From the NY Times:
Maybe it is the spiraling cost of food in a tough economy or the logical next step in the movement to eat locally. Whatever the reason, New Yorkers are increasingly fanning out across the city’s parks to hunt and gather edible wild plants, like mushrooms, American ginger and elderberries.
Now parks officials want them to stop. New York’s public lands are not a communal pantry, they say. In recent months, the city has stepped up training of park rangers and enforcement-patrol officers, directing them to keep an eye out for foragers and chase them off.
Just what gets taken can vary from park to park, often depending on the ethnic makeup of the surrounding neighborhood.
“There are groups going around and collecting things that they recognize from their home countries,” said Gary Lincoff, an instructor at the New York Botanical Garden, who admitted foraging in the parks for juneberries. “The Chinese gather gingko, and I’ve talked to Koreans who are gathering white wood aster.”
Beverly McDermott, director of Friends of Kissena Park in Flushing, Queens, has confronted foragers directly when she has seen them hauling away everything from plants to top soil to turtles. A garden in the 242-acre park that Mrs. McDermott helped revive a decade ago has been repeatedly pillaged, with herbs, flowers and a whole weeping cherry tree disappearing.
“I have caught them leaving the park with coolers full of fish and turtles,” she said. “You need signs throughout the park. I find the rangers to be totally useless. They’re walking around like Boy Scouts.”