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’s Central Park in 1986. The New York City Parks Commissioner was not happy this crazy bearded fellow was doing such a thing and put 2 undercover park rangers hot on his trail. A couple show up for one of Wildman’s nature tour’s, saying they’re married, and keep taking pictures on the tour. When Wildman bends down and picks a dandelion leaf the man goes behind a tree, says something on his walkie talkie, and immediately Wildman is surrounded by NYC park rangers who cuff him and search his belongings. He’s arrested, cited a violation for ‘Criminal Mischief for Removing Vegetation From the Park’, and faces a fine and up to one year in jail. Wildman calls every news agency he can and finds himself front and center of a media frenzy. He’s on the CBS Evening News, Late Night with David Letterman, BBC, front page of the Chicago Sun, etc. Wildman serves his Dandelion Five Boro salad on the steps of the Manhattan Criminal Court before his appearance. Meanwhile, the NYC Mayor receives so many angry letters that the charges are dropped and Wildman gets hired to teach wild food tours in Central 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!