Posted on Fri, June 17, 2011 by Slow Food USA
3 Comments | Categories: Biodiversity, Books, Events,
—by Jena Eiden
To hear Leda Meredith recall past foraging expeditions, you might think she was roaming the aisles of the famed Park Slope Food Co-op or a local farmers market. Hen-in-the-woods mushrooms, mulberries, wild black cherries, garlic mustard… wait, didn’t I just see that back on aisle three? If you are lucky enough to attend one of Leda’s foraging tours, you might just find a few similarities between your neighborhood market and Prospect Park.
Last Saturday our group of 11 foraging neophytes met at Grand Army Plaza to join local botanist, ballerina, locavore, and author Leda Meredith (author of The Locavore’s Handbook and the memoir Botany, Ballet & Dinner from Scratch) on a 2-hour foraging tour through Brooklyn’s largest green space, Prospect Park, followed by a trip to nearby Beer Table to sample Leda’s foraged snacks alongside a craft brew.
So what made this Saturday different than any other Saturday spent strolling through the park and grabbing a drink from a local watering hole? It was relaxing, educational, inspiring, but most of all—fun!
During our journey we encountered burdock (the leaves, stalks and roots are edible at varying stages of growth), garlic mustard, elderberry blossoms, wild black cherry trees, mulberry and juneberry trees, chickweed, mallow, dandelion greens, violets, pokeweed, white clover flowers, and spice bush, to name a few.
Leda’s trained eye spotted patches of wild edibles with ease, precision and delight in each discovery. She’s a professional yes, but she clearly loves the journey of it. I especially enjoyed hearing tales from Leda’s past; about her great-grandmother foraging for food in her native Greece, and how Leda’s family continued the practice in San Francisco’s Golden Gate park.
At Beer Table we feasted on Leda’s own red clover bread (made with whole wheat and red clover bud “flour”) served with a wild edible dipping sauce including spicebush, garlic mustard and wood sorrel. Our friendly host Justin paired Leda’s treats with two farmhouse brews; the Hof Ten Dormaal Blond from Belgium and a black lager from Oregon called Rogue Chatoe Dirtoir. Both beers were brewed from hops and barley grown on their respective farms, resulting in truly outstanding expressions of the “farm-to-bottle” process.
For most of us, finding our own food is not about survival. Instead, it is a way to explore our surroundings like our ancestors did, with the added bonus of free, delicious ingredients. By reconnecting with our land through buying local, planting a garden, building relationships with farmers and, sometimes, foraging for our own food; we can work towards a more sustainable way of life.
Have you ever considered supplementing your groceries with foraged foods? Are you an expert at ID’ing wild plants for food and medicine? Tell us about your favorite recipes, trusty field guides, and stories from the trail in the comment field below.
Photo from Jena Eiden, showing Leda Meredith holding a wild edible. Think you can name it?