Posts Tagged ‘beach plum’


Imagine the sandy shores of Dumbo, Stuyvesant Cove, Hunters Point, South Beach, and Pelham Bay resplendent with bushes full of white blossoms that grow into delicious fruits akin to fat cherries as summer passes. Or seeing trees at City Hall, or in a school playground just inland from the Newtown Creek, heavy with sublimely sweet and tart green apples.

Welcome to New York City, 2015!

Well, potentially. Check this page in the coming weeks to learn how you can be part of bringing beach plums and Newtown Pippin apples back to NYC! It might even be possible to have the Newtown Pippin recognized as the official apple of the Big Apple. We have some amazing sponsors and partners already committed to plantings and helping others receive saplings.

Beach plums grow in sandy soil, even dunes, from New Jersey to eastern Canada. They sustain birds and delight beachcombers, and provide a living for those who make them into desserts. Industrialization erased them from our city’s shores.

Newtown Pippins were developed on the Queens bank of the Newtown Creek in the 18th century and quickly became known as the “prince of apples.” Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Queen Victoria were all ardent fans. Today they are grown by celebrities like Dave Matthews. They consistently win apple taste competitions to this day. The namesake creek has quietly descended into a state that should shame all New Yorkers. The nation’s largest oil spill leaches into it while combined sewer outflows continually assault it. The creek bed is laden with heavy metal wastes.


May the restoration of these species remind us of how lush and wondrous our environment once was, and inspire us to act to replenish our city.

One key element of the campaign will be to excite city officials by providing a taste of these plums and apples. On Saturday, Dec. 13, we will carpool or take a train out to Riverhead, Long Island, to buy apples, cider, plum jams, plum pies, and other delicacies at Briermere Farm. While we are there, there will be some exploring, of course!

If you’d like to come, please email naturecalendar@gmail.com so that we can determine how best to coordinate travel.

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Spicebush, photo by Heather Sweeney

(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.”)



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