West and West 72nd St.; and for the Prospect Park jaunts head to the Grand Army Plaza entrance. Then for Forest Park, meet at the stone wall at Union Turnpike and Park Lane. Just look for the tall, gray-goateed man in a tan safari hat.
What to Bring: Make sure to dress for digging in the dirt. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and bring sunscreen, a hat, a trowel and some plastic bags or a canvas one to take your goodies home. Also, pack water, a snack and an umbrella in case of rain.