Foraging fun! ‘Wildman’ Steve Brill hunts for wild carrots in Marine Park

Environmental expert and foraging specialist “Wildman” Steve Brill hosted a tour of Marine Park on Saturday to search for the elusive wild carrot. Along the way he found some chickweed, which he said, is not only edible, but delicious!
Photo by Bryan Bruchman

There’s a lot more than wild carrots in them thar weeds.

Free-wheeling forager “Wildman” Steve Brill uncovered a cornucopia of consumable delights on Saturday when he took more than a dozen hearty souls on a wild carrot hunt in Marine Park — a hunt that turned up far more than the environmental educator had hoped to find.

“There were lots of surprises,” Brill explained. “We haven’t been [in Marine Park] in a few years, so when I got there I found a huge bush called the Wrinkled Rose, that had the most gigantic rose hips. Its hips bear one of the best fruits in the world. I’m going to be making jello out of it tomorrow.”

But that was not all, besides the wild carrots (which he plans to use in a carrot cookie recipe), he and his team also found an unending supply of wild parsnips, winged sumak (which you can make pink lemonade out of), and blue-tinged palate-twisting mushrooms called blewits (the “Wildman” likes to put them in his macaroni and cheese).

Since the 1980s, Brill has shown that fields of gold — or at least nutritious and tasty wild carrots — lie underneath the weeds strewn across the Gateway Recreation Area — federally protected land south of Avenue U.

“The first year after their seeds are planted, [wild carrot] roots are full of nutrients and if they get a little bit more sun they get larger,” Brill said, explaining that the plants die by the second year. He planned the foraging tour now — in the sweet spot of the wild carrot’s circle of life — so his trip would have zero impact on the environment.

“We were collecting carrots at the same places I visited years earlier,” he said. “But the rose hips and blewits were more than I expected on this trip.”

His foraging friends agreed.

“It’s surprising what we have right here in our own neighborhood,” Gerritsen Beach resident Peter Whitley said.

Reach reporter Thomas Tracy at ttracy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2525.

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