"Wildman" Steve Brill

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Book Reviews

Reviews Of The Wild Vegan Cookbook (Harvard Common Press, 2002)

BellaOnline The Voice Of Women

by Deborah Adams, Holiday/Seasonal Cooking Editor, July 28, 2004

"Wildman" Steve Brill's Cookbook

A survivalist, environmentalist, naturalist and forager MUST SEE! This cookbook is a valuable resource for anyone interested in vegan/vegetarian and natural cooking. "Wildman" Steve Brill guides you through the process of foraging (in the field or in the supermarket) and preparing and serving wild and "not so wild" natural foods.

Steve starts the book off with a very interesting page on the history of how he started his foraging days. He explains what makes wild foods special and how to prepare healthy, tasty foods and preparation methods. There is a very good section on uncommon ingredients offering alternative, healthier ingredients for other "less healthy" ingredients. Bread bakers and wine makers are addresses in special sections describing various methods and ingredients. Cooking with wild foods leads us into the recipes section of the book which is divided into seasons following a selection of tasty "unwild" food recipes.

Non wild food recipes include recipes such as tofu whipped cream, buckwheat noodles, garam marsala and many others. The wild food divisions include Winter, early, mid and late Spring, Summer and Autumn recipes. Each of these divisions then lists the wild ingredient with information on that ingredient (such as Wild Thyme or Wild Grapes) and then follows that with recipes relating to that ingredient in that season. This cookbook is easily navigated by season so you won't have any problem finding what you need any time of the year.

Some of the wild food recipes offered are Redbud Cornbread, Spaghetti with Wild Garlic, Wild Blueberry Jam and Wild Apple Ice Cream to name a few. All in all there are over 500 mouth watering recipes using ingredients available in nature and many available in the supermarkets, ethnic, gourmet and health food stores. Healthy, wholesome, vegan, vegetarian, natural - are all fit descriptions for the dishes you will find within the pages of The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook by "Wildman" Steve Brill.

If you are interested, Steve offers many foraging tours throughout the year.

Walk On The Wild Side

Satya Magazine
June/July 2003 - By Joe and Kathy Brandt

A word of caution to vegetarian cooks everywhere: The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook by "Wildman" Steve Brill will thoroughly shake your culinary sensibilities to their very core. This is surely a cookbook like no other we have ever experienced. The book is a particular delight to wild foods foragers; and for those with an adventurous spirit, a new world of gastronomic delights awaits. To be sure, the book is written with the intention of having the cook utilize some of the many wild foods available in much of the United States, but as Brill points out (and the subtitle suggests), most of the recipes list commercially available substitutes if their wild counterparts are not obtainable in your area.

The Wild Vegetarian is not only a cookbook, but also a wonderful reference book. Most of the "exotic" ingredients called for are explained in some detail, and the book is organized in a way that makes its use, as well as its reading, an absolute pleasure. For example, plants listed in the Table of Contents are not only grouped by type, but are organized in the chronological order in which they are ready to be foraged during the year and during each season. There is a separate section entitled "Herb and Spice User's Guide," which lists and describes the use of not only some of the commonly used spices (cardamom, cayenne pepper, celery seed, etc.), but a wide variety of more unusual spices and herbs (goutweed, sassafras, wild carrot seed, etc.) as well. There's also a "quick guide" to making dairy-free cheeses—even a "quick guide" to wild wine! The recipes run the course from original, totally different dishes, to some of the more standard, time-tested recipes that have simply been enhanced by the use of nontraditional additions or substitutions for more familiar ingredients.

Another wonderful feature is that although the entire book is vegan, those with an ovo-lacto preference will find that dairy substitutions are always easy. Mind you, this book does not grant license to run out and begin tearing up wild plants wherever they may be found in order to satisfy a desire for culinary adventure. Steve Brill is a staunch advocate for the protection of the natural environment and the preservation of the places where many of the wild foods utilized in his book may be found.

To enjoy The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook, two prerequisites are necessary. First, you must have an interest in wild foods. Brill's recipes are not just made with wild foods, they taste wild-no namby-pamby flavors here, every dish is robust and intense. Second, you should be a cook who is not afraid to follow fairly complex recipes with multiple ingredients. A new cook might be overwhelmed by these recipes, although if one were willing to try them and follow the instructions appropriately, success is assured.

Ramp or wild leek season has come again, and we are currently inundated with huge quantities of this odiferous herb. Brill obviously knows how "rampantly" this vegetable grows as he has created not just one or two recipes for it, but 32! The recipes range from salads, sauces and appetizers, to pickles and even wine. As we write this article, a ramp risotto casserole is baking in the oven, smelling wildly appetizing. We've already tried the tasty "Ramp Pesto," and were delighted with the "Bearnaise Sauce a la Brill."

