Book Review: Nature’s Garden.

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Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer. Forager’s Harvest Press 2010.

Sam Thayer is my favorite foraging author, and so far, this is my favorite of his books. That is no insult to his other book, The Forager’s Harvest. This one just happens to have plants that are more common and widespread. I recommend Nature’s Garden for beginners because it lays down such a great foundation of knowledge, is accessibly written, and also covers each plant in so much detail. I also recommend it for advanced and intermediate foragers, because it corrects a lot of myths that have been repeated in many other foraging books, and because it helped me to move beyond just foraging, to wanting to learn about how people, plants, and other organisms all interact.

Nature’s Garden has a great line up of plants, but it would be worth the price of the book for the 50 page chapter on acorns alone.

The book starts out with introductory chapters that encourage best practices in plant ID, and put foraging in context. After that, each of the chapters features a different plant. They begin with a quick story from Sam’s life, then proceed to cover all aspects needed to confidently learn how to interact with the plant.

A true gem, the only complaint I have heard are that is doesn’t cover as many plants as some books, but this is a situation where quality is more important than quantity.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

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A Few Plants From my Recent Class.

Saturday was the 1st monthly class in my 2016 Foraging and Rewilding Course.

Here is a sampling of some of the plants we discussed and interacted with.

I’m also planning a one off class sometime in May. Stay tuned.

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Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta).

 

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Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

 

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Common chickweed (Stellaria media).

 

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Insect gall on a hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) tree.

 

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Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) cane.

 

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Field garlic (Allium vineale).

 

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Wound on a beech tree (Fagus grandifolia). Probably from the tree trying to contain a fungal attack.

 

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Ramps (Allium tricoccum). These are one I transplanted.

 

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Eastern Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus).

(Obviously don’t just go out and eat these, find some good resources and educate yourself).

Thanks for reading,

Nate

Early Spring Greens Over a Fire.

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It is finally that time of year again. Early spring plants are prime for eating. This evening we had some friends over, and I cooked a pan full of chickweed (Stellaria media), cleavers (Gallium aparine), hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), broadleaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius), field garlic (Allium vineale) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). All of them were harvested from around the edge of the yard. What an amazing time of abundance!

Thanks for reading,

Nate

 

 

A Wonderful Spring Meal.

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Tonight’s dinner was so good I just had to write about it. The ingredients were: Sausage (local, uncured), butter, spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) roots, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) stems, Honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis) leaves and stalks, violet (Viola spp.) leaves and stems, morel (Morchella spp.) mushrooms, and dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) mushrooms. We finished off the meal with a nice cup of sweet cicely (Osmorhiza claytoni) tea, it has a pleasant licorice after taste.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

May’s Monthly Foraging Class at the Horn Farm Center.

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May 18 10:00 am – 12:00 pm. @ the Horn Farm Center.

These classes are held every 3rd Saturday of each month.
Lead by Jonathan Darby and Nathan Carlos Rupley
as well as other area foragers and plant nerds.

We will be discussing and demonstrating many uses of wild plants
with an emphasis on learning to actually work them into our lives.

Suggested Donation of $15, but pay what you can if you can.

Morels and Dryad’s Saddles: mushroom hunting in spring 2013.

So this past week turned out to be a pretty good one for mushroom hunting as well as foraging.

In terms of plants, I gathered a lot of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) to dry for future use, some wood nettle (Laportea canadensis), Violet (Viola spp.), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), broad leaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius), chickweed (Stellaria media), purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), and common plantain (Plantago major).

I also gathered 4 different varieties of mushrooms (3 of those varieties were different types of morels). This is my 3rd year hunting morels, if you want to read about my 1st and 2nd years check it out here and here.

If you are interested in hunting morels, Michael Kuo’s books 100 Edible Mushrooms and Morels are a good place to start. Also check out his excellent website here.

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I have been working on a plant DVD, and on Thursday morning I had just finished filming and was about to head out of the woods to go pick my son up from preschool, when I almost stepped on the morel pictured above. I was excited and a little surprised because I had never found black morels (Morchella angusticeps) before (previous years I have only ever found the small yellow variety [Morchella diminutiva]), and I was in a part of the woods that I travel on a regular basis.

