Prospect Park is a great place for foragers to explore at the end of the winter. Like Central Park, this Olmstead-designed landscape features a variety of habitats filled with delicious native and exotic plants.
Wild coffee grows along the sidewalk that runs along the park's east side. Unrelated to commercial coffee, you can collect the seeds of the little-known Kentucky coffee-tree, the world's best caffeine-free coffee substitute, all year. Use them to make a beverage, or as a seasoning that's terrific in chocolate recipes.
Cold weather greens abound throughout the park. We'll find garlic-flavored garlic mustard greens and sprouts, which taste like garlic, and their roots, which taste like horseradish. We'll look for chickweed, which tastes like corn, bitter dock, as delicious cooked as it's awful raw, and ground ivy, a mint-flavored herb tea.
Both sweet-sharp daylily shoots, plus the plant's potato-like tubers, will already be producing bumper crops in the cold weather.
East of the boathouse, we'll look for common evening primrose roots which have invaded a cultivated flower bed. This native vegetable tastes like a combination of radish and black pepper, but it's also sweet, and thickens soup the way okra does.
Throughout the park, we'll come across stands goutweed, an herb that tastes like parsley, carrots and celery. It does great in the cold weather. You can use it as a seasoning, or cook it like creamed spinach.
The first tiny leaves of wild parsnips, growing just west of the skating rink, will clue us in to the location of the large, sweet roots. And the abundant, green, fragrant twigs of sassafras saplings, which grow in woods throughout, will let us find roots for making wild root beer, or to season sweet dishes. We'll also find additional edible trees, including sassafras, a great culinary seasoning you can also use to make tea or root beer, and black birch, also good for making tea and birch beer, as well as "Wildman's" Stick Pudding.Please Note:
Meeting Place: We meet at the Grand Army Plaza entrance to the park, across from the library.
- Participants should be dressed for the weather, and be aware of very bad subway service. Trains are often canceled due to track work.
- No sandals (there are mosquitoes, thorns and poison ivy).
- Everyone should have plastic bags for veggies and herbs, paper bags for mushrooms, which spoil in plastic, containers for berries from late spring through fall, water and lunch, and extra layers when it's cold. Digging implements and pocket knives are optional.
- Dogs are permitted. Children are encouraged to attend.
- There's no smoking whatsoever at any time.