And for all of you who may lament not having the option of a truly excellent vegan Vichyssoise, cry no more! The ramp version of this traditional French potato and leek soup is surely cause for celebration. C'est magnfique!

Last fall, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms were growing out of the woodwork in our area. The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook has over 20 recipes for these natural treasures. While every recipe was reliably excellent, "Cajun Hen" and "Sesame Hen" quickly became our favorites. Cajun Hen produces a spicy dish very reminiscent of chicken and can serve as a wonderful base for many other recipes. After preparing our bounty with Brill's recipe, we froze it and used it all winter. Sesame Hen was at least as good, and we found that we could vary it by using almond butter or even peanut butter instead of tahini, with equally excellent effects.

There seems to be nothing in this book that is anything other than straightforward, each section brimming with fresh ideas, sound advice, a wonderful sense of adventure and even humor. The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook has certainly become one of the crown jewels in our collection of cookbooks, and easily garnishes the coveted Five Star rating (Extraordinary) from these reviewers.

In The Leaves

American Herb Quarterly - Spring 2003

This huge cookbook introduces 150 wild foods in an amazing 500 recipes of every type of dish imaginable. Organized according to the seasons, wild food is not always the mainstay of the recipes. Sometimes, they serve more as flavoring. There is emphasis on how to identify, harvest, and prepare wild foods safely, in a sustainable, environmental way. In fact, Brill dedicates his book to "all the nonviolent environmental activists worldwide who have risked physical injury, financial loss, and their liberty to keep our planet green, vibrant, and alive."

Wow... Recommendations are given on which wild foods can be purchased in natural foods stores instead of being wildcrafted and what are the counterparts to items such as flour that come from the wild. Charts list herb uses, cup to weight measurements, and which wild foods can be used as substitutes for basic cooking ingredients such as flour.

Brill describes the break that he got when undercover agents arrested him for eating a dandelion in Central Park in 1986. The national publicity that followed resulted in charges being dropped and his being employed to lead the same walks. Brill is the author of Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not-So-Wild) Places (William Morrow Pub., 1994) see AHA 11:21. His Foraging with the Wildman video series is due out in Spring 2003.


Urban Outdoors No. 92 — May 7, 2003
By Dave Lutz

With the publication of his new recipe book, Steve Brill has turned urban foraging into high art. The book starts where Identifying and Harvesting Edible Wild and Medicinal Plants leaves off. The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook provides detailed descriptions of the ways to turn weeds and local wild plants into dishes fit for a royal table in the county of Kings. He does so with good humor and with the detailed knowledge of a vegan eater that knows the science of balanced diet.

The book goes beyond the not so limited range of wild plants and includes useful information about vegan baking, dairy and egg substitutes, preparing spices from wild plants, and savory spice mixes that are used in recipes throughout the book. Brill’s breezy writing style provides more than a how-to by adding a dose of why-to. Playing with the Wildman’s recipes over time can reduce the use of meaty fats, salts, and less than healthful food additives from the diet by replacing fatty comfort foods with soy based or other taste-alikes. There is an esthetic pleasure beyond the health reasons for getting into foraging notes NOSC Chair Roberta Weisbrod, who has led foraging tours. They include learning about plants, their shape, fragrance, taste and growth habits.

For those of you that don’t know "Wildman" Steve Brill, he is the gentleman who was arrested many years ago for eating a dandelion in Central Park. After charges were dropped he was hired by Commissioner Stern to give foraging tours. He has been doing so as a Parks employee and a free-lancer for more than 20 years. Find his tour list at http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com. The books are available at the website or in disreputable bookstores throughout the city. Roberta concludes: I have read many foraging books. This one tops them all.

BOOK REVIEW The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook

BackHome Magazine
No. 61, Nov/Dec, 2002 - by Lorna Loveless

Forager of wild foods or not, any cook will be titillated by the gourmet quality and variety of author “Wildman” Steve Brill’s recipes in The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook. Those familiar with wild edible plants, of course, have an advantage, but it’s surprising how much usable information is included for those of us whose experience goes not much beyond our backyard dandelions.

In a lengthy but most interesting introduction, Steve imparts his enthusiasm for a healthful vegan diet (no meat, fish, poultry, dairy, or eggs does use honey), based not only on foraged plants but upon a wide variety of foods, herbs, spices, and products found in supermarkets and health food stores. Indeed, the recipe section of the book starts with 11 pages of “Unwild Food Recipes,” which include some delicious-sounding tofu cheeses and spreads.

In this almost-coffee-table-sized book, the 500 recipes are organized by season, according to what time of year various plants are to be foraged, although alternatives to the wild ingredients are often given. For example, there are ten wild apple recipes (applesauce, torte, fritters, ice cream) that, should one not find a supply of wild apples, can be made with Granny Smith apples.


