Park to table: Foragers live off the land — in Prospect Park

Park to table: Foragers live off the land — in Prospect Park
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Some people are treating Brooklyn’s backyard like it’s the borough’s vegetable garden.

Intrepid foodies are foraging for greens in Prospect Park, and they say it’s more sustainable, more affordable, and more enjoyable than shopping at the farmer’s market — even though it’s against park rules.

“Free food is good!” said Leda Meredith, a foraging pro who will bring a band of gatherers to the green space on April 15 before a four-course meal inspired by foraged fare at the Farm on Adderly in Ditmas Park.

“You get to interact with the natural landscape in a way that helps the environment — and there is this great treasure hunt aspect to it,” said Meredith, who’s been leading tours of Prospect Park for more than a decade.

And now’s the time to do it: Prospect Park edibles are sprouting early this year, due to the second warmest New York City winter on record.

Wild greens, edible flowers, wild garlic, and early mushrooms are just a few of the goodies popping up in the borough’s biggest park — and Meredith says the season’s bounty is one of the best in years.

“It is phenomenal right now because of the warm winter,” she said. “There’s a double abundance of things out there as well as plants you wouldn’t normally see for another month.”

The people behind the Farm on Adderly say the move toward foraging is just the natural extension of dominant trends in the foodie movement, from organic fare to locavore cooking.

“People are realizing how much better food is when it comes from nearby and it doesn’t have to travel at all,” said the locavore lounge’s events coordinator Stephen Sheffer, whose restaurant does not plan to serve food foraged from Prospect Park at the meal. “Plus, that’s at the crux of the philosophy of the restaurant.”

Foraging is forbidden under parks rules, which stipulate that plants and flowers cannot be removed from greenspaces, a Parks Department spokeswoman said.

But foragers insist they are helping the environment and doing the work of Parks employees for free by clearing the park of invasive plants and weeds that just happen to be edible — and tasty.

“If I’m digging up burdock root you could say I’m damaging park property, but on the other hand, the Parks Department brings in people to come in and weed out things like burdock because it’s invasive,” said Meredith. “But you do have to be sure that you’re harvesting in a way that doesn’t disturb the environment.”

“Forage and Dine” foraging tour in Prospect Park and dinner at the Farm on Adderley [1108 Cortelyou Rd. between East 11th Street and Westminster Road in Ditmas Park, (718)287-3101] April 15, $80. Tour begins at 1 pm, dinner at 8 pm. For info, email [email protected].

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

Eating local: Foodie and forager Leda Meredith will lead an edible tour of Prospect Park that will culminate with a meal at the Farm on Adderley on April 15.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini