NYC Parks Dept. to Crack Down on Foraging?

Today’s New York Times had a front page article on foraging, or rather, on why the Parks Department may be starting to take a sterner approach towards foragers than it has in recent years.

burdockpatchPart of the reason is the increasing popularity of foraging. The concern is that rampant foragers will decimate plant populations. I have seen no signs of this. As I am quoted in the article as saying, the majority of the plants I forage in the parks are invasives that are actually crowding out some of the potentially threatened native plants. And when I teach foraging, I always emphasize sustainability issues such as factoring whether a plant is abundant or rare into the decision of whether or not to harvest.

In many cases, I may actually be helping the less plentiful native species by removing some of the invasive alien species that are out-competing them.

Why is foraging becoming increasingly popular? Blame it on a bad economy (free food) or celebrate it as a sign of the ever-growing interest in local food systems, there’s no question that foraging is no longer considered the freakish fringe activity it once was.

foraging7And what about the idea of getting food from city parks? Is that really so new? In some other countries, and in the U.S. in past eras, city parks were a commons intended to provide nourishment as well as scenic greenery to city inhabitants (the dairy in Central Park was really a dairy, for example).

One piece of news in the article that I found distressing is that apparently some people are poaching turtles and fish from the parks (fishing is allowed in some parks, but you’re supposed to release, not keep, the fish). Just as distressing is that those of us who forage plants and mushrooms in the parks responsibly and with an awareness of sustainability issues are being lumped together with these poachers.

There were a couple of encouraging responses to the Times article today in Edible Manhattan.

Another objection to allowing foraging that Parks is rumored to have is that if someone ate something poisonous while they were doing a Parks approved activity, they or their family could file a lawsuit against the city. You tell me: does that sound like a reason for less education about which plants are edible vs. poisonous?

I would like to invite anyone working for the NYC Parks Department to come on any of my foraging tours. Come unannounced and do not identify yourself as being from Parks unless you want to. Experience firsthand how what I am teaching not only does not threaten park ecosystems (including the plant, fungi and animal populations), but actually increases the tour participants’ knowledge of environmental and sustainability issues.

The Parks Department and I have in common that we want the city parks to thrive. I know all of my fellow responsible foragers share that intention and desire.

My next foraging tour is in Prospect Park on August 6th.
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Summer Food, Foraging & Putting Some By

Here is some purslane growing wild right before I picked it.

purslane-sm

And here is some purslane for sale at the Park Slope Food Coop.

pricey-purslane-sm

(low whistle). Dang, at those prices maybe I should go into the purslane business. There’s certainly plenty of it available during summer’s hottest weeks. I’ll be getting up a piece on purslane for nonabrooklyn in the next day or two. It will include a wild gumbo recipe (I use purslane instead of okra, plus homemade filĂ© powder).

I’ve also been foraging for lots of sheep sorrel and wood sorrel.

wood-sorrel-sm

I try not to use citrus too often since there aren’t any local citrus crops (our winters are too cold). I won’t say that the sorrels are “just like lemon,” but they do have a lemony tang that I enjoy in soups and sauces and salads.

The wineberries are pretty much over, but the elderberries are just starting to ripen. Also, the purple-flowering raspberries and blackberries. In the garden, my Heritage raspberries have finished up their first small flush of fruit, but they are loaded with berries that will ripen mid-August through frost.

Also in the garden, it’s tomato time. Yay! And of course, I’m growing lots of basil. Now I just need some mozzarella made with local milk…or maybe I just need to learn how to make my own. There’s an Italian guy up the street who teaches that.

summer-fruit-smThe season’s abundance means lots of food preservation is going on, both in my kitchen and in the classes on that topic I’ve been teaching. If you haven’t checked out my food preservation site and are interested in putting up some of summer’s glorious harvests (both wild and domesticated), please do visit.

I’ve been posting lots of recipes and articles there, as well as step-by-step how-to’s for things like boiling water bath canning and pressure canning (if you’re not sure what the difference is, you definitely want to visit the food preservation site).

Thanks to all who emailed or commented wishing my grandma Nea a happy 99th birthday. It was a lovely celebration.

Grandma Nea's 99th birthday party
Grandma Nea's 99th birthday party

Cheers,

Leda

P.S. – My next foraging tour is on my birthday, August 6th. Come celebrate with me!

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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

Leaves & Berries

currants-smI leave at 3 a.m. for the airport. Am I packing yet? No, I’m blanching and freezing the greens from my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share and picking the last of the red currant crop from my garden (tip – freezing them still on the stem makes de-stemming them later easier).

And of course, I am so grateful that I got to taste the first of my raspberries before traveling.

raspberries-sm1

I’m not complaining. It’s the season of abundance, and I’d kick myself if I missed any of the seasonal parade of berries or wasted (well, they would be composted, but still) any of summer’s crops.

I was in Prospect Park last week foraging with chef Jeremy Umansky. The mulberries and blackcap raspberries are winding down, the wineberries still green but promising.

So…here’s the shameless plug for my upcoming foraging tours:

Saturday, July 23rd for HoneyBHolistic In depth tour of the wild edibles in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and I’ll bring something made with foraged ingredients for you to taste.

Sunday, July 24th for Ger-Nis. This starts with a mini foraging tour that morphs into a cooking class at the awesome Ger-Nis kitchen (hint: wild gumbo, anyone?).

I hope your summer is off to a delicious start!

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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

Food Preservation