It was somewhat damaged, so I decide to have a quick look around.

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A couple feet away, I found this even more damaged one.

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And then within a few more feet I found 3 more black morels in great condition.

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About 20 feet up the trail I found a few of these smaller morels, which I at first took for younger black morels. Upon further inspection they turned out to be half-free morels (Morchella punctipes). All morels should be carefully identified, but the half-free ones are the trickiest because they look a lot like one variety of verpa (Verpa bohemica). Verpas are of disputed edibility, and should not be collected.

Anyway, it was time to pick up my son, so I headed out of the woods without harvesting any.

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After picking up my son, I told him that I told him that I had a surprise for him in the woods. He asked me “is it mushrooms?” and I told him he would have to wait to see. I helped him spot the morels, and together we harvested the ones pictured above. The 4 in the middle are black morels and the 2 to either side are half-free morels.

As a side note I should say that while I take my 4 1/2 yr old son mushroom hunting with me, I don’t know anyone else kids well enough to know at what age they are ready for it. 4 1/2 is surely on the young side, but I trust him, and he knows that not only are there deadly toxic mushrooms, but that we only eat the edible ones after cleaning and cooking them at home.

On Friday we went back to the same spot with two friends and found a few more of the half-free morels but none of the black ones.

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On Saturday we got together with a couple other families to go foraging along a creek near the Susquehanna. Our primary interest was in harvesting stinging nettle, but earlier in the week I had seen a dryad’s saddle mushroom (Polyporus squamosus) growing on a log along the trail, and figured I could introduce my friends to this common mushroom.

Not only did I introduce them to dryad’s saddles, but they turned out to be even better mushroom spotters than I am.

We found them growing on several logs and one big old tree.

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They were even growing inside the tree.

Click here to see a short video of my friend gathering them from the hole in the tree.

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We ended up with about 20 medium to small caps (the large ones are often too tough to eat) to split between our 3 families. We could have had more, but decided to leave some for other people.

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On Sunday afternoon my son and I decided to go skateboarding and hang out in the woods for a little. I figured it couldn’t hurt to check one of my morel spots from last year. I wasn’t expecting to find any, because it seemed like it was still a little early for the small yellow morels, but we found a nice little handful of them. Small yellows are supposed to be the best tasting of the morels and sauteing them seemed like a good close to a great week of wild food.

Thanks for reading,
Nate

March Foraging Class at the Horn Farm Center.

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Saturday, March 16th, 10 – noon.
At the Horn Farm Center (4945 Horn Rd Hellam, PA)

Classes are held every 3rd Saturday of each month.
Lead by Jonathan Darby and Nathan Carlos Rupley
as well as other area foragers and plant nerds.

We will be discussing and demonstrating many uses of wild plants
with an emphasis on learning to actually work them into our lives.

Suggested Donation of $15, but pay what you can if you can.

 

February Foraging Class at the Horn Farm Center.

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Saturday, February 16th, 10 – noon.
At the Horn Farm Center (4945 Horn Rd Hellam, PA)

Classes are held every 3rd Saturday of each month.
Lead by Jonathan Darby and Nathan Carlos Rupley
as well as other area foragers and plant nerds.

We will be discussing and demonstrating many uses of wild plants
with an emphasis on learning to actually work them into our lives.

Suggested Donation of $15, but pay what you can if you can.

Most or all of the class will be outdoors, so wear warm clothing if needed.

Foraging Classes at the Horn Farm Center.

Picture of Nettles.

Saturday November 17th is the 2nd of a series of monthly foraging classes at the Horn Farm Center. These classes are held every 3rd Saturday of each month from 10 am – 1 pm and lead by Jonathan Darby and Nathan Carlos Rupley as well as other area foragers and plant nerds.

We will be discussing and demonstrating many uses of wild plants with an emphasis on learning to actually work them into our lives. Each class should involve at least some time harvesting, preparing, and eating wild plants that are available during the different seasons.

Bring a packed lunch that can be supplemented by what we harvest.

Suggested Donation of $15, but pay what you can if you can.

Thanks,
Nate