Mushroom the Journal
Fall 2002 - By Harley Barnet

This is somewhat more than a vegetarian cookbook. It is vegan. For the uninitiated, that means no animal products at all no milk, no cheese, no eggs, and no fish, either. Maybe honey, depending upon the depth of your commitment.

It is also a wild vegan cookbook, because modern agriculture and food processors are alleged to have robbed our foods of taste and healthful attributes such as fiber, and because eating animal products is less kind to the planet than subsisting on grains and greens.

For most of us, the vegan lifestyle conjures up bland images of tofu, tempeh, nuts, fruit, cereal grains and strange soups. There are indeed strange soups, and tofu is the main staple in this book, but the recipes are anything but bland. They feature ingredients such as hedge mustard, nettles, anise root, wild ramps, redbud tree blossoms, bayberry, daylily, sumac, huckleberry and elderberry, and 128 recipes for 29 different wild mushrooms. Bland is further discouraged by a strong predilection for pepper and other spices, herbs, wines, and garlic.

Some of those ingredients are strange, and the author might better have added a glossary and list of sources for those who are not familiar with the offerings of natural food stores or who do not have one nearby. Things like kudzu, Bragg's Liquid Amino, and liquid stevia are just not in every cupboard.

Representative creations with wild mushrooms are "Coq au Vin" (with Laetiporus sulfureus), "Chinese Beef and Vegetables" (with Bondarzewia berkeleyi), and "Honey Mushrooms Bourguignonne" (Armillaria mellea).

Vegan cuisine has evolved ways to compensate for the absence of dairy products in menus. Soy milk is course a supermarket staple these days. An egg equivalent is created with ground flax or chia seeds, lecithin granules, and corn or olive oil. Tofu, brewer's yeast, brown rice vinegar, corn oil, lecithin, kosher salt, Tabasco, turmeric, and paprika are compounded to produce "sharp cheese". There are about 45 recipes in the book for vegan "ice cream," which the author touts as "incredibly good" This sort of alchemy leads to long lists of ingredients for many of the recipes, but most of the assembly seems pretty simple. It's just a matter of getting the ingredients all together and perhaps grinding a few seeds or nuts. The ice creams are finished in an electrically driven freezer.

My distant progenitors are said to have been omnivores who would have relished a fat grub, a stolen egg, or a convenient clam. Later ancestors no doubt would have preferred a choice mastodon loin. I try to keep my diet natural by replicating these ancestral menu choices in essence. I will concede, however, that there is some scientific support for the vegetarian lifestyle. Most of us, I think, have cut back on the cholesterol and are mindful of fiber intake. But synthesized eggs?

I picked up a bit of flaxseed and lecithin from our local "Trip to Bountiful" market, added some corn oil, and looked for an egg recipe. The product didn't look like the base for a cheese omelet, so I mixed it into a casserole of summer squash, onion and croutons. The flavor of the ground flax seeds was not all that bad, and there was actually a sort of texture or mouth-feel resembling eggs.

There are other recipes that do look inviting. We have been eating lambs' quarters (Chenopodium or "pig's ears") for many years, so I decided to go out to the garden and collect the basics of a Purslane-Onion Soup. Very good (although I cheated and used 1-percent milk). I found another use for the purslane, too. Our canary is bonkers about it, preferring it even to broccoli.

One note of caution: Wild plants can be just as treacherous as wild mushrooms. As an example, Wild Carrot, one of the featured delicacies in this book, bears an unfortunate resemblance to the deadly Poison Hemlock. This book is sprinkled with caution notes, but an initiate who can't go on one of the author's renowned tours in New York's Central Park should get a good identification guide and study it profoundly before experimenting. The guide is necessary for most folks anyway to learn menu items such as Shepherds Purse, Solomon's Seal, Curly (yellow) dock, Goutweed, Pokeweed, Wild Parsnip and other things stranger.

As it happens, the author has a previous publication titled Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Wild (and Not So Wild) Plants. This has a list price of $21.95 but recently has been remaindered by some book sellers. Other publications such as John M. Kingsbury's Deadly Harvest, Oliver Medsger's Edible Wild Plants, and Fernald and Kinsey's Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America are usually available used. (Check out www.AddALL.com on the Internet.) -H.B.


Vegetarian Journal
Volume 21, # 4 — 2002 - By Debra Wasserman

The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook is perhaps the most interesting and creative vegan cookbook I've come across in a long time. I first heard about "Wildman" in the 1980s, when he was arrested by two undercover park rangers in New York City's Central Park for "removing vegetation from the park." It turns out that while Steve was leading a wild foods foraging tour through the park, the rangers had infiltrated his group and cited him with criminal mischief for picking a dandelion! Because Steve had eaten the "evidence" he was released with a desk appearance ticket, pending trial. Once the media got hold of this story, "Wildman" became an overnight hero in Manhattan. Because of all the publicity, then Parks Commissioner Henry Stern turned over a new leaf by dropping all charges and hiring Steve to lead the same tours he had been leading when arrested.

