Hunt for Chicken Mushrooms in Forest Park
with naturalist/author "Wildman" Steve Brill
[photos available from "Wildman"]
On Sunday, October 4, naturalist/author "Wildman" Steve Brill will lead one of his world-famous foraging tours of Forest Park in Kew Gardens. This is one of the best places in the world for fall foraging, with a wide selection of wild mushrooms, herbs, greens, roots, and berries. Habitats include miles of mature forest as well as the trail edges and the disturbed, overgrown, and cultivated habitats that provide homes for all the diverse species.
Root vegetables include burdock, delicious but hard to dig up. Here it's growing in loose, soft soil, so it's much more accessible than usual.
Another choice root vegetable is sweet cicely, which tastes like black licorice. This one's easy to unearth, and there's so much in Forest Park, you can't harm the habitat by collecting reasonable quantities.
Fruit in season includes the wild raisin, which tastes like a combination of prunes and bananas. This one grows in cultivated areas.
The common spicebush, on the other hand, grows in the woods. Its leaves are great for tea, and the berries replace allspice—they're an indispensable seasoning for main courses, side dishes, and desserts.
The forest is one of the best for mushrooms. Chicken mushrooms,hen-of-the-woods, honey mushrooms, brick tops, blewits, pear-shaped puffballs, beefsteak mushrooms, and giant puffballs can come up in various locations.
To top it off, given enough rain beforehand, the quantity of shaggy mane mushrooms this park produces can be staggering staggering. You'll find them poking up through the ground by the dozens all over the edges of trails throughout the park if there's been rain. One of the best-tasting mushrooms, they have a delicate flavor and texture that make them ideal steamed, in soups, stews, and sauces. With the right seasonings, you can even use them to make mock seafood dishes. You must use them the day you find them or they literally disintegrate into ink, but there will be more than enough for everyone to take as much as they can use. And the next day, even more will appear, only to disintegrate in another 24 hours.
This is also a great park for nuts. There are stands of white oak trees, with the best acorns for cooking.
You can also find delectable hickory nuts. But in Forest Park, theblack walnut tree reigns supreme. You remove the green husk underfoot, wear rubber gloves to keep the dye from staining your hands, and crack open the nut over the pavement with a rock. The nut meat tastes like a commercial walnut with earthy wine and mushroom overtones.
The 4 hour walking tour begins at 11:45 AM, on Sunday, October 4, at the stone wall at Union Turnpike and Park Lane, near the Parks Dept.'s Overlook building. Please call (914) 835-2153 at least 24 hours ahead to reserve a place.
The suggested donation is $15 for adults, $10 for children under 12. (Please bring exact change). Nobody is ever turned away due to lack of funds. For the 2009 tour calendar and additional info, visit http://www.