Foraging in Central Park with Steve “Wildman” Brill

After reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivores Dilemma, I’ve become increasingly interested in learning how to forage for mushrooms. It turns out there’s a Connecticut Mycology association named COMA (apparently the irony of naming a mushroom hunting society after a state of “profound unconsciousness” was lost upon the members of this group) and they recommended someone named Steve “Wildman” Brill for walks in Manhattan.

After booking a walk with Steve earlier this week, Thessaly and I showed up only 2 minutes late this morning at 72nd St. and Central Park West.

We didn’t find any edible mushrooms, but we did find lots of other tasty wild edibles. The mushroom we did find turned out to be very poisonous. It was a “Little Brown Mushroom” (which is pretty close to its scientific designation since there are so many different types) that Steve told us would deposit poisons in our blood that would slowly destroy our kidneys over time. Steve made a very concerted effort to indicate just how deadly most things are out there. His philosophy of eating wild edibles is similar to the differences between white list and black list web filtering. Instead of giving general rules about what you can’t eat (black lists which will always be insufficient), he gives very specific rules about what you can eat (white lists) and assumes everything else will kill you slowly and painfully.


He was able to identify that the mushroom was of the type Cortinarius, because it had a little spider web-like veil remnant.

Here are the rest of the things that I picked up:

Foraging in Central Park

From left to right, that’s Common Spice Bush, Heritage Apples of Unknown Heritage (they were red on the inside and a little sour), Burdock Root, Something similar to New Garlic, Epazote, Sheep Sorrel, Sassafras, and California Bay Leaf (I think).

Check out Steve’s 2008 calendar to book a walk.

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