Sunday, October 30, 2022

Red on grey - Gowanus Canal

Autumn is in the saturated Virginia creeper beside the opaque Gowanus Canal. The gray/grey cement factory behind it is one of the industrial remnants of the polluted waterway, now undergoing daily dredging (of the toxic gunk nick-named black mayonnaise) to the tune of many millions of Superfund dollars. 

(I just fact-checked my glib millions. It's $1.5 billion.)

I have always liked the Gowanus Canal, even in its oil-slicked state. When I lived in Cobble Hill, to the west of the waterway (we now live east of it) I sometimes walked across the Union Street Bridge to Prospect Park, or to eat at Al di La, and would see schools of minnows jumping in the water at night, leaping above the reflections of lights, perhaps chased by a larger fish. It seemed incredible that life persisted in that sluggish and dark passage.

Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) grows here, too, planted in a small, un-maintained park that came very close to dying this last summer, through rainless months. Its neighbors are serviceberry and bayberry, black cherry, and linden. In June I like to lead walks here, when the lindens are in perfumed bloom and the serviceberries are ripe.


Wild November Walks

Monday, October 24, 2022

Maitake month still in full swing!


Leaves are drifting down. The grass and sidewalks underfoot are a-crunch, crunch crunch. And the most generous of mushrooms is in season, loaded with flavor.

One of my favorite autumn recipes is up on Gardenista - a maitake and farro pilaff. It's really delicious.


November Walks and Forage-Picnics


Friday, October 21, 2022

What's easy to grow, unusual, and edible? Myoga!

One forgets how good pears can be. This farmers market Bosc sat on the counter for over a week, ripening. Then I sliced it, tossed with lemon juice and slivered myoga buds from the potted plant on the terrace, and added some chopped, roasted apricot kernels (they taste a little like almonds, and are from Ziba Foods, who source heirloom foods from Afghanistan). The fruit was creamily juicy and fragrant, the myoga buds spicy and floral.

Myoga is one of my favorite plants. It is completely undemanding. When its leafy stalks are long and lush in October, I begin to hunt daily for these rosy, crunchy buds.

I wrote about this hardy ginger for Gardenista, and you can read the article and get my two salad recipes, there. 


New November Walks

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

The first to turn...

...are the ash trees. Fraxinus pennsylvanica. Their yellow leaves blaze.

The New York Tree Map still seems magical, to me. Every tree on the city streets, mapped.

We'll be celebrating New York's City of Forest Day on Saturday in the forest: Central Park's North Woods. And on the 16th, in the forest at the NYBG. Book here - there are some tickets left.


Wednesday, October 5, 2022


We arrived for a short break in Maine just in time for blue weather and sunshine.

The woods crowding right down to the water still awe me. 

Sitting beside the clear water, hearing the small sounds as the tide moves massively and delicately in and out, is beyond price. A seal surfaces, breathing. An animal swims across the smooth inlet - at first we think it is an otter. But when it walks onto the island nearby it is clearly marten-like. It is a mink. And not in coat-form. Just doing its private mink-things, where it belongs. Later, in the woods, we see two porcupines in a maple tree, talking to one another

I don't know how to value these experiences. Watching the Frenchman, who has been working seven days a week for a long time, is like watching fresh life being pushed straight into his veins.

European sea rocket (Cakile maritima) grows on these pebbled shorelines. In New York we have the native America species, C. edentula. Both have horeseradish-strong leaves and young pods.

Under the trees, on springy soil rich with layers of fir and hemlock needles, we walk along small trails and pause often to look. At ferns, at bark, at mushrooms, at red squirrels.

Honey mushrooms, is my first thought. But the essential (if you're thinking about dinner or want accurate identification) spore print I take is tan. Honeys have white spores. They turn out to be a species of Pholiota, also edible. The other possibility is a species of Gallerina, which is exceptionally toxic. Mushrooming is always humbling. We didn't eat them.

And a vivid Hygrocybe. 

More mushroom challenges. I still don't know what these are. They grow flush with the deep quilts of moss that cover the duff under needled evergreens. Their caps are solid, dense, and dimpled downwards, so that each is concave at its center. I collected a flock to make spore prints (white) but still have a clutch of possibilities and no real idea.  Possibly a species of Lactarius (milky cap), although the solid texture suggests Tricholoma. I know: Talking to myself. 

But it's all so interesting.