Although "Wildman" no longer works for the park system, he still does lead foraging tours and is now sharing a wide range of wild foods recipes in his new cookbook. You may want to check out earlier guidebooks by Brill that actually show you what the wild foods look like in nature and how to identify them.

Early on in the book is a section called "Unwild Food Recipes" which includes incredible vegan cheese alternatives, sauces, "butters," and condiments. The Wild Foods section's 500+ recipes are divided by season and general availability. For example, during the winter months you can find winter cress, chickweed, and wild spearmint. In early spring, chicory, dandelions, stinging nettle, and wild ginger are growing in abundance. In the summer you'll find mulberry, wild currant, mayapple, elderberry, and purslane. And during the autumn months look for acorns, wild pear, chicken mushrooms, amaranth, chestnuts, and black walnuts.

Among the creative recipes you'll find Curried Daylilies, Wild Carrot Croquettes, Sesame Rice with Stinging Nettles, Fiddleheads Almondine, Wisteria Sourdough Pancakes, Wild Garlic Salad, Black Locust Vanilla Pudding, and so much more. If you think you've run out of creative vegan cooking ideas, this book is a must!


Food Reference Website
July 26, 2002 - By James T. Ehler

In a story reminiscent of Arlo Guthrie's 'Alice's Restaurant', 'Wildman' Steve Brill was once arrested by undercover park rangers (who had infiltrated his foraging tour) for eating a dandelion in Central Park. That must have been quite an adventure, and his latest cookbook is also quite an adventure.

If you enjoy finding and cooking plants from the wild, this book is an excellent resource.

If you only want to purchase your recipe ingredients at the store, this book is still an excellent resource.

These are some of the most delicious, frequently easy to make, vegetarian recipes you will find anywhere. I am not a vegetarian, but I enjoy good food, and this new book is full of it. Good food that is. Almost all the recipes can be made even if your idea of foraging is a trip to your local natural foods supermarket. 'Wildman' Steve offers store-bought alternatives for many of the foraged ingredients.

If you are a committed vegetarian and know why wild foods are truly exceptional ingredients to work with, this is an excellent resource. 'Wildman' Steve explains how to properly harvest wild ingredients safely and responsibly. In the 'Unwild' section in the beginning, there are recipes and instructions for making items from tofu cream cheese to garam masala. The wild foods recipes (with physical and flavor descriptions) are divided into wild food seasons - winter, early spring, etc.

The whole process, learning what, why and how to forage, and then prepare the foods, would make an excellent way to involve the whole family in a fun and educational (and delicious) pursuit.

This book has a permanent home in my collection. What more can I say?

Book Review Vegetarian Kitchen Newsletter

July 8, 2002
By Nava Atlas

Steve Brill, a leading expert on foraging for and using wild foods, has a lovely new book out, titled The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook: A Forager's Guide (in the Field or in the Supermarket) to Preparing and Savoring Wild (and Not So Wild) Natural Foods, with More than 500 Recipes (Harvard Common Press ($29.95). Arranged by season, this hefty, informative cookbook goes beyond your usual vegetarian cuisine into a realm that includes an amazing array of wild native foods.

Have you ever considered including chickweed, daylily shoots, or stinging nettle in your dinner? Steve also covers wild mushrooms of all sorts, as well as members of the onion family such as ramps and leeks. Also included are berries of all sorts—mulberry, wild currant, elderberry, and many more.

One aspect of the book I find fascinating is Steve's recipes for nondairy cheeses, mainly using tofu as a base. His nondairy ice creams similarly rely on tofu and raw nuts, as you will see! in his column, following. I for one can’t wait to try them; for the first time ever I'm considering getting an ice cream machine.

Lest you think foraging for wild foods is mainly for country folks, think again. Steve lives near New York City and much of his foraging (as well as his popular foraging workshops) take place in and around this very urban area. Some suburban outposts are included as well, but all the foraging is done in public parks. I'm intrigued and hope to attend one of his foraging adventures this summer!


Brooklyn Skyline June 27, 2002 - By Jon Koza

"Wildman" Steve Brill strikes again — this time having published The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook, complete with over 500 recipes for the forager in all of us.

Just when you think it's safe to walk across a field of grass in a city park, Brill reminds us that potential food is growing, crushed beneath the soles of our shoes.

Brill, known for his famous wild food and ecology tours around the parks in New York City, not only tells us which of our leafy neighbors we can eat, but how to prepare them as well.

For example, the Wildman provides five different recipes to prepare to eat the dandelion you just peeled off the bottom of your sneaker.

