On Saturday, April 5, naturalist and author “Wildman” Steve Brill, America’s go-to guy for foraging, will lead one of his world-famous wild food and ecology tours at Sticks and Stones Farm in Newtown.
This 60-acre stone masonry farm and retreat features a wide variety of habitats — a mountain, meadows, woods, cultivated areas, fields, and wetlands — all loaded with their associated wild plants and mushrooms. Early spring shoots and greens are in season now.
Those who join Mr Brill for his April program will be looking for chickweed, which tastes like corn-on-the-cob; daylily shoots, which taste like Chinese food; dandelion greens, which are very savory with a touch of bitter; spicy-flavored hairy bittercress, which tastes like watercress; mild-flavored shepherd’s purse, lemony sheep sorrel, and garlic-flavored field garlic.
One of the most prolific wild vegetables will be garlic mustard. This leafy vegetable protects itself from insects by smelling and tasting like garlic — a very effective defense unless Italian insects find it.
Garlic mustard is excellent in salads, and superb in pesto. Although it shrinks and concentrates bitterness it is cooked, if lesser celandine — which is also very prolific — is added to the mix, the bitterness vanishes.
Sassafras, which tastes like root beer, also grows in the woods. This can be uses to make tea and root beer. The out layer of the root is a unique sweet seasoning, and the edible young leaves are the traditional thickener for making gumbo.
Mullein, a traditional herb tea for coughs, grows along the edges of trails and in disturbed habitats, along with delicious wild carrots, as well as common evening primrose, which has a sweet-and-peppery taproot, with overtones of radish.
The program will also include additional uses and suggestions for the season’s roots.
If there is a lot of rain before the walk, participants may also find the year’s first wild mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, and tree ears sometimes come up at this time of year.
The 2½ hour tour will begin at 2:30 pm. Cost is $25 for adults, $10 for children, and reservations are requested by April 4.
Sticks and Stones Farm is at 201 Huntingtown Road. Call 203-270-8820 for reservations or additional information.