I’m in the woods hiking a lot, and when I’m not in the woods I’m looking forward to the next time that I am. In my mind, and encouraged by my partner, I’m some kind of wood elf. Light on my feet and looking for adventure, cheerfully gathering fiddle-heads in the spring. Naturally, when a local permaculture farm decided to offer a class on foraging, I dawned my mask and eagerly stood in the parking lot waiting for the class to start.
Let me pause for a second and mention my expectations for the course. In my mind, my friend and I would be doing a lot of walking and chit-chatting as we walked from plant to plant. In my mind we would probably learn about 5 plants in the three hour class and I would be able to take my new skills with my hiking. I was wrong, but that’s ok!
For starters, there was not a lot of walking around because there were so many edible plants all around us. We started in the parking lot with Pineappleweed. While you could make the argument that those little flowers looks like the bottom of a pineapple, they’re actually named after the fruit because of the aroma released when you pinch them and the taste that you get when you use them to make tea. This one seems easy enough, just a matter of paying attention to the parking lots (or gravely places) that I’m in.
Not even two steps brought us to our next delicious find: the shagbark hickory nut. This one I have to remember because I think it could be fun to use in homemade basil.
Without even moving we discussed black walnuts and the three steps took us to groundnuts. Groundnuts grow along riverbeds, which means I’ll be keeping an eye out for them the next time I take Loche for a walk. You have to wait until the weather starts turning, the dig them up to access their roots. From there, you’ll notice what look like little tiny potatoes and you can cook them just like potatoes!
Mind you, all of these plants were in the first 10 minutes of a three hour class. We learned about marshmallow flower (they used to use their roots to make marshmallows!), sweet goldenrod (smells like licorice), Autumn Olive (they’re invasive, but I think the fruit tastes really good. Is it bad that I want a bush of my own in my back yard?), Elderberries, June-berries, crab-apples, rose hip, wild strawberries, dame’s rocket, day lillys, hazelnut, milkweed, wild asparagus and a many others that I could recognize and point them out but can’t remember their names. One of them even has blue seeds! This class was PACKED with information, which was both awesome and crazy.
So what did I take away from this class? Foraging is a hobby in itself and you don’t really casually do it. It seems to be an event that takes place purposefully rather than one that is done as you’re walking through the woods (but I did try to keep an eye out during my next hike). It was a lot of fun and probably something I’m going to enjoy reading about.