So when I found out I’d be heading to New York in mid-October on literary business, I was excited to go on his 4-hour foraging tour of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. His 7-year-old daughter, the adorable Violet, served as co-teacher for the class. There were 37 people signed up. One made my day by introducing himself to me as a fan of this blog (Hi there, Christian!).The Brills covered common weeds like curly dock (which Steve told us not to confuse with Larry Dock or Mo Dock), burdock, wood sorrel, chickweed, dandelion and pokeweed, and also taught us many delectable wild foods I haven’t seen in the Pacific Northwest, including Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioica), field garlic (Allium vineale), lady’s thumb (Polygonum persicaria), goutweed (Aegopodium podograria) and sassafras, among others. During the lunch break, they fed us homemade vegan truffles and identified blewit mushrooms. I learned a great deal and I wholeheartedly encourage you to go if you are ever in New York. The tour is not only kid friendly, but dog friendly. Yes, dogs are allowed.
Technically Steve’s tours are illegal, but no park rangers have bothered him about it in more than two decades. It’s not a secret; he talks about this in the local papers frequently.
While there, I ended up buying Steve’s field guide, and it is quickly becoming a favorite. I like that it’s a giant paperback illustrated with drawings instead of photographs. Drawings can be even more helpful than photos because they offer clearer outlines. I also appreciate the friendly, conversational tone of the writing and the years of first-person experience that come through in the plant descriptions. (These are qualities I admire in Sam Thayer’s books, too). Of the unpalatable common plantain, Steve writes, “You’ll love eating them…if you’re a rabbit or gosling.”There are fun quips sprinkled throughout, such as, “Nothing that smells like onions or garlic is poisonous, unless you’re a vampire.” You get a really good introduction to important botanical terms, recipes, a primer on herbal medicine, and most importantly, a thorough treatise on hundreds of wild plants from coast to coast, many of which are urban. (The back cover says there are 500!). I highly recommend adding this book to your library.
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