Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The wild woods - an excursion to Pelham Bay

To Pelham Bay Bay Park we went, on the 6. It takes a lot less time from Harlem than it did from Cobble Hill. Spring beauties were out in drifts of white. I have never seen so many.

We pointed long lenses at tree stumps but did not see the owlet that is in alleged residence.

There were woodland anemones on their "stems like threads" (perfectly on cue, as I write about them in the April chapter of my book.)

There was cutleaf toothwort.

There were deer! (I have never seen deer, here.)

There were thousands of trout lilies.

And forests of Japanese knotweed, below. It is really out of hand. I have never seen as much. This is a problem, because this part of the city is also home to a wonderful diversity of  indigenous wildflowers and spring ephemerals which are outcompeted by the weedy thugs. I was also struck by the green sheets of day lilies also invasive) and the presence of masses of garlic mustard. 

The good news? Well, you know what it is. Primo kitchen ingredient. But it needs to be harvested NOW. 

Why can't we host a knotweed festival? A famous April feast. Have foragers and cooks and chefs and writers and gardeners and botanists and park custodians all make friends and play catch the knotweed for a couple of days.

And then eat it, together. This is a spring treat.

After stops for photos and knotweed collection, we headed to our favourite island where someone once planted garden flowers - lily of the valley (which make the Frenchman homesick for his childhood in Antibes, where there was a festival honouring them), grape hyacinth and shasta daisies, all around some stone ruins - and had our picnic.

Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Marlon Brando. Such a good looking young man. So very odd, later.

Prosciutto and arugula with home made mayonnaise and mustard, on brioche buns, and some field garlic bread left over from Saturday's Central Park wild edibles walk. We put cheese on that, naturally, with a schmear of Mrs Ball's hot chutney.

Spiky, with yellow buds, growing from a crack in the rock. No idea.

And a butterfly.*

Then a detour for winter cress, a walk to the bus, making our trip a good  5.5 mile round trip, and south, on the 6 train back to Harlem.

The butterfly reminds me: I have a book about homegrown herbal teas to give away. I loved the butterfly giveaway I did a couple of years ago, where everyone described their first local sightings. It made the most evocative poem. Perhaps it's time to do that again...


  1. What a great idea - a book of home grown herbal teas. They are my brew of choice - it's no secret, caffeine and I don't get on. And I hope someone out there (out here?) knows the identity of the spiky, yellow budded guy, I'm intrigued...

  2. Could you possibly post just a few of the recipes? I'm not really that much of a tea drinker aside from RedRose and mint tea, but curious about homegrown herbal teas.

  3. let's spread the word: japanese knotweed are the new ramps. maybe the times will pick it up and they'll be selling in union square for 8 dollars a bunch.

  4. I think a spring festival 'celebrating' fresh knotweed sounds like a great plan!! I've only discovered from reading your blog that they are delicious. Where I lived in Cornwall I know many people who were fighting against their invasions (often unsuccessfully). Funny how I didn't hear anyone mention that they are edible, not even once, even though they were a local nuisance! Admittedly I didn't research it as I was lucky not to have it in my garden.

  5. Marie, look at the picture in this article. Isn't that Japanese knotweed? Maybe someone is listening.


    Nancy Mc

    1. Yep, I left a comment on the article :-)

  6. I saw ramp vinaigrette at Chop't in the city this week. It's definitely time for you to start that knotweed festival!

  7. Knotweed looks like asparagus! Does it taste like it?

    1. No...its flavour is hard to describe. There is strong vegetable element all of its own, with a tartness, too. A little like sorrel, not as tart as rhubarb.


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