A Missing Piece of the Food Renaissance

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Harvesting wild produce in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park might not seem like the best idea. And yet, on a foraging trip to a public park last month, hat-wearing eater “Wildman” Steve Brill and his daughter Violet, led about 40 of us non-sportsmen to the grassy area behind the park’s paved roads. a four-hour tromp. Amidst the plastic wrap and bottle caps we found edible roots, aromatic herbs, and hardy leaves, all ripe for testing in the kitchen of aspiring chefs.

At least in theory. There was food here, of course, but not of any variety. We also got coffee beans that fell from Kentucky coffee trees, the beans of which can be used to make a decaffeinated morning cup. That is, if someone wants to harvest enough, bathe them in a green goo, and burn them for hours-even then, it won’t be like that. coffee. I put some cocoanuts in a cloth bag beside some sassafras roots, which I once used to make an old-fashioned beer, and a few lettuce leaves that could make a small salad, just the right amount. Two weeks later, I’m still thinking about what, if anything, I’m going to make with these new ingredients.

What I didn’t expect were all the medicinal herbs. A few minutes into the trip, we found enough wild analgesics and anti-inflammatories to ensure a normal ride. Among the cigars was broadleaf herb, an easily digestible herb (not related to the banana-like fruit) known to ward off mosquito bites. Near the urinating dog was jewelweed, which soothes poison-ivy and stinging-nettle sores. Branches cut from the black birch tree yielded wintergreen oil, also known as methyl salicylate, a relative of aspirin that powers painkillers such as Bengay and Icy Hot.

Interest in food sourcing has taken off in recent years, due in part to the popularity of local food and its popularity on social media, while promoters stinging nettle and to add precious needles of granite. Foraged fields and morel mushrooms have become so popular that they are now appearing on restaurant menus and in high-end supermarkets. But increased consumption has left much of the focus of plant research—finding cures for minor ailments. To be clear, medicinal plants cannot save the lives of ordinary people, and they do not have much information that supports medicine. But even some scientists believe that they can be of little help. In other words, being able to find the stem of jewelweed is more useful than identifying a few lettuce substitutes.

This has certainly been the case for Marla Emery, a science advisor at the Norwegian Institute for Natural Research and a former US Forest Service ranger who studies local foraging. A few years ago, when he had large, blistering blisters on his legs caused by poison ivy on a hunting trip, Emery went to a herbalist in Scotland who consulted him. lobeliaan herb with pale flowers, and slippery elm, the price of mucilaginous goods, to his calf. Soon, she felt a tingling sensation—”like someone poured salt on the area”—and within an hour the blisters healed, Emery told me.

Both plants, which were once used to treat skin diseases, are “healthy and medicinal,” he said, and are particularly effective because “you’re less likely to kill yourself” with them. Such stories showing the depth of medicinal plants are common among botanists. “If you cut it, I’ll put it on.” [broadleaf] plantain on it, you can see it up close,” Alex McAlvay, ethnobotanist at the New York Botanical Garden, told me. Although some species, he said, “the proof is in the pudding.”

Although foraging has long been a form of medicine, and many modern medicines are derived from plants, in the West, medicinal plants have been relegated to “traditional” or “folk medicine”. However, their use persists in many communities, including immigrant groups who “bring drugs from their countries and trying to survive,” Emery said. People in China, Russia, and some Latin American communities often eat dandelion, a herb with diuretic properties, to support kidney and urinary health, he added.

Along the concrete sidewalks of Prospect Park, the Brills pointed out the burdock area; Its roots, in addition to being delicious potato dupe, use other cultures to reduce the body. Pineapple grass, found in baseball diamonds and sidewalk cracks, can calm the stomach, Steve told me later. Scientific information for such purposes is limited, as is the case for other edible plants, and the use of plants for health benefits raises questions about the integrity of science. Many medicinal plants that the common man encounters in the wild no it has been studied through rigorous clinical trials just like any other prescription drug. Whether people agree to seek medical nutrition depends on how well they believe “we create evidence and truth,” McAlvay said. “A lot of people are like, ‘If there’s no clinical research, it’s not valid.’ Some people are like, ‘My grandpa did that; it’s legit.'” There’s nothing more than medical research, even though other plants share valuable properties with certain drugs. Sheep’s milk, which is made from spinach, is so rich in vitamin C that over time many were used. prevent scurvy; Stinging nettle, which is often used for urination, can have the same effect as finasterideprostate medicine.

Naturally, the experts I spoke with all recommended the use of medicinal plants for treating minor ailments. Just as foraging for food comes with risks—what looks like a delicious mushroom can make you sick—so does foraging for medicine. Take regular, well-known classes and apply them books and programs better identification of plants, many of which have a dangerous appearance; The edible angelica plant, for example, is easily confused with the poisonous water hemlock, of Socrates-killing fame. Also learning about dosage is important. An unhealthy herb can be deadly if used too much, warned Emery. When working with medicinal herbs, he said, “you have to know what you’re doing, and this doesn’t just provide the usual opportunities for TikTok.” Newbies should stick to herbs that are “mild but strong, easy to recognize,” such as dandelion and violet, McAlvay said.

As Brills had instructed, when I got home I dipped the stem of the jewels in the magic fur to make a skin-cooling treatment. A few days later, after I put some on my sunburnt arm, I got some relief. In any case, my happiness was real. When I asked both tourists and experts why medical centers are needed in a country where drugs that do the same thing can be easily bought at the pharmacy, some said it was “energizing” or “satisfying,” but the explanation made sense. and I many came from McAlvay, who called it “magic”: the power to use nature, in nature, to heal.

When I got home from sightseeing and opened my grocery bag, I found a black birch branch, still green. In fact, it’s the one scent I’ve been craving for 38 weeks (and counting) of pregnancy, but moms to have he advised avoid oily lotions. I sniffed deeply, again and again, remembering that it might come in handy in the coming months. When teething children are given black birch twigs to chew on, the pain-relieving properties of wintergreen oil help ease their pain, Brill said. Suddenly, their cries stopped. What’s more magical than that?



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