When most of us take in the great outdoors we think that the green grass and the tall trees are all just a part of the beautiful scenery. But to self-named "Wildman" Steve Brill a backyard is a buffet. “I put wild ingredients into almost everything I cook,” Brill says. “I’m surviving a lot healthier and more fit than my parents’ and my grandparents’ generation.”
Brill has taught cooking classes and has served as a professional caterer. He began foraging for food and adding wild plants to his recipes in 1982. “Unlike a restaurant I can make a new thing every day,” he says. Brill leads tours in New York City area parks that highlight “Wild Edibles.” His app, by the same name, features nearly 200 edible plants.
Brill takes eating organic to a whole new level. He says wild plants offer some of the same vitamins and minerals offered in the best health food stores. So with a pit in my stomach, we set off for a tasting. Instead of reaching for shelves, we hopped fences. We tried a variety of plants and there were some hits and some misses. It turns out a dandelion is not exactly delicious.
And although the “Wildman” may be a bit unconventional he may be onto something. The consumption of wild plants dates back to the middle ages. Some of the plants we tasted resembled common vegetables like broccoli and onions. And his culinary creations that I tasted were delicious.
For those interested in foraging for food Brill has a few tips. He says make sure to start with basic plants and to avoid plants with poisonous lookalikes. Also, start by trying a small amount of a plant at a time to make sure it agrees with you. And avoid picking in heavy traffic or polluted areas.
For those who are skeptical the “Wildman” says, “I’ve been doing this for over 32 years and no one has ever gotten sick and a lot of people have gotten healthy from this kind of food.” So the next time you go shopping, the trip to your pharmacy or grocery store may be closer than you think.
ABC News' Sara Haines, Kelly Harold, David Miller, David Fazekas and Luis Yordan contributed to this episode.