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Summer foraging guide • Brooklyn Paper

Summer foraging guide

Hand picked: Octopus Carpacciom with foraged hearts of cattail, and summer sprouts, served in Northeast Kingdom in Bushwick.
By Stefano Giovannini

Did you know some of the city’s best eats are growing in the cracks of the streets?

Foraging for food might sound like something humanity outgrew around the same time we domesticated livestock, but foraging expert Paris Smeraldo says it’s actually a fun and easy way to find delicious food.

“There’s probably wood sorrel and garlic mustard growing within three blocks of wherever you are right now,” said Smeraldo, who owns of Northeast Kingdom. “It’s as simple as going out with a bowl, being comfortable identifying what’s edible, and making a salad for yourself.”

Here are some local foods to be on the lookout for — but be careful and consult an expert before you eat anything you find on the ground.

Wood Sorrel: Looks a lot like clover but has very distinct heart shaped petals. The teeny yellow flowers have a very distinct lemony, acidic flavor that goes really well in salad.

Garlic Mustard: Mustard garlic produces small clusters of flowers that are easy to collect and plentiful. Use them as simple garnish on red meat dishes or toss into a quick sautee with greens.

Black Locust: The flowers that appear on black locust trees are around for only a few weeks. They grow in clusters and eaten directly off the tree have a sweet, sugar snap pea flavor — toss around liberally in salads or as garnish.

Elderflower: Look for a small tree or large shrub usually 8-14 feet high, growing in open full sunlight. Look for large snowy white flat-top flower clusters, which are fragrant. It’s not uncommon to find them in parks and on the roadside.

Stinging Nettles: Nettle are some of the first greens to come up in the spring, and are packed with healthful properties like easily digestible amino acids, iron and vitamin C. They work well in soup or as a tea. Currently featured on the Northeast Kingdom menu sauteed with pork and clams.

Dandelion Greens: Dandelion greens grow all summer long, but are best in early spring when they’re the most tender and least bitter. Sautee, or use young greens raw in a salad.

Lamb’s Quarters: The tender, mild green is wonderful raw as a salad component or as a garnish. Lambs Quarter grow in areas with disturbed soil, and flourish in a poorly tended garden. The under-leaves have a striking magenta hue. They can grow to over 4 feet high, and the tender tops can be harvested throughout the summer.

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