Wildman Steve Brill is the central character to probably the most widely known modern day wild food story ever told. It’s become legendary, and if you don’t know it…here it is:
Wildman was teaching a foraging class in New York City’sCentral Park in 1986. The New York City Parks Commissionerwas not happy this crazy bearded fellow was doing such a thingand put 2 undercover park rangers hot on his trail. A coupleshow up for one of Wildman’s nature tour’s, saying they’remarried, and keep taking pictures on the tour. When Wildmanbends down and picks a dandelion leaf the man goes behind atree, says something on his walkie talkie, and immediatelyWildman is surrounded by NYC park rangers who cuff him andsearch his belongings. He’s arrested, cited a violation for‘Criminal Mischief for Removing Vegetation From the Park’, andfaces a fine and up to one year in jail. Wildman calls every newsagency he can and finds himself front and center of a mediafrenzy. He’s on the CBS Evening News, Late Night with DavidLetterman, BBC, front page of the Chicago Sun, etc. Wildmanserves his Dandelion Five Boro salad on the steps of theManhattan Criminal Court before his appearance. Meanwhile, theNYC Mayor receives so many angry letters that the charges aredropped and Wildman gets hired to teach wild food tours inCentral Park!
Wildman also loves to cook. In the video above he shares a new experiment with cooking common plantain (Plantago major). Although he’s still experimenting, and says he would like to parboil and dry the leaves before roasting them next time, here’s an idea of a new recipe he’s coming up with. He washed and dried the leaves and preheated an oven to 425 degrees. The leaves were coated with sesame seed oil, ground caraway seeds, ground fennel seeds, ground nutmeg, and salt. Stirred regularly and baked for roughly 6-10 minutes. Check out his cookbook, The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook.
Imagine a world where children learn about and eat wild foods!
Here’s a video, done by a cool cooking web show called Kitchen Caravan, on Leda Meredith. There are actually 4 video’s to view, but this one highlights Leda harvesting wild field garlic (Allium vineale). This plant is widespread, and can be used similarly to chives (tops) or garlic (bulbs). Leda is currently challenging herself to eat foods from within a 250 mile radius of her home in Brooklyn, New York. In her blog, Leda’s Urban Homestead, she writes about her experiences on this diet. You can click here to view a post I did shortly after she started her challenge last summer. Be sure to check her website, as she offers classes on wild foods and domesticated plants.
Nat Bletter, ethnobotanist, is taking right action. So many in his field are working to manipulate indigenous medicinal plant knowledge, but Nat has a very respectful approach and sincere desire to help humanity with the knowledge he holds. He’s currently finishing his dissertation on the ‘Quantitative Cross-Cultural Medical Ethnobotany of Peru and Mali’. People like himself are wooed by pharmaceutical companies, but this go-getter is instead forming both a raw chocolate company and a company which uses our invasive species.
Nat is an excellent forager in New York City, and offers classes in both ethnobotany and foraging. He recently started a blog, The Quest for Khao Soi, to document his adventures searching for his favorite Thai dish. Our intersecting relationships with plants is incredibly fascinating, as we certainly shape eachother. Check out the video above…where Nat discusses intellectual property rights, takes us through a few New York City parks to forage, and cooks up a delicious meal of burdock root/burdock petiol’s/pokeweed greens covered with shepard’s purse/garlic mustard root topping, sauteed mulberry leaves, a chickweed/shepard’s purse/garlic mustard/wild chive/redbud salad, california bay laurel nut chocolate, and roasted Kentucky bean ‘coffee’!
Check this out!
Langdon Cook, located in the Seattle area, has been going wild with his new blog Fat of the Land. Langdon’s blog is very well written, and will keep pacific northwesterners abreast of seasonally available wild foods, along with delicious recipes to prepare them. He’s currently working on a book titled Fat of the Land and says, “The book will be very different from the blog – with more in-depth, character-driven narratives about foraging. Each chapter will focus on my efforts (and misadventures) to harvest a specific species, with healthy doses of natural history and conservation thrown in for good measure. Like the blog, the book will also have recipes.” Yeehaw!
So, how did Langdon get into this foraging lifestyle?
After a move to Seattle in 1991, he found himself easily strewn among the outdoorsy types, iconoclasts and other non-joiners the area is famous for. After a year living off-grid in southwestern Oregon, his confidence and experiences grew. He is now trying to peek outside the consumer food box as we know it, convince a few skeptics, and bottom line: have some fun! Langdon says, “You have to bone up on the life history of the species…this is gumshoe detective work at its heart. Once you hit paydirt, the next thing is to learn how to cook your catch. The entire progression jazzes me, from studying at home, pouring over maps, laying plans, going out into the field, and returning with free, nutritious booty to cook up into delicious meals.”
Happy Beltane! I hope you are all out doing some wild exuberant dancing with the maypole. May Day has been celebrated by earth-centered cultures for many a year, and it marks the midway point between spring equinox and summer solstice. I’m here in the Appalachian Mountains…and are they incredible! The other night I had a very cool experience with some of the Grandfather Spirits of these, the oldest mountains in North America. They were hungry.
A few days ago I was able to meet up with my cousin Ila Hatter. She’s a wonderful woman who I’m honored to call family – click here to read an article I wrote about Ila last year. The video above highlights Ila’s knowledge about uganost (there are several ways of spelling sweet in Cherokee), which is each individual Cherokee families blend of their favorite spring greens. I learned many new plants on this walk with Ila. Ila also covers some very important guidelines when foraging for food and medicine, as well as the necessity in saying thank you and leaving a gift for the plants you are gathering. Alrighty, I hope you are all living in joyful abundance this May Day, with your own personal uganost blends.
Sunny Savage, host of the television series ‘Hot on the Trail with Sunny Savage’, helps us untame our lives by incorporating wild foods into our modern-day diets. She holds an MS in Nutrition Education and has traveled to all 7 continents, learning from the plants and the people along the way. She lives on the island of Maui and enjoys exploring from mountain top to the sea.