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Hunt Is On for 'Chicken Mushrooms' and Other Edibles in Inwood Hill Park

By DNAinfo Staff on August 3, 2011 9:15am

"Wildman" Steve Brill will hunt for chicken mushrooms during a tour through Inwood Hill Park in late August.
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MANHATTAN — “Wildman” Steve Brill, New York City’s beloved urban foraging expert, will return to Inwood Hill Park this August in search of exotic edibles from sassafrass root to chicken mushrooms.

Brill, who leads tours in parks throughout the city and across greater New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, said it’s a great time to forage for the poultry-like fungi, which are typically between 5 and 10 pounds and “taste just like chicken” with the right seasoning.

The group will meet on Sunday, Aug. 28, at 11:45 a.m. in a playground located at Dyckman Street and Broadway and continue for 4 hours through the hilly woods of Upper Manhattan.

Other expected finds include lamb’s-quarters (similar to spinach but “more tender, more flavorful and much more nutritious,” according to Brill), black birch twigs (for use in pain-relieving teas) and wood sorrel (which “tastes like lemonade” when brewed).  

Foraging in city parks is officially forbidden, and the Central Park Conservancy's website has an article prominently displayed on its homepage entitled, "How Foraging Damages Park Landscapes."

The conservancy said that it reintroduced American ginger back into the park after the native plant declined over the years. But "If even a small percentage of park visitors pull this plant for its roots, it will once again disappear," Central Park officials wrote. The same goes for ramps, highbush blueberry, spicebush, cattails and sassafras.

But Brill has been leading his tours since the 1980s with, tacit approval from park authorities, he said.

“Most of the park officials I run into seem to understand that what I’m doing is not destructive,” said Brill, who emphasized the “need to forage intelligently" by limiting oneself to safe and renewable plants.

There is a suggested donation of $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12 who attend the tour. Attendees can call 914-835-2153 at least 24 hours in advance to reserve a spot.

Brill will also lead tours in Central Park on Aug. 7 and 20.