Incidentally, the Wildman was once arrested in Central Park for eating a dandelion. The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook is the culmination of two decades of harvesting natural foods within the boundaries of New York City and carefully experimenting with different recipes to devise the perfect culinary experience.

Like every great artist, Brill possesses a great passion for what he does, creating delicious vegan dishes from ingredients that grow in the wild. He also possesses an enviable knowledge of plants, mushrooms and the delicate
ecosystem created by mother nature herself. Anyone who has ever been on one of Brill's wild food tours (several of which are led through Prospect Park) has seen the Wildman identify hundreds of different plant and mushroom species, even eating some of his findings along the way, and sharing in what usually becomes a community harvest.

Brill shares several of his passions in his cookbook: his passion for nature, his passion for cooking and his passion for writing. The book covers all stages of the foraging and food preparation process, providing information on each plant, including illustrations, habitats in which they're found, their scientific names, and what to be wary of so you don't poison your dinner guests. The writing is not only clear and concise, but entertaining as well.

Brill became interested in foraging for wild food when he came across several Greek women searching for a snack in a Queens park. "I asked them what they were doing, but their answers were all Greek to me," writes Brill about the experience. However, the women were able to introduce Brill to wild grape leaves, thus becoming his first wild culinary experience.

Having tried several of his own culinary concoctions while attending a foraging tour, I can honestly say that the Wildman has a gift for creating vegan substitutes that will leave its consumer in awe — not even craving the meat or dairy ingredients not included. If you need convincing, try meatballs and spaghetti using honey mushrooms, chicken vegetable stew using chicken mushrooms, or turkey loaf using hickory nuts. You can even make a variety of puddings using soy milk or silken tofu in place of eggs, sugar and cream. The book has more than just good recipes — the anecdotes are equally enticing, worthy of a volume in and of themselves. Time and again, readers will find themselves flipping to the story about Brill's arrest in March of 1986 in which undercover cops arrested the Wildman after he ate a dandelion at the end of one of his wild food tours. He was charged with removing vegetation from Central Park. Ironically, the charges were dropped and Brill was hired by the Parks Department to lead the very same wild food tours. This incident turned out to be the big break the Wildman needed to make his tours even more popular.


Brooklyn Courrier Lifestyles
Arts and Leisure, June 17, 2002 - By Christie Goodman

Toss some cattail shoots; young greenbrier leaves, shoots and tendrils; violet leaves and flowers; curly (yellow) dock leaves; ramp leaves; sheep sorrel leaves; dandelion flowers and black locust flowers into a bowl and what do you get? A five-borough salad.

"Wildman" Steve Brill’s newest book, "The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook," is hot off the presses with more than 500 delicious recipes.

Most famous for being arrested in Central Park in 1986 by undercover park rangers for eating a dandelion, Brill served the five-borough salad to press and passersby on the steps of Manhattan Criminal Courthouse.

Not only did they eat the salad, but they gobbled up the story as well.

"I was hungry and confronted with a container of oatmeal," said Brill as he described his beginnings.

He followed the recipe on the side of the box for cookies and they tasted good when they came out of the oven. He began to try other recipes and checking cookbooks out of the local library.

"I was exploring cooking while bringing in concepts of health and nutrition, when I happened upon some Greek women in [Hollis] Queens picking something in the woods," said Brill.

The women stopped long enough to explain to the budding "wildman" that they were picking fresh grape leaves. Brill gathered some of his own, went straight home and made stuffed grape leaves.

"I began studying edible wild plants seriously," said Brill.

He began to pick up folklore, nutrition, mythology and everything related to wild plants.

It was in 1982 when the nickname "Wildman" came to him while he was meditating. Brill, a life-long jazz lover, took Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong’s "The Wild Man Blues" to heart.

Four years later, and four years since he began giving his wildly edible tours of the city’s parks, Brill was arrested. "It took a long time for them to catch me," snickered the "Wildman."

Since he had eaten all of the evidence, the charges of criminal mischief for removing vegetation from the park were dropped.

Then Parks Commissioner Henry Stern dodged the pressing media and hired Brill to lead the very same tours as a Parks Naturalist for four years.

Brill went freelance, doing birthday parties, private tours, school group tours and more after that.

"One of the places I always take people is by lake in Prospect Park," said Brill. The best patch of curly (yellow) dock can be found in Brooklyn, by the lake.

Curly (yellow) dock is a leafy vegetable that is very flavorful and goes well with many of Brill's dishes.

In his tours through all of New York City’s parks, Brill teaches people "how to recognize the wild plants that make up the backbone of our ecosystem—the renewable sources."

Many of the hints and guidelines he tells Girl and Boy Scouts, day camps, garden clubs or in museum and library lectures can be found in his first book, "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places."

After one tour, most people know how to make wild salads and sassafras and have enough foraged goods to cure mosquito bites and cook a few recipes of their very own.

