Thursday, May 25, 2017

Inwood Hill Park Forage Walk

Inwood Hill Park Walk
28 May 2017
12.30pm - 3.30pm

There are four spots left on this Sunday's plant identification and forage walk in Inwood Hill park. Here you will find the forest in Manhattan that many New Yorkers have never seen. It is a beautifully green and peaceful place to explore, and a cooling antidote to the bad news that besieges us.

Taking any subway to the last stop on its line has a certain drama to it, and the A to 207th Street does not disappoint. The park lies a few minutes' walk west.

We meet at its entrance (big bonus - there is a bathroom!). The well populated flock of baseball fields is usually in full swing (Inwood's population is mostly Dominican, and baseball is big). At little tables under the trees neighborhood men argue over dominoes, and further along a small dog park's owners compare dog sizes and brilliance.

Another two minutes takes us into the forest, and suddenly it is silent. The tulip trees here are huge, straight, looming. Woodpeckers drill dead trunks and overhead an owl blinks. Spicebush trees congregate in this first valley, while on its sloped edges tendrils of catbriar tangle in the undergrowth.

Late Japanese knotweed tips are still tender enough to pick. Invasive mugwort and burdock hug paths and fields, while pokeweed shoots do Phoenix acts at the base of their dead bleached winter canes.

Indigenous wildflowers persist among mats of suffocating periwinkle and herds of day lilies. Nettles prick their way down a steep slope.

Annual jewelweed crowds damp ditches and reputedly offers sting relief.

This forest - the oldest on Manhattan island - offers a living tutorial in invasive plant interactions, woodland gardening possibilities and creative kitchen garden development. It is also like walking through a living pantry.

Depending on the progress and digressions we make, we begin with beautiful silence, hike up a hill, along a quiet ridge and then down the western side, beneath the roaring Henry Hudson Parkway. Here we see the Hudson River before we loop around, past wild blueberry bushes and under the big steel bridge and above the Spuyten Duyvil waterway.

At last, between a green lawn and a salt mash we settle down for our wild foods tasting picnic where you can sample some of the plants we have just seen.


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