I started taking an herbal medicine course at Arborvitae in New York City this past September with the goal of understanding how other cultures interpret the body and approach healthcare in general. From Chinese Medicine to Western Medicine, Ayurveda to Folk Medicine, this yearlong course is a survey class on alternative forms of healing. Little did I know, so much of herbal medicine takes place outside, in small forests, homesteads, and even in New York City Parks. Learning how to forage in Central Park, Prospect Park, and The High Line for both medicinal and edible plants is a way to get to know our environment, feed ourselves, and also be outside. From crabapples to hawthorn leaves, blue violet to mugwort, the world of the New York City Park is just as varied, if not more, than that of the supermarket. Not to mention from just one product, in this case a tree, shrub, or flower, has a myriad of uses.
Foraging is not as simple as it sounds. One must understand if it is the leaf, flower, root, or bark that is tasty and medicinally effective. One must become acquainted with the cycle of the seasons and when it is best to harvest certain plants and most importantly, one must learn how to harvest in an ethical manner. If you have the opportunity to learn how to forage in a city, don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking, “Wow, how did I not know the name of the tree that I walk by every day on my way to work? How did I not know that the flowers on my driveway taste so good? Why am I paying $5.00 for salad at the supermarket when I can forage a feast on my street?”
Photo credit: Ariela Yomtovian/flickr