Sunday, April 26, 2015

Inwood Forage

My first wild foods walk was really the second (the first was canceled because of a longer South African stay), up in Inwood. It was a beautiful day, and I started it by marching west with a heavy backpack to the 125th Street A train. The A took its time. But after 20 minutes on the platform I was on board.

The end of the line: 207th Street.

I had met Kathryn, a regular walk attendee, on the subway, and we headed to the park together and met the rest.

And into the woods, with plenty of spicebush still in bloom. We scratched and sniffed the fragrant twigs, below.

Philip, another repeat-walker, spotted an old nest hanging high, probably belonging to bald faced hornets - Dolichovespula maculata. I believe they sting hard.

Soon, we found a good patch of garlic mustard - Alliaria petiolata - at the perfect stage for picking weeding.

The tender flower stems indicate a second-year plant, milder than the first. Picking the flowers also deprives them of seed, and continued invasion of the woodlands.

We were not the strangest people in the woods. Hey, it's New York.

We ignored one stand of Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) that had obviously been sprayed the previous year, and headed to another patch where the previous year's canes still stood tall and dry.

Because nothing but invasive knotweed, Rosa multiflora, field garlic and brambles grew here, I set my little group loose to slice at will, after demonstrating how to prep the shoots at home.

Above, cut shoots and old canes (and some annual jewelweed seedlings, too).

The haul. I foraged here last spring, too, but hardly made a dent, as the tall canes demonstrated. I'd like to see multiple foraging parties harvest shoots here, to see what becomes of the colony. Creative management of invasives is possible. What about the first Knotweed Festival? Foragers, farmers, chefs, rangers, communal tables and set menus. If indigenous ramps (which take forever to recover) and pokeweed can have their own festivals, why not an edible invasive?

We finished up beside the Spuyten Duyvil, the trees just beginning to leaf out on the mainland, across the water.  The knotweed soup (recipe in April chapter of my book) was still piping hot in its thermos, and I set out the sliced field garlic bread I'd baked the night before, with a pot of garlic mustard and walnut pesto (recipe to follow).

Beautiful day.

The next walk is in Central Park's North Woods, and we'll be back in Inwood on the 16th of May. Details in link below. And I discussed  a bespoke Staten Island walk with some of the regular attendees. Email me if you are interested, via the Find/Follow link.



  1. Yay, the Spuyten Duyvil! Great shot of the bridge and of course, the woods of my youth in Upper Manahatta.
    Welcome home to USA and thanks, as always, for a fine post.
    Diane in Denver

  2. A wonderful account of an exceptional day!

  3. Your food walk was a great experience! And it continued at home. So far I have prepared spicebush flavored sugar. wild garlic infused oil, oriental meatballs with Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard butter. There is a little bit of knotweed left which I am planning on pickling. However, its fresh lemony taste when eaten raw is really delicious so I am not sure that enough will remain to pickle ;) I am hoping on finding more knotweed more nearby. Is there Japanese knotweed in Prospect Park? Thanks again for the introduction to NYcity foraging. Best, Kerstin


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