Wildman Steve Brill is New York's most famous naturalist and a tour guide in the park. It began with an encounter with some Greek women foraging in the park for grape leaves. He took some home and prepared them in the Greek way and a new life began for him.
One day he was collecting dandelions in Central Park. He was arrested for removing vegetation from the park! He appeared in court and his story was splashed across North America. The City dropped the charges and hired him as a naturalist. Now he takes groups to eat their way through the park. He actually met his wife on one of his tours!
Wildman's Tours last four hours. Apart from Central Park, he takes tours on Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey and Connecticut. During the walk you hear stories, folklore, jokes and he plays his own invention, the Brill-O-Phone.
Some of the foods he finds and talks about are sweet wild parsnips, peppery common, evening primrose roots, winter cress, wild chickweed, spicy garlic mustard leaves, day lily shoots and the famous dandelions. Wildman now makes wine from them and swears they can also be used as a cure for pimples and a kidney tonic.
His knowledge of wild plants is vast. He knows which vitamins they yield and as they are not sprayed or genetically altered, they have more vitamins than anything bought over the counter. He views the parks as a supermarket-medicine cabinet.
As you venture deeper into the 340 hectares of Central Park, it's good to know a little of its history. Wealthy merchants and landowners who admired the public grounds of London and Paris wanted something similar in New York, something for families, carriage rides and a healthy alternative to the saloon. After three years of debate, in 1853 the state legislature gave authorisation.
The irregular terrain of swamps and bluffs, punctuated by rocky outcroppings, stretches between Fifth and Eighth Avenues and 59th and 106th Streets. It's the heartbeat of the city, boasting several lakes, theatres, ice rinks, fountains, tennis courts, baseball fields, playgrounds, a zoo, restaurants and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cars are not permitted in the park on weekends, making it a particularly welcoming oasis in the hectic city.
New York, New York.
Wildman Steve Brill tours of Central Park and New York cost a suggested donation of $13 per person.
Flight Centre has return economy airfares to Los Angeles, valid for sale until August 31, 2005, and valid for travel until December 31, 2005. Conditions apply. Prices, including taxes, start at:
From Sydney, $1414
From Brisbane, $1477
From Melbourne, $1487
From Adelaide, $1765
From Perth, $1871
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.
Wildman Steve Brill
320 Palmer Terrace, Apartment 2A
Mamaroneck NY 10534
Ph: 0011 1 914 835 2153