Brill went through many dates and recipes before leading a singles tour for a now defunct Veggie Singles News in Central Park twelve years after his arrest.

Leslie-Anne Skolnik attended the tour. Brill fell wildly in love.

"Had I known I would have paid them!" joked Brill. Although there are books on cooking with wild foods, Brill found them to boil all of the wonderful natural nutritional value out of them.

"They are very simple, like taking mixed berries and mixing them with sugar and heavy cream or fried greens with bacon fat," said Brill. "I use more of a chef's approach."

Brill matches flavor with nutrition, texture and appearance—all of the elements that a chef would use to develop his recipe concepts.

"Instead of using milk and cream and egg yolks in a blender for ice cream, I will use for the base of the ice cream soy milk, silken tofu, raw cashews (very important part of the thickness and creaminess) and a food supplement called lecithin granules made from soy beans," explained Brill.

There is no saturated fat or cholesterol in the base of his ice cream.

For the sweetness, Brill uses liquid stevia, which can be found in health food stores, along with vegetable glycerin and a dash of salt.

"Then I’ll put in everything from black locust blossom (vanilla like in flavor), black walnut and spicebush berries," said Brill.

The black locust blossom, black walnut and spicebush berries can all be found in Prospect Park.

"Spicebush berries are all over Prospect Park and they are incredibly delicious," said Brill. "I have to pry kids away with a crowbar to go to the next plant."

Brill also has a large focus on vegan recipes, using lots of dairy analogs, dairy-free cheeses and butter sauces.

He even has a recipe for an omelet without breaking an egg.

"They work and taste really, really good," said Brill. "People who are vegetarians don’t have to give up what they love."

Brill provides substitutes for many commercial ingredients and vice versa.

A small fraction of these plants were cultivated," said Brill. "They just want to sell the most profitable crops."

One of the most blatant examples are apples, said Brill.

"There is a variety of apples you get in the parks and are just not there commercially," said Brill. "I like to take people in the other direction and show them other plants our ancestors never brought into cultivation."

As any gardener knows, the faster you pick weeds, the faster they grow back. Therefore, many of his ingredients will never be lost, endangered or genetically modified or mutated.

"Some top world-class chefs are using a few of these things in restaurants that the average man cannot afford," said. "If the chefs were not overworked they would all be on my tours."

Although Brill has interviews all over the country for all sorts of news, cooking and vegetarian agencies, he still has time to conduct his tours for a mere $10 donation.

The average tour is not only educational and tasty, but entertaining. Brill likes to play music, tell jokes and stories, in addition to the science behind the plants.

"It is a lot of fun," he said.

Issue #132 - The FoodWeb Recipe Newsletter 04 June 2002

By Dave Lenweaver
Book Review

Imagine you were taking a walk in let's say...Central Park with some other folks. Now let's imagine you stop and pick a dandelion leaf and say to the others in the group, "Dandelion leaves make a great salad or you can just eat them fresh!" You pop the dandelion leaf in your mouth and eat it.

You finish your little jaunt in the park happily eating berries and such then wham! You're in cuffs and headed downtown to see the man in blue. The charge? Eating the Flora in Central Park.

That incident really did happen to Steve Brill, an environmental educator, author, cook, teacher, among other duties. Steve almost has more identities than you can shake a mulberry bush at. And this fellow knows how to shake a mulberry bush!

Those of you who remember the late naturalist and forager Euell Gibbons will be plenty familiar with searching for wild foods. Back in the mid 70s, I had every Euell Gibbons book available. Then, for some unknown reason I sold all but one. So then I hear about this guy in New York City foraging wild foods in Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, and getting arrested for it, and I think, "Euell? Is that you?" It's not, but Steve does pick up where Euell left off so many years ago.

Steve has just published a cookbook titled The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook. Quite honestly Brill has so many recipes (500) you have to wonder if he sleeps at all. I know, your thinking. "Dave, me forage?" Why not? Chefs like Jon-Georges Vongerichten and Larry Forigione do it. It's not as hard as you might think. I recently foraged a few shopping bags full of ramps (wild leeks) this spring. With a good identification book (Steve also wrote an identification guide) you should have little problem foraging, and you'll be surprised at how close to home much of this wild food is.

The introduction explains a lot about foraging, what makes wild food special, and preparation. There is also quite a few recipes for "unwild food," ranging from Tofu Cream Cheese to Vegetable Stock. Steve is an enthusiastic vegan and it shows throughout the introduction.

Brill has thoughtfully organized the book into seasons for easier use. For us beginning foragers this is a good idea. We can just look up the season we're in and find what is available to go foraging for, field guide in hand of course.

Even after all my Euell Gibbons reading Steve showed me ingredients I would have never imagined using for food. Like wisteria. Yes, common wisteria. Steve makes ice cream from the blossoms as well as pancakes.

