Forage Classes + Walks

Marie Viljoen picking viburnum

There has never been a better time to learn about the plants that surround us. We know that walking in nature heals us, and understanding how to find free food is not only helpful when budgets are tight, but that more elusive thing: fun - a constant treasure hunt, full of surprises that inform everyday meals with wild and unusual flavors. And learning to identify edible plants builds a necessary awareness of the connection between the food we eat, and how it grows. That is a complex subject, and touches almost every aspect of our lives. 

Scroll down to see what is on offer, seasonally (although pop up walks are posted to my Instagram page @66squarefeet). Private walks for you or for a group of friends or colleagues are by appointment. 

If you would like to join my mailing list please send your details to myviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com.

Take care, wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance, and eat well.

Forage, Harvest, Feast cover by Marie Viljoen

Visit my Instagram @66squarefeet to see the seasonal forages I am finding, and to help guide you, if you are new to foraging. There's also my second book, Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine (36-plus plants and 510 recipes) - available at Chelsea Green Publishing, at your nearest bookshop, or, you know, Amazon

About my Walks

I lead plant identification walks in the urban and wild green spaces that surround us. While edible plants are our focus, all plants, and how they fit together, are part of our mobile discussion.

As we walk we learn about two broad categories of edible flora: so-called weeds - generally invasive, or considered useless; and native plants - some of which could, and should, define an authentic regional cuisine. There is nothing more exciting than meeting new flavors, and learning how to use them.

We learn about what parts of plants are safe to eat, and why, and we talk about culinary ideas and techniques for unfamiliar ingredients. We also discuss the do's and don't's of foraging; urban and rural pollution issues; sustainability, the relationship between invasive plants and natives; biodiversity; and the real problems of commercial over-harvest of native wild plants (like ramps) - all tying in to my approach of conservation foraging.

My hope is to help tune the senses to the botanical and natural details beneath our feet and above our heads. 

Every part of every season offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the plants that surround us in plain sight, especially in places where we do not expect to find them. These experiences offer us an immersive opportunity to breathe out, and see the world differently. If we pay attention. Call it forage bathing.

Picnickers

Photo by Michael Grimm

Picnics

Most walks end with a shared, wild-inspired tasting picnic featuring seasonal ingredients. With sufficient notice I cater to basic dietary preferences like vegan and vegetarian and do my best to accommodate other requests, like gluten-free, and serious allergies, if it is feasible within a diverse group.

                                               Ways to Walk and Talk

Walks may involve hills and steps and rough paths, and require a moderate fitness level. We cover one-to-three miles in two hours. I am happy arrange walks to suit different abilities, and wheelchair-friendly routes are also available by prior arrangement.

Public Walks - Scheduled seasonal walks are listed on this page or @66squarefeet

Private Walks - For friends, kitchen crews, corporate teams, conservancies.

Gift Walks - Give a wild foods walk with picnic as a gift.

Plant Identification - I identify the flora on your land or in your garden.

Talks, Classes - For garden clubs, botanic gardens, conservancies, etc.

Consultation - Garden creation, original recipes, menu design, mixology.

Walk Perks

Frequent Walker Miles - for every five walks you book, the sixth is free.

Cancellation Policy 

Credit is issued for cancellations up to three days before a walk. For cancellations after three days you are welcome to send a guest in your place. Bad-weather cancellations mean refunds at my discretion, or credit towards any future walk.

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Tree catkins

See the Trees Walk

Green-Wood Cemetery

7 March 2021, 12pm - 2.30pm

$60

The snow has melted! Join me this Sunday in the beautiful arboretum that is historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. On our late winter walk our focus will be on trees and buds, and we will identify some of the many edible parts that trees offer in this and other seasons. It's fair to say we will see some interesting edible weeds underfoot, too, like chickweed and ground ivy, just getting ready for spring. We will also learn to identify plