July 21, 2024

I went to the woods because I wished to eat deliberately – apologies, Thoreau – and see if I could not learn what it had to teach. Let it be known: Central Park is as instructive as Walden Pond. Instead of spending a week’s wages at the Greenmarket, or worse, Whole Foods, I thought, it might be fun to see if I could make it home with a few bits ‘n’ pieces to compose an artful salad. After a few hours wandering the North Meadow, however, I came home with all the makings of dinner. Yes, there was salad involved: a pleasing mix of spinach-like Lamb’s Quarter, sweet Red Clover, peppery Garlic Mustard, and Chickweed, which tastes like corn of all things and costs a fortune when you can find it in Union Square. More substantial was the discovery of a Burdock patch, the roots of which are all the rage in certain circles. Similar to Lotus Root, Burdock Root has a sweet flavor and a meaty texture. Popular in Japanese cooking it’s added to soups, and stews (and pickled, too) but I think it really reveals itself when roasted, like a sweet potato. To go with my haul of roots, leafy Bitter Dock, which as the name implies is about as bitter as can be – until you cook it. Sauteed in olive oil with a pinch of red pepper it takes on a clean taste and texture that’s similar to chard. In the underbrush I even found a patch of field garlic to complete my provisioning: salad, roots, side of veg, and spice. All I needed to add was a bit of brown rice from my local Chinese and I had the ultimate farm-to-table dinner for less than a dollar. After the next rain, the park should be bursting with mushrooms. Things could get interesting.


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