Steve “Wildman” Brill led dozens into Prospect Park on a crisp Sunday to forage for edible weeds, seeds, and roots.
During the jaunt, Brill pointed out various foliage, such as poor man’s pepper, chickweed, and garlic mustard, while listeners sampled the edibles, took notes, and snapped pictures.
“Wildman” Brill was once arrested while eating a dandelion by undercover officers, but says the lawsuit was dropped.
Brill: “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. We can go pick the same sassafras and chickweed over and over again, these are purely renewable, so this is not harming the environment. … It’s technically against park regulations for a kindergarten kid to remove colored leaves from the park. So they have to decide what to enforce.”
The Parks Department said: “It’s actually against the rules to take anything out of a park, and we definitely discourage anybody from eating anything [growing] in the park.”
According to Brill, the Parks commissioner has said that if foraging were legalized there could be frivolous lawsuits against the Parks Department from people claiming they were poisoned.
Why people came
The diverse group who learned about foraging covered a wide range of ages, including a handful of kids, and a few dogs. Even a grandfather from the
Channel Islands, visiting his family, joined the fun.
Eman Rashid teaches an environmental education class at a Montessori school and wants to start taking the kids there foraging.
“I really want to improve my plant recognition skills, and I also don’t ever want to poison the kids,” Rashid said. “I’ve been trying to make it to one for a while,” she said. “I’m glad I finally did.”
Josiah Laubenstein of Brooklyn read about urban foraging and learned about the tours Brill gives. “Everything you hear says that you shouldn’t do this unless you go with someone who knows about what won’t kill you [when you eat it],” Laubenstein said, adding that he had never been to Prospect Park before. “It’s a good excuse to get out here.”
The group was quite jovial, something “Wildman” Brill experiences with many of his tours.
Upcoming Tours: http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/
March 10 Tarrywile Park, Danbury, Conn.
March 17 Prospect Park, Brooklyn
March 18, Central Park, Manhattan
March 24 Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
March 25, Stone Barn Center, Westchester
“You see how friendly everyone is, that’s typical of the tours,” he said. “And the kids have fun and they learn some things.”