Four falls ago we did a tour of duty with a city forager, the famous “Wild Man” Steve Brill and the subject of a 2009 profile in Edible Manhattan. Brill has been eating from city parks, forested patches and pavement cracks for three decades, and he was the first to show us the beauty of local red orbs shown above called serviceberries, shadbush berries or Juneberries, feeding them to his daughter as we scoured Central Park. (Check Brill’s write-up on spotting the fruits right here.) The lovely tasting Amelanchier — a little like sweet blueberries with a nutty bite thanks to their tiny seeds — have a second harvest in fall but are primarily found on trees dotting the city very soon, hence their nickname.
In spring they’re also the obsession of Marie Viljoen, a local forager who wrote a fantastic first-person piece about collecting berries in Battery Park (and making tartlets with her finds) in our current issue. “At first I ate them fresh, out of hand,” writes Viljoan. “The flavor is frankly sweet, without the tart edge of blueberries, and the tiny seeds when crunched release a frisson of cyanide. This almondy essence becomes deeply pronounced when the fruit is cooked: Amelanchier pie is redolent of marzipan. Amelanchier jelly is better than the jam—the clear scarlet preserve free of seeds is a wobbly perfection on white morning rolls.”