With each ingredient, he gives a short description and then dives head first into a mess of recipes. With ramps for instance, there are thirty one. From Ramp Aioli to Ramp Wine. (Steve: If you are reading this I roasted the ramps and made roasted ramp vinaigrette. Superb!) For the non-forager Steve has provided alternatives to the foraged ingredient in many of the recipes. It's a big help that the recipes are clearly written as well. Brill really wants us to use the book.

Wild Vegetarian wraps up with five very handy appendices. Herb and Spice User's Guide; Quick Guide to Dairy Free Cheese; Quick Guide to Wild Wine; Equivalents; and Flour Substitutions.

When I last spoke with Steve he was in the process of planning a wedding...his. Between his edible wilds tours in and around New York City, writing, and cooking I can't imagine where in the world was he going to find time to get married. If you can't make it to NYC for a tour with Steve then you should have this book in your collection. Great recipes, clearly written, and a good resource to boot.

Wild, Wild Life "Wildman" Steve Brill Shows How To Prepare Park Greens With New Cookbook

for The Brooklyn Papers, May 27, 2002 - By Tina Barry

Steve Brill became an instant celebrity in 1986 when he was arrested for eating a dandelion in Central Park. The arrest brought Brill, who calls himself "Wildman," coverage in New York newspapers and guest spots on radio and television shows like "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee."

Brill invited me on a foraging tour recently through Central Park, and spent some time discussing his latest cookbook "The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook: A Forager's Culinary Guide (in the Field or the Supermarket) to Preparing and Savoring Wild (and Not So Wild) Natural Foods, with More than 500 Recipes" (The Harvard Common Press, $29.95). Wearing a canvas hat over a sweatband, polo shirt, shorts and carrying several water bottles and bags to gather foraging treasures, he looked like every child's favorite camp counselor - the one with the goofy sense of humor, who took campers on nature walks and lovingly described each plant.

He is still a counselor of sorts, albeit a sophisticated one, with three cookbooks under his khaki belt. His foraging tours through New York area parks delight participants, who are "served" edible plants carefully selected by Brill. (After his arrest, then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern hired Brill to lead tours through the city's parks. Brill now works as a free lancer in Prospect Park and other parks, undisturbed by Parks employees.) Those attending my tour were offered handfuls of redbuds (tiny, lilac-colored blossoms that grow in lacy bunches on trees) with the comment, 'This bud's for you." And children enjoyed picking pale purple wisteria blossoms that have a honey-like aroma and taste a little like apples.

When a woman asked, "How can 1 tell a poisonous mushroom from a non-poisonous mushroom?" Brill deadpanned, "Feed it to your in-laws,

The children were warned against eating white snakeroot plants and were serenaded with Chopin's "Funeral March" played on the "Brill-O-Phone."

What's a Brill-0-Phone? In the Wildman's own words (he gave himself the name Wildman 20 years ago while practicing yoga and listening to Jelly Roll Morton's 'The Wildman Blues") the Brill-O-Phone is "a personal, musical instrument made by clapping my hands over my mouth." In reality, Brill played his "personal, musical instrument" by shrieking a melody into his hands loud enough to leave me momentarily stunned.

In Response To A Request From The Publisher

By John Robbins, founder of EarthSave May, 2002

I've long known that we didn't co-evolve with Big Macs, and nothing in our hereditary history prepared us for white sugar or hydrogenated fats. I've known that when we eat such foods, we betray our biochemical lineage and invite big trouble.

But I had thought that the wild edible plants with which we co-evolved are rarely to be found anymore, and when they are, they taste so terrible that they might as well be inedible. That's where I was wrong.

In this marvelous book, Steve Brill shows us how delicious and common wild foods can be. These wild plant foods are among the most concentrated forms of human nutrition on this planet, and now, with the help of this book, I can see that they can be among the most delicious.

Reviews of Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not-So-Wild) Places

Your Newest Fan

March 21, 2005 - By Lisl Meredith Huebner

Dear Wildman Steve,

I just wanted to send a bit of fan mail your way, we can never get enough stroking!

Thank you so much for your book Identifying and Harvesting... I just can't get enough of it. It's not often that one finds a book so full of valuable botanical information interspersed with humor and wit. In fact I never have found one until yours.

I am a Chinese herbalist with a practice in Canton, CT and have been interested in herbs and edible plants my whole life. Hooray for your book! It's filling in lots of missing information for me and taking me in a direction I've been wanting to go for a long time. I plan to attend the Danbury forage and am looking forward to hanging on your every word! Am I gushing too much?

Anyway, I'm so glad to have found out about you and the amazing work you do.

Many thanks,

A Shameless Plug for Wildman

January 13, 2005 - By Deb

Well, one of his books, anyway.

