(Spicebush in Central Park, photo by Heather Sweeney)
by Erik Baard
So, yes, I was negligent or – even worse – trying to stretch material from the same edible plants outing. But sophisticated readers have demanded that I provide foraging tips for their high tea to go along with the recently posted recipe for cattail-on-a-hot-tin-roof sandwiches. All too happy to provide…
I went back to my best foraging source, Wildman Steve Brill. He advises that those seeking to match the delicacy of the tradition try spicebush leaves (in a photo above by Heather Sweeney) with a hint of ground ivy. Steep in boiling water for 20 minutes, sweeten to taste.
The spicebush also produces berries that are dried and ground into what’s often called “Appalachian allspice.” I recently used it for a pawpaw-and-beach plum cake I baked recently for a friend. Well, dear friend — I don’t bake for just anyone!
For more of an “Our Town”-soda-fountain-date kind of drink, Steve recommends sassafras tea. Scrub the roots of a sapling and simmer it for 20 minutes. Chill it and add sparkling water and sweetener for root beer!
As always, it’s best to start out as a forager under the guidance of experienced naturalists like Steve. Wrong choices have severe consequences when it comes to eating wild plants! (Then again, Steve added this advice: “Try it on the in-laws first, or, if you’re a kid, your teacher.”)