Monday, March 12, 2012

Early Spring Foraging Tour with "Wildman" Steve Brill

Gillian walking with the Wildman

2012 marks the fourth year we have taken tours with "Wildman" Steve Brill. He takes the trip into Connecticut a few times throughout the year, mostly to the western edges of the state in Redding or Danbury, to give his wild food tours. His daughter is just a bit older than Gillian, and they get along well. We are still learning new wild edibles, and Wildman enjoys showing us something new. The tour we took on Saturday, March 10 was at Tarrywile Park in Danbury, and it was also Wildman's birthday! The News Times of Danbury was there to do a story in the local paper, and the article included a photograph of Gillian sampling a day lily.

This was the earliest time of year that we have ever taken a tour. It has been a rather mild winter, and spring is creeping in early this season. Wildman has been putting up teasers on Facebook all week about what plants he had been finding in Central Park in New York City, like wood sorrel, hairy bittercress, and dandelions. It might be a bit colder over here in southeastern Connecticut, because the dandelions in our area are not up at all. So far, we have been tapping maple trees for sap and making syrup.

Day lily shoots
Day lily tubers
The first new edible he showed us was day lily (Hemerocallis fulva). We both knew that the shoots, tubers, and flowers of the day lily were edible, we just had not tried them yet. The shoots were up at Tarrywile, and He gave some to Gillian and me to taste. They were quite tender, and mild like green beans. Robert dug some tubers for us to eat at home. It appeared that the deer liked eating the shoots as well, as we saw many nibbled  down to the ground.

Hairy bittercress
The second new edible we learned was hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), a fantastic green plant for salads. I had seen the information about this plant on his app, but had never come across it out on my own. It was a lot smaller than I had pictured, but the taste is fantastically fresh and lightly peppery, very similar to a watercress. It was growing in a micro-climate created by a building insulating the soil and providing extra moisture in the form of rain run-off. We will look for this plant to make some salads, dressings, and add to soups.

Wildman Steve Brill
After the tour we were invited to a friend's house for Steve's birthday dinner. Joe and Kathy are wild food super-enthusiasts, and also members of two mushroom clubs, CVMS and COMA. The Indian-themed feast they prepared featured a Chicken Mushroom Masala, made with chicken mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus) and tofu, and a brilliant assortment of chutneys and dips for papadum crackers. We humbly contributed a plum jam, and ramps and roasted garlic jam to the dip lineup. The dinner was fantastic, and Gillian and Violet spent a couple hours cracking black walnuts on Joe's fancy nut crackers as snacks. It was the perfect end to a great day of playing for the two girls, and learning for all of us.


Donna said...

Thanks to reading this blog today I discovered bittercress in my front yard and added it as a garnish to my chicken soup! See my blog: as I credited your blog with the find!

The 3 Foragers said...

Thanks, Donna. We'll be trying some recipes with bittercress,and putting up a video of what Wildman has to say about it soon. Karen