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in the Wild (and Not So Wild) Places, written with Evelyn Dean illustrating.

It has to be one of the most clearly written, entertaining, practically formatted books I have found. He takes you through the seasons and the plants you will find for harvest during each, gives you tips on observing other plants, at other than peak times, great information on exactly how good foraged foods are, tells you if there are poisonous look-alikes and gives advanced identifying information. The illustrations are detailed, and ID helps are clearly noted.

For a beginning forager or wildcrafter, (of which we seem to have a few here), I recommend it, along with the Peterson Field Guides — my copy of "Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs" by Foster and Duke is about beaten to a pulp. Lots o' mileage on the poor thing.

The copy of Wildman's book I have might be a bit large for actually carrying with you in the field, but perhaps not. It's not heavy, and I can see it slipping into a backpack or bicycle basket rather nicely.

At the least, though, one can use it to get an idea of what they can look for before going out, what they might be interested in gathering, etc. He also gives information of equipment and knowledge to have with you, for identification and safe out-n-abouts. I would almost call it a primer, but even well experienced folk will appreciate it.

It also is just great to sit down with a hot cuppa and read. It's like Henrietta's site: you get into it, and you don't want to leave.

Reader Review In An E-Mail

By Joey & Crow, June 24, 2004


While living on Long Island a couple of years ago, someone gave me your book on harvesting wild food. I already knew the basics-dandelion, sumac, etc. as I had been interested in same since I was a kid.

Now with my boyfriend, living on a small income, your book has become indispensable source of providing information on good, nutritious and free food for us from our surrounding woodlands. Not only for economical reasons but also environmental, we really applaud and appreciate the work you do. Learning to eat from our own back yards (without cultivating even) is a huge key to bringing humans back in touch with Mother Earth. Something much needed indeed.

Keep up the good work!


Joey & Crow


"Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants" by "Wildman" Steve Brill with Evelyn Dean. Hearst Books, $21.95.

Still life at Coney Island in the search for "sea food"

Some of us thrashed the waters of Chesapeake Bay and the North Carolina coast in the late 60's, searching out nature's bounty of wet-watermeals. That was under the guidance of Euell Gibbons and his "Stalking the Blue Eyed Scallop," along with other "nature is your larder" books by him and others. Brownstone Brooklyn's own Alan Hall wrote "The Wild Food Trailguide" in 1973 with 85 plants that "are really worth eating."

These stalwart seekers of botanical goodies pretty much kept their roaming to the open fields, woodlands and waterways. If I remember correctly, Euell did get into neglected garden corners: among his finds was skunk cabbage. I think he tried to find a way to turn skunk cabbage into tossed salad. Drying in a garret for 5 or 6 years, in my memory, seemed to be the answer. Adam Hall stayed away from it. Steve Brill uses it as an anecdote.

Steve Brill? Yes, the very same guide to munching your way through Prospect Park and other New York City area parks has just published a book to guide you through nature as your greengrocer.

Steve Brill's reputation rests squarely on his ability to forage the city's parks and shorelines. After all, what made him famous was getting arrested for "eating Central Park." But his new book, "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places," shows that he can range a lot farther.

Now, with a catchy title like that, you might think of a little handbook filled with Latin-named plants and lots or warning labels-the type you buy when off on vacation and never use. Not so with this book, an 8 1/2 x 11 beauty. It is user-friendly, covers most choice edible species in full detail, is arranged by seasons and locations (nation wide, with the exception of subtropical Florida) and-and this and is an AND-the illustrations by Evelyn Dean are worth buying the book for in themselves.

Featuring over 160 plants, Brill wisely feels that some marginal plants simply aren't worth the effort. The book offers complete information on the superior nutritional content of wild foods, how wild foods and herbs work in your body and safe, effective home remedies.

Leaving no stone unturned (and no leaf unchewed), Brill guides you from how to dress, what to bring and where to go when foraging-plus there are more than five dozen recipes with natural goodies like "Early Spring Chickpea and Violet Soup" and "Sea Lettuce Salad."

With fond memories of the "Outer Banks" firmly in mind, we decided to hop the D Train to Coney Island to check out some of the things in Brill's section on "sea food."

Where we would normally recommend going to Plum Beach for a jaunt like this, we wanted to find out how we would fare on a heavily-used piece of urban salt-waterfront. In a direct run to the beach from the original Nathan's Famous stand on Surf Avenue, it took a little under five minutes to find all three of the sea edibles that we were looking for: Beach Asparagus, Bladderwrack and Sea Lettuce.

The following is a recipe taken from Brill's "Cooking with Edible Wild Plants" section in which we really like the light and airy approach to recipes. Truth be told, it's all so much fun, it's hard to believe it's all so healthy for you too. Enjoy the reading and the gathering!

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