March 9, 2019
Saxon Woods Park's forested areas, cultivated places, and tailsides are excellent places for late winter foraging, and we'll be very busy with a variety of common, widespread, renewable native and exotic plant species as we explore these habitats.
The sunny borders between woodlands and open areas provide prime habitat for wild herbs and greens. We'll look for sheep sorrel and wood sorrel, with their wonderful lemony flavors, plus goutweed, which tastes like a combination of parsley, celery, and carrots. Hairy bittercress, a common, delicious, overlooked wild mustard, also appears in great abundance in disturbed habitats, and its even more common, invasive relative, garlic mustard, is taking over the forest.
The edge of the woods is also full of burdock, a delicious and healthful taproot, but even more impressive is a sunny hillside, partially protected from mowers by its steepness, that's loaded with wild carrots and common evening primrose, two of the tastiest root vegetables on Earth.
We'll be finding sassafras in the woods, which you can use as a sweet seasoning, or turn into tea or root beer. If you prefer birch beer, no problem — black birch trees grow in the same places, and you can also use them to make tea, jelly, and puddings.
As we end the tour, we'll also pick up northern bayberry leaves in the parking lot. Unrelated to commercial bay leaves, the flavor is similar but better, superb for seasoning soups, grains, and marinades.May 27, 2019
Saxon Woods Park's forested areas grassy habitats, and swamps are excellent places for mid-spring foraging, and we'll be very busy with a variety of common, widespread, renewable native and exotic plant species as we explore these habitats.The sunny borders between woodlands and the parking lot provide prime habitat for various wild herbs and greens. We'll look for sheep sorrel and wood sorrel, with their wonderful lemony flavors, plus goutweed, which tastes like parsley. Poor man's pepper, a common, delicious wild mustard, also appears in great abundance in sunny habitats, and its even more common invasive relative, garlic mustard, is taking over the forest.
The hillside adjacent to the woods is also full of burdock, a delicious and healthful taproot, and its relative, common thistle. This forbiddingly thorny plant has a delicious, celery-like flower stalk. Simply handle with work gloves until you've peeled off the forbidding-looking thorns.
In the woods, we'll hunt for more edible and medicinal herbs and beverages such as piquant-flavored greenbrier leaves and shoots; ramps, the world's best onion species; and flavorful pokeweed shoots. We'll also be looking for root beer flavored sassafras, wintergreen-flavored black birch, and jewelweed, a preventative for poison ivy and a panacea for insect bites and stings.
For a finale, as we leave the woods, we'll find bayberry bushes, with leaves far superior to the unrelated bay leaf.June 16, 2019
This large forested park has open and cultivated areas, wet areas, edge habitats, and woods, all with different sets of wild plants and mushrooms.
The first mulberries may be ripening, and these medium-sized trees should be dropping their tasty fruit on the ground. Sweet but not tart, you use these perishable fruits with lemon or lime juice, plus a sweetener.
Daylilies blooming now. This invasive East Asian ornamental has delicious flowers with a sweet and spicy flavor. What happens when you put the 2 together?
The cultivated areas will have plenty of herbs and greens to enjoy: Sheep sorrel imparts a sour flavor to salads and cooked dishes alike. Poor man's pepper will spice up any dish, whereas goutweed tastes like parsley, but with more intensity. You can use northern bayberry leaves as a seasoning, like unrelated bay leaves, only the wild shrub is much better.
The black birch trees at the edge of the parking lot provide twigs that taste like wintergreen. The chemical responsible, methyl salicilate, is a natural low-dose aspirin. The twigs make an outstanding tea, and you can also use them to flavor puddings, but most surprising, chewing on them also relieves the pain of teething.
Plenty of wild foods grow in the woods too, including piquant-tasting greenbrier shoots, and garlicky garlic mustard leaves and flowers. We could even find meaty resinous polypore and dryad's saddle mushrooms in the forest, along with chicken mushrooms, the best vegetarian chicken substitute.Note:
- Participants should be dressed for the weather, and be aware of very bad subway service. Trains are often canceled due to track work.
- No sandals (there are mosquitoes, thorns and poison ivy). Everyone should have plastic bags for veggies and herbs, paper bags for mushrooms, which spoil in plastic, containers for berries from late spring through fall, water and lunch, a pen to sign in and extra layers when it's cold.
- Digging implements and pocket knives are optional.
- Dogs are permitted. Children are encouraged to attend.
- There's no smoking whatsoever at any time.