Beach plum in Brooklyn Bridge Park
I was around long enough in Brooklyn to know and despair of the barren stretch of concrete wharfs below the Brooklyn Bridge, and their neighbor, the apologetic patch of neglected park squeezed below the Manhattan Bridge (what I called the noisiest park in the world, as the Q train clatters overhead). But in that patch I discovered my urban foraging calling, because there I chanced upon serviceberry trees one summer, ignored by everyone except some gourmand pigeons. They are the best berry that America does not know.
That was then. So much dead space. The arrival of earth movers and the spread of green lifted my naturalist’s heart. But I was unprepared for the ambitious palette of plants that materialized on the new berms and in marshy ground. For someone with a botanical eye and a growling stomach, Pier 1 is a forager’s heaven. I limit myself to sampling berries in this beautiful park. Any more would be downright rude.
But as a classroom the leafy paths and richly planted slopes are unrivaled in New York City for providing a concentrated glimpse of the edible indigenous flora that the city has lost. Here we can learn about bayberry and sweetfern, two shrubs whose herbal fragrance that should be flavoring our cosmopolitan dinner plates (but aren’t, yet). In the wet ground are pickerel weed and cattails, semi-aquatic plants with vegetable potential that is enormously unknown. There are those serviceberries, generous clumps of blueberries, wild raspberries and beach plum. There are sumac and sassafras.
Come and learn about these plants and their potential (and some weedier cousins on the park’s edges) on the walk I will lead on June 7. We’ll move south from Pier 1 to Pier 6, ending at the foot of Atlantic Avenue. From there it’s a hop to the Borough Hall Farmer’s Market, or to Sahadi’s, for that matter, to satisfy foraging cravings with a purchase of ground sumac or powered wild cherry kernels (mahlab).
Where: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1
When: Saturday, June 7, 1-3 p.m.
Cost: $30 ($25 to Edible readers who add the note EDIBLE to their purchase)
Details and payment here.