They put me in handcuffs in case I bopped them on the head with a dandelion.
June 7, 2008 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Wildman Steve Brill: The man who ate Central Park. Once arrested by undercover park rangers in a sting Wildman Steve Brill has been foraging in public spaces, including Central Park, for over 26 years.

Take an audio tour through Central park with the Wildman, pick up a field guide to Edible Wild Plants, or look through Wildman's plant pages and head out to your backyard or the local park.

(I'm partial to mulberries, morels, lamb's quarter's, blackberries, and persimmons, myself.)

More links: 1 2 3 4 5
posted by Stewriffic (21 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I was out walking with my friends on the road heading to the train station, and I was picking some blackberries from the trees and they were looking at me like I was out of my mind. When I asked them what was wrong with dandelions from the side of the road the made noises about bugs, pollution and the country being the only place you can eat the plants. I still don't get it, they were on branches above the road what could possibly be the difference.

Thanks this will be a good resource for freaking out my friends!
posted by Rubbstone at 3:16 PM on June 7, 2008

Blackberries from trees=mulberries! I love them and they're in season.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:20 PM on June 7, 2008

are the plants treated with pesticide or herbicide?? this could be an potential issue when picking from "not so wild" locations
posted by ntoken at 3:46 PM on June 7, 2008

Blackberries from trees=mulberries!

If he actually means trees. My guess is that he's probably talking about brambles, which are much more common in roadside hedgerows than mulberry trees are.

FWIW, I grew up in an industrial inner city that was as polluted as all hell during the 60's. That didn't stop us collecting enough brambles to bake pies and crumbles, and very tasty they were too.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:17 PM on June 7, 2008

I went on one of the Wildman's walks about 5 years ago. It was fun -- I think he's the only one with a permit to pick wild plants in Central Park. It also gave me a small window into what it takes to get 15 minutes of fame. The answer, apparently, is 25 years of non-stop self-promotion.
posted by one_bean at 4:18 PM on June 7, 2008

Ah. I see Rubbstone is in Georgia. I have no idea about the native fauna of that area. For all I know, Mulberry trees line the streets and weasles are popping continually.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:21 PM on June 7, 2008

I don't worry about stuff like that. I just know they look like what I grew up eating as a kid and they're sweet as hell
posted by Rubbstone at 4:39 PM on June 7, 2008

My father taught me how to suck a drop of "honey" out of a honeysuckle when I was a tiny child, but I sometimes wonder if I wasn't inventing that from a confused memory. It doesn't seem possible.

I have a happy memory of eating crabapples from an unidentified species of tree as a child, sour but tasty. I tried that again on the fruit of tea crabapple trees around here -- wow, what a mistake. It was like wet, bitter wood.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:44 PM on June 7, 2008

A neighbor of mine who worked for the Department of Health grew a small garden (greens) right at a corner of a one way street, by a stoplight, where thousands of cars a day idle and emit. She had them tested for the kind of toxicity she would expect from tailpipe emissions...and found nothing. Just sayin'...I don't know, maybe that urban plants in general may be safer than we think. People don't usually spray for weeds in their alleys, so I think they can be pretty safe...although they take a lot of prep time.
posted by kozad at 4:51 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm right now watching The Gleaners & I (Full disclosure: it's paused in the other room.)
posted by acro at 5:37 PM on June 7, 2008

I occasionally do the urban foraging thing for things I know. It's amazing what you can find growing wild even in the most urban of areas if you just know what to look for. Occasionally I gross the hell out someone when they realize that oh my god I just ate something that wasn't an agricultural product. The reasons people give to be grossed out always amuse me. Yes, an animal may have peed on them. Animals may have peed on that produce you are eating. Yes there is car exhaust. I'm not sure why people think car exhaust is going to make the plant kill me. It's the same damn air you breathe all the time. As to pesticides, well, that is a bit of an issue. I know people put way too much pesticides on lawns, but I'm not picking food out of people's lawns. Just use common sense.

Frankly I think people who freak out about urban foraging are totally out of touch with what they eat. To them food is something that magically appears in stores or farmer's markets and they don't want to think about how food grows in the big dirty outside world where there are bugs and animals and what-have-you.
posted by aspo at 5:48 PM on June 7, 2008

Countess Elena: I do that honeysuckle trick every year.
posted by nev at 6:57 PM on June 7, 2008

i love wild foraging, though i'm on the edge of urbanity. (not suburban--just on the edge of town.)

i just got home with a backpack full of wild leeks (also known in places more southward as ramps), and last week i finally managed to get a few wild asparagus from where i've been waiting for them since late last summer. i'm keeping an eager eye out at the shaggy mane and strawberry grounds. it always makes me feel jubilant to get uncultivated food for free.
posted by RedEmma at 7:35 PM on June 7, 2008

I eat out of my yard OFTEN in Spring: dandelion leaves, violets and violet leaves, and massive amounts of chickweed in the form of pesto.

I truly believe every plant has a purpose, and overlooking incredibly nutritious "weeds" at your ankles (for free, yet) seems just plain silly.
posted by Riverine at 8:15 PM on June 7, 2008

Mm -- I had a neighbor who made violet jelly when I was little. That was good stuff. Our yard was also full of spearmint, and for a few years we had edible raspberries.
posted by lumensimus at 10:12 PM on June 7, 2008

"Except they're poison... He believed her. Made a face!"
posted by ZachsMind at 6:36 AM on June 8, 2008

why don't more towns plant fruit bearing trees and bushes in the parks? I think people would get a real kick out of taking a bucket into the woods and coming out with enough fruit for a week. Is the fruit stand lobby that strong?
posted by any major dude at 6:37 AM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

During my visit to Vancouver a couple years ago I pigged out on the berries growing along the side of the various walking trails in the city. Oh that was good.
posted by sandraregina at 6:57 AM on June 8, 2008

My father taught me how to suck a drop of "honey" out of a honeysuckle when I was a tiny child, but I sometimes wonder if I wasn't inventing that from a confused memory.
...not honey, but sweet nectar. As a kid in South Africa, we figured out, I guess by trial and error, a little nibble at a time, everything that was good to eat all around our gardens and in the surrounding hillsides. There were plants that tasted nutty, or tasted pleasantly sour, or tasted sweet, like honeysuckle. We'd even catch and eat flying ants, which tasted like butter; I remember the afternoon my best friend's older brother (who would've been 7 then), taught us how to do this, how to pull off the abdomen to eat.
posted by Flashman at 7:29 AM on June 8, 2008

I once lived in Silverspring, Maryland. the residential streets by my apartment building had many mulberry trees hanging over sidewalks. OMG, I miss those trees! Haven't thought of them in years.

As a kid in Michigan, we used to eat little bits off a weed we called "cheese plant". It was a little bit shaped like a cheese wheel, about the size of a small pea. I have no idea what it really was, or the taxonomy of what we were eating (seems likely some kind of legume). Wild blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries were just normal food.

When I see blackberries in the supermarket, I'm totally blown away at the price they carry! When I lived in northern Wisconsin, blackberries were more abundant than anyone had time to pick, and they were ready after the worst of the mosquitoes were gone (unlike raspberries).
posted by Goofyy at 11:41 PM on June 8, 2008

As a kid in Michigan, we used to eat little bits off a weed we called "cheese plant". It was a little bit shaped like a cheese wheel, about the size of a small pea. I have no idea what it really was, or the taxonomy of what we were eating (seems likely some kind of legume).

Goofyy, you were probably eating what are more commonly called "cheeses" - named for the round blob of fruit (shaped like a wheel of cheese) on a ground-hugging mallow plant. More info found half-way down on this page.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:51 AM on June 9, 2008

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