Monday, July 9, 2018

Harriman State Park - a taste

Thanks to a post on the New York Mycological Society's page I became aware of Harriman State Park, a large and enigmatic green blob on Google Maps, and just an hour north of the city. Over the weekend, restless because of the ecstatic chanterelle posts I have been seeing on social media (and they are the Frenchman's favourite mushroom - as a child he foraged for them in Provence, with his family), we headed out in Ntiniwe the beloved VW, and discovered the most gorgeous green space. We had no idea. It was pristine. No trash, and also very, very few invasive plants, quite breathtaking for the botanist in me.

What we did see was acres of blueberries. That's them, above - lowbush shrubs. For our whole four-mile ramble, we were surrounded by them, growing close-packed as far as we could see. I thought about bears, a bit. Bluebearies.

It is early in wild blueberry season but there were enough fruit to snack on, and to bring some home. This slowed my progress. Their flavor was a revelation. Blueberries have always seemed highly overrated, to me. Bland, undemanding. But these small fruit burst with a a tart blueberry intensity I have never tasted.

Occasionally we passed a highbush shrub, which dwarfed us. 

We stopped for lunch above a lake, where the water was clear enough to see the fish near the surface. At one end there were waterlilies. On the hot rocks where we sat we kept our eyes peeled for the timber rattlers that we had been warned about, but not a snake did we see, nor rattle did we hear. We were more worried about ticks.

No ticks, either. Paradise!

For dessert I picked huckleberries, my first. Unlike blueberries, they have crunchy seeds.

Did we find the chanterelles we were hoping for? No, it was on the dry side, and there were few mushrooms. But early in our walk we spotted a flock of what I think is Cantharellus minor, a tiny member of the chanterelle family. That is the tip of my pinky finger. They were so small I did not bring them home, and I seldom do when I am not sure of ID.

And the first American burnweed of the season. Erechites hieraciifolius is an indigenous plant, behaving a lot like what we like to call weeds, and it is powerful in flavor - like cilantro meeting Vietnamese cilantro (Persicaria odorata). I think it is wonderful (recipes for it in Forage, Harvest, Feast). If you like the flavors of Southeast Asia or Mexico (whiplash in terms of regional cooking, yet strange similarities, too), you will love it. If you like white food and hate spice, you will not.

The evening's reward, back in Brooklyn: a handful of the wild blueberries crushed, then shaken up with lots of ice, lemon juice, Grand Marnier, and Tequila reposado.

We will be back.


  1. The Appalachian Trail goes through Harriman! It's a lovely state park--wished I'd seen more of it than as I passed through on the AT! If you get to go back, visit the Lemon Squeezer!

  2. Yes, as it turns out we went south from the road and the AT would have been some 30 mins north of us...

  3. I always agreed with your comment about blueberries, good but not exciting. Then I too had WILD blueberries. Like wide strawberries/blueberries I look at it this way, they have more flavor packed into a smaller space so it's even more of a flavor bomb.
    I picked several cups of low bush blueberries last week in northern MN, enough for pancakes the next morning and topping for ice cream on several nights. Mmmmmm


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