Soggy & Clandestine Foraging

A couple of nights ago I posted on Facebook and Twitter the following update: Gotta be out the door at sunrise to do something soggy and vaguely illegal. It’s time to explain.

On a recent foraging tour I’d noticed a pond in a park where the pickerel weed was in peak, perfect bloom.

Pickerelweed, Pontedaria cordata

Pickerelweed, Pontedaria cordata

The cattails looked quintessentially cattail-like:

Cattail, Typha

Cattail, Typha

There was a sturdy fence around said pond.

There was a spot where said fence could be easily breached.

A bit of backstory to make sense of what happens next in this tale:

I am working on my third book, and it requires taking photos of wild edible plants. Naturally, I want to capture images of those plants when they are at their peak. So when I saw those two picture-perfect wetland plants, I knew I had to photograph them asap, but…



(I would have to wade into the pond to get good shots).


I was at the pond at 6:30 a.m., which I’d arbitrarily decided would be before any park rangers would show up. As I walked towards the pond I didn’t see anyone except dog owners, runners, cyclists, and one other intrepid forager who was collecting lamb’s quarters.

I jumped the fence and hid under some branches while I put on my rubber boots. Once I stepped out into the water I was completely exposed to the view of any passersby, but they paid me no heed (thank you, text message obsessed New Yorkers).

The pond was stinky. Other than that, I felt suddenly peaceful as I focused my camera on the pickerelweed and cattail. A frog croaked nonstop while I did my deed. I guess I was intruding on her turf.

On the way out, I stopped – again under branch cover – to take off my wet boots and put my hiking sandals back on. While doing so I found wild parsnips and northern bayberry.


But I was dismayed to spot reed a.k.a. Phragmites along the water’s edge. It’s a non-native grass that is choking out native Typha (cattail) species in some places. If I could work this particular pond without worrying about park rangers, I would be less interested in harvesting food from the cattails than in clearing out the reeds to give cattails a chance (don’t worry – the overall reed population would survive that act just fine).

So yeah, I hopped a park fence. But I didn’t harvest anything…this time.

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Foraging Tour Discount!

foragingclass1Looking for something fun and different to do this weekend? You can get a $5 discount on tomorrow’s foraging tour (Sat. June 30) by entering the promo code garlicmustard when you sign up.

The tour is from 10am – 12pm, so we’ll be finishing up just when the heat starts to be too much. It’s been an amazingly abundant year for wild edibles, and I expect the abundance to continue tomorrow!

Can’t make this weekend? No worries. Extend your 4th of July holiday week to include my tour on Sat. July 7th! (Sorry, but the discount only applies to the June 30th tour)

Both foraging events are in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

Seven Arrows Farm

This is the first time since I started this blog 5 years ago that I’m asking you to support something. If you are pro sustainable food, pro urban agriculture, pro small farm, then read on.

Over the past 5 years Meg Paska has worked for me as gardening crew and at the New York Botanical Garden as an instructor teaching vegetable gardening, beekeeping, and more.

She also happens to be a first rate chicken raiser (I’ve got eggs from her Brooklyn chickens in my fridge right now).

Meg is starting a farm, and the idea is that it’s close enough to NYC that we can all visit, do retreats there, etc. And she needs our help to get it going.

Meg’s kickstarter campaign offers options starting at $1. Give more than that if you can. If you can’t do cash, offer time on the farm. I totally trust Meg to make this fly, but she does need our help to get airborne.

Forager’s Log – 1st Week of June, 2012

If you were walking down the street with me this afternoon in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I was that woman with a silly grin on her face and a definite bounce in her step. There are several things that have that effect on me. Maybe I was thinking about my boyfriend. Perhaps I was listening to fabulous music through my earphones.

Or maybe that backpack I was toting was full of just-foraged goodness.

Today’s harvest included mulberries,


juneberries, elderberry flowerslinden blossoms that I’m hoping Ellen will make into wine,




burdock “cardoons,” milkweed florets,


and sassafras. There was more I could have collected (the lamb’s quarters is especially lush right now), but I was eager to get home and play with these free, superb ingredients.

So what’s for dinner? I think I’ll start with an idea for a scalloped potatoes and milkweed floret concoction, and then improvise from there. It may not quite match this menu that Chef Anthony Paris of Crosby Street Hotel and I collaborated on,


but it will be good.

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The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes