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//www.wildmanstevebrill.com).

Ginkgo leaf and nut. Photo by

On November 9 we will have our first social outings as a Nature Calendar community. In the morning we will hunt for fossils with paleontologist Carl Mehling as he concludes his private quest to find fossils (native or transported by glaciers) in all five boroughs. He’s scored fossils in the four other boroughs from periods as early as 300-million years ago up to a mere 12,000 years old. In the evening we will feast on dishes made from ginkgo nuts (photo above by “Wildman” Steve Brill). This species has thrived on earth since before the dinosaurs and each tree can live up to a thousand years.

Each activity will have limited space, and each participant must be individually responsible. There’s no dollar fee for entry. You earn your way as a participant. In the morning, we’ll expect you to poke around in the cold weather for odd and promising stones, or to assist in ways Carl determines necessary. The dinner is a potluck, so show up with a ginkgo delight! You can cheat and use store-bought ginkgo nuts if you must, but foraging is FUN!

Devonian Epoch fossils by the Illinois State Geological Association.

Devonian Epoch fossils by the Illinois State Geological Association.

FOSSIL HUNT!

We’ll announce the meeting and hunting locations to participants. Just dress to walk through mud, beach comb, and climb hillsides. We plan to start early in the morning.

GINKGO NUT POT-LUCK DINNER!

The first social gathering of http://www.NatureCalendar.com will celebrate one of our most under-appreciated street trees, the ginkgo, by having a ginkgo nut pot luck dinner! Go out this week (the season is ending fast!) to gather nuts and then incorporate them into your favorite recipes!

Here are a few recipes:

http://www.ginkgo-wellness.de/recipes/index.html

http://nourish-me.blogspot.com/2008/05/gingko-nut-custards.html

http://www.recipezaar.com/library/getentry.zsp?id=838

We expect that the party will be near Prospect Park. Seating is limited, so please RSVP and gather your gingko nuts! Follow the smell of the pungent fruits. They are in many larger parks and on streets throughout the city.

We hope to expand to larger pot luck foraging parties in cooperation with our friend, Wildman Steve Brill (his photo of the nut and leaf here), our city’s most acclaimed forager. Be sure to check his page (scroll down) for ginkgo foraging tips:

http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Clippings.folder/FreeLunch.html

Be sure to either prepare your nuts early or seal them away! Roommates and spouses not in on ginkgomania won’t appreciate the fragrance.

Some more information about gingkos:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/29/answers-about-nature-in-new-york-part-3/

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Red mulberries. Photo by \" width=

by Erik Baard

In New York City, messy sidewalks are usually cause for pinching one’s nose. But over the past few days I’ve been overjoyed to see purple splotches all over the place, from the sidewalks to fingertips. It’s mulberry season!

Flash forward: This photo is from another kayak trip, in 2010. LIC Community Boathouse logo artist Steve Sanford in foreground.

 

Our native red mulberry trees (the fruits of this and related species actually ripen to a deep, nearly black, purple — photo by “Wildman” Steve Brill) can be found all over the city. They spill onto the street all over St. George, Staten Island, and offer themselves up to ravenous joggers at the Central Park Reservoir. Sebago Canoe Club reports that it has a good population of them, and Socrates Sculpture Park has some dropping onto Vernon Boulevard in northern Long Island City as well. I know of at least a half-dozen more locations, so it’s a safe bet that you can find them too – and please write in with your findings!

 

My favorite spot, however, is Mulberry Coast. Where’s that? Well, okay, that’s just a name I’ve given to the west side of Randalls Island. A small strip of sand allows for kayak landings, and the red mulberry trees are immediately past the rough shoreline. Want to see them? Come kayaking this Saturday, on the “Mulberry Night” tour with the LIC Community Boathouse!

 

 Mulberry shakedown. Photo by Friends of Brook Park.

Of course, that’s if our hungry, often-vegan, buddies at Friends of Brook Park don’t eat them all first! That’s their photo above. They shot a teasing note to the LIC Community Boathouse accusing Queens paddlers of piracy. But I say that since Randalls is administered by Manhattan, we’re both borough raiders and therefore should work together!  🙂

White mulberries can also be found in some places, descendents of trees brought over in the 19th century in a failed attempt to start a North American silk worm industry. I foolishly ignored a white mulberry tree throughout my adolescence, wondering why its fruits never ripened and marveling that the birds wanted them anyway. Oops. I feel better that even Wildman Steve Brill confesses to making that error in his early foraging days.

 

Steve has a great mulberry entry on his site, with creative suggestions for using this fruit. I’m with the birds, however, in loving the fruit straight up. It was also interesting for me to learn from a little bit of research that the fruits might have a commercial future, after all. You don’t come across these early summer delights in grocery stores because they ferment and mold quite quickly, due to their high water content and thin skins. But they’re rich in anthocyanins, a blue pigmentation that is valuable as a dye and a disease-preventing antioxidant. 

 

Harvesting such small fruits isn’t the chore you might imagine. I enjoyed Steve’s description of the standard practice:

 

I love taking children mulberry-gathering. Everyone holds up a drop cloth, while I climb into the trees and shower the drop cloth and kids with fruit.”

 

Some might worry that eating from trees inside the city is unsafe. As always, you do so at your own risk. While trees do a remarkably good job of filtering toxins through many layers of osmosis before water and nutrients reach the fruit, pollution deposits can contaminated the surface. Rising or using a nontoxic wash will make the fruit safer but less flavorful. Another option is to seek trees at a decent distance from street traffic, the usual toxin source. This is another reason I love Randalls Island and hope our mulberry trees are doing well there!

I’ve been taken for many years with the visual counterpoint the small dark berries offer to these longest, brightest days of the year. Back in 1991, when I played with lyric verse a bit, I wrote the following short poem. It’s about the rush of awakening (amidst what many myopically dismiss as “lazy, hazy” days of summer) I perceived while observing a Central Park church picnic, when mulberries were in season:

 

 

 

Dawn and dusk are parted lips and

these are days of yawning

skies of chalked turquoise and

wild-willed muddied boys and

berry-stained girls in sun

dresses, too full to run.

 

These days are near past playing coy and

everything is near ripe

and ripening, ripening!

 

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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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