Sunday, September 27, 2020

Beautiful Fall Forage Classes at the NYBG

October is around the corner, and that means autumn, for real. 

In an unreal year.

I visited the New York Botanical Garden recently because I will be teaching there again in a few weeks: Two outdoor classes, on October 15th and October 29th. [Update: these classes are fully booked but there is one in WINTER! January 21st] The classes are really walks, and we will be visiting the Native Garden (above) and the Thain Family Forest. And probably meandering  a bit more if the mood strikes us. 

Come and learn to identify edible plants in their fall clothes, and understand how they fit into the bigger ecological picture. We will breathe in the good, fresh air of the mainland (hey, I live on an island; the Bronx is exciting to a Brooklynite!). 

Masks are mandatory - so our fresh air will be filtered - and attendance is limited for social distancing reasons. So book, soon.

I spotted a sweet hummer in the jewelweed patch. Planting annual Impatiens capensisis is a sure-fire way to attract and support the vulnerable little birds on their way south in early fall. Jewelweed self seeds very readily (and its seeds are edible!) so once you have it, it will be there forever. It likes dappled shade and a lot of moisture. Low-lying areas that don't drain well are perfect. But I have grown it successfully in pots and planters, too.

Still boggy, here is pickerel weed. Its young leaves, buds, flowers, and seeds are good to eat.

No, don't eat the pitcher plants. But it's fun to see carnivorous plants flourishing.

These are ostrich ferns. In spring their fiddleheads are delicious. Plant one and in a couple of years you will have a dozen. Perfect for a deep shade spot.

Golden rods (Solidago species) are often blamed for seasonal allergies, but they are innocent: their pollen is too fat to affect our sinuses. In fact, showy flowers whose job it is to attract pollinators are usually never allergen-culprits. Rather, it is the inconspicuous flower of wind-pollinated plants (like ragweed, and I suspect, mugwort) that is an irritant, because it is so fine and light, designed to be dispersed by the puff of a breeze. 

And yes, some golden rods are delicious...

The extreme climate of the Northeast is also home to a native prickly pear, Opuntia humifusa. Muggy summers and freezing winters do not rattle it.

Fragrant Pycnanthemum species love full sun and pollinators love them. Their leaves, flowers and seeds make refreshing drinks.

Imposter! Not native. But very closely related to our indigenous prickly ash (which can be used in the same way). This is Chinese pepper, or Sichuan, Zanthoxylum simulans: citric, cooling, numbing, unique.

Yes, the elusive pawpaw (Asimina triloba) lives at the NYBG. The fruit ripens under its green umbrella-ed leaves in mid to late September. This still-underplanted tree deserves a spot in every garden. This year I enjoyed wonderful pawpaws picked from a tree in Brooklyn's Park Slope.

And the delicious - or terribly stinky, like-sweaty-socks-that-a-cat-peed-on? - cranberry viburnum. The smell is in the details. How to tell the difference between the native and European species? We will learn! 

Use the links below to book.

October 15th

October 29th


Wild Foods Cookbook


  1. I enjoy your posts so much because you capture the simple beauty that is the nature around you. Thank you for continuing to share with us.


Comments are moderated (for spam control) on posts older than 48 hours. Yours will be seen!