Urban Foraging

Perhaps this sounds like an oxymoron, but to my Seattle readers this is not a new concept with all the mushrooms, lavender, and rosemary not to mention blackberries that grow there. Even here in New York City, the "concrete jungle", we can do some foraging of our own.

Nettles are great both as food and medicine. Nettle leaves are like wild multivitamins and they contain more protein than most vegetables. To make a simple vitamin mineral supplement, add 1 cup of dried nettles to 4 cups water and let sit over night. Strain the next morning and drink throughout the day. Nettles also help to bring relief for allergy sufferers and when taken at the onset of symptoms, it can be as good as antihistamines. Nettle roots have been shown to relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) as well as help in prevention. Ouch! This herb can carry a powerful sting. So don't handle with your bare hands as you will get stung and the sting can last a long time. I should know as this happened to me. The best time to harvest nettles is early spring, when they are less than 2 feet high. You can find nettles in Bronx River Park or in your backyard (if you are lucky enough to have one of those).

Crab Apples
Don't let its name steer you away from the health benefits of this ornamental plant. Apples in general are good at lowering cholesterol and triglycerides due to their pectin content. Astringent tannins, which are beneficial against diarrhea and hemorrhoids, are higher in unripen crab apples than other apples. The phytonutrient content of crabapples, mainly anthocyandins and quercitin, is 6 times higher than the golden delicious apple at your local super market. Because of this it has been shown that extracts of crab apples reduce the growth of many different types of cancer cells and are more effective in destroying colon cancer cells than any other apples. Like most apples, its optimal harvest time is between September and October. Crabapples are plentiful in Riverside Park thanks to the grove which was planted in 1937.

This is one of my favorite detoxing herbs and is a tasty component of the Japanese dish kinpira gobo. Burdock root is considered a blood purifier, digestive aid and can help chronic skin conditions like psoriasis. A compound found in its seed has been shown to inhibit osteoclast activity which might support its use in osteoporosis. Burdock also has anticancer effects in some breast cancer studies and can help protect against atherosclerosis. It is best to harvest burdock root, June to mid-July when the plant is young and flexible about 1-3 feet high. Although they are found in abundance in Central and Prospect Park, it might be difficult to bring a hoe in without drawing attention.

Rose Hips
These hips are the red fruits that remain after rose petals fall off. Rose hip's claim to nutrition fame is its vitamin C content, which is 60 times more than citrus fruits. Vitamin C is important in cancer and allergy prevention. Besides this, they also have more antioxidants than blueberries and contain a lot of iron. Recently it has been shown that rose hips contain phytochemicals, which have specific anti-inflammatory properties. Studies are now supporting their use in pain reduction in arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases. It is best to harvest rose hips after the first frost and they should be red and yield slightly to the touch. When eating fresh rose hips, remove the seeds otherwise you will get "fuzzy butt" from the undigested seed hairs. Rose hips can be dried for tea or made into jams or . When preparing rose hips do not use aluminum pots, pans, or utensils, as it will deplete the vitamin C levels. You can easily find them as you bike along the west side highway particular just north of Chelsea Piers.