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Posts Tagged ‘green guerillas’

Mayor\'s Volunteer Center. 

 

 

by Erik Baard

 

Maybe almost right on the City Hall steps

 

Improving our city’s quality of life, education, infrastructure, and physical and mental health all hinge on our ability to break through the concrete and restore wildlife habitat. Mayor Bloomberg’s much-touted PlaNYC aims to do that, but he knows the limits of government. Volunteerism is the only way to meet that challenge within budget and across the vicissitudes of succeeding administrations.

 

The Mayor’s Volunteer Center together with United Way of New York City maintains a user-created database of opportunities to pitch in with nonprofits in outdoor recreation and environmentalism at http://www.volunteernyc.org/

 

“Our main environmental initiative is Million Trees NYC. We absolutely love promoting it,” said Amanda Rey, Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Volunteer Center, which is part of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit. “It’s an amazing thing to do for the city and the world as a whole.”

 

 

The Million Trees NYC push to reforest the city is core to PlaNYC. Trees famously clean the air, but other services are increasingly critical: they absorb noise pollution, cool patches of asphalt, and reduce rainfall runoffs that can result in combined sewer overflows.

 

About 60% of the trees will be planted in parks, streets, and other public spaces. The balance will be planted on private land, both homes and corporate lots.

 

The Mayor’s Volunteer Center is reaching for green (and blue) in other directions as well. Rocking the Boat teaches young people to build classic Whitehall rowboats, and provides community rowing for free. “They get kids outdoors while teaching teamwork. We love Rocking the Boat,” Rey enthused.

 

Is it too sweet a deal to earn good karma while biking, paddling, doing bioblitzes, cleaning the shoreline, gardening, and planting trees? As one volunteer with a paddling group recently told me, “Too many people don’t think environmentalism is putting kids from the projects on the water. They think it’s signing a petition.”

 

If you want to exceed a hobbyist level of volunteerism, some groups provide outstanding resources for diversifying your green skills. The Lower East Side Ecology Center, Rey pointed out, “is always offering cutting-edge workshops.” Partnerships for Parks and Citizens Committee for NYC both counsel new and neighborhood-based nonprofits through their growing pains, and provide technical assistance and targeted grants.

 

As important as a diversity of activities and resources is to a green movement, Rey knows that it’s also critical to accommodate all levels of commitment. If you can volunteer only sporadically, or for one-shot day events, don’t get intimated by follow-through obligations, Rey advises. That tree you planted won’t wither a few weeks later without you, if you link with strong and stable groups. “There are these eco-friendly pockets like New York Restoration Project and Central Park Conservancy. They’re the ones you want to check in with,” she said.

 

Smaller groups need to focus on giving volunteers clear directions and a sense of immediate accomplishment, she said. “Always be prepared and have a goal for the day and the end goal of your group in mind. Stick by that and you’ll be golden.”

 

And we’ll all be green.

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by Erik Baard

  

 

Flip Victorian and Edwardian snobbishness on its head with a wild and spicy forager’s. answer to the British cucumber sandwich! With its peppery and garlicky kick, call it a Cattail-on-a-Hot-Tin-Roof sandwich.

 

This recipe isn’t likely to show up on the next International Debutante Ball menu, but it might be perfect for the livelier Billionaires for Bush set.

 

Some culinary historians believe that upper-class Britons chose the blandly delicate cucumber sandwich specifically because it demonstrated that they could afford to spend money on empty calories. The poor put their shillings down for protein and nutrients. We’ll enjoy our version as a little reward for adventurous field work and creativity in the kitchen.

 

Last weekend I joined Wildman Steve Brill for a tasting tour of Central Park (photographed above by Heather Sweeney, getting an early start on his cattail feast). Nature offered up a suite of delicious choices. One highlight was cattails, a freshwater plant with a soft stalk core that tastes very much like cucumber, with what a member of Fuji television crew noted was a hint of celery. It can be found by the Central Park Lake and many other sites, including Inwood Hill Park, Van Cortlandt Park, Udalls Park Preserve, Eibs Pond Park, Clay Pit Ponds Preserve, Kissena Park, Prospect Park, and Alley Pond Park

 

 

(Photo of cattails in Central Park by Heather Sweeney)

 

Having sampled garlic mustard (“The garlic taste is the plant’s defense against insects, unless they are Italian insects, in which case it will go extinct,” Steve joked) and lemony sheep sorrel, it occurred to me that we might have the makings to liberate a traditional cucumber sandwich recipe.

 

I strongly recommend that you join Steve or another experienced botanist or naturalist on your early foraging outings. Plant misidentification can bring illness or death.

 

Slice your cattails near the base, but DO NOT uproot them. The roots are edible (and be made into a flour for baking bread), but in fairness to others and local wildlife, grow your own. A cattail corner to a community garden, perhaps fed by roof-collected rainwater, might be a wonderful signature. Check with the Green Guerillas, New York Restoration Project, or Green Thumb to investigate this tantalizing possibility.

 

Bunches of sheep sorrel (named for the sheep’s head look of their leaves) are easily had in moist meadows and grass hillsides, especially near the kinds of ponds where you’ll find cattails. It’s an invasive and common plant, so feel completely guiltless in munching it down.

 

 

(Photo of sheep sorrel in Central Park by Heather Sweeney)

 

Ditto for garlic mustard, which has swept aggressively through woodlands and floodplains.  

 

 

(Photo of garlic mustard in Central Park by Heather Sweeney) 

 

Another key ingredient is wild onion, which has scallion-like tubular shoots.

 

 

(Photo of wild onion and fellow-forager Alex in Central Park by Heather Sweeney)

 

 

Now blend the yummy invaders in the sheep sorrel  spread recipe on Steve’s website (scroll down for recipes).

 

And given that Steve and I are both vegans, please forgive me if I suggest you try a nondairy butter substitute, for the sake of the environment, your health, and a more humane culture. And if you’re a crust-trimmer, earthworms will appreciate your noblesse oblige in tossing them in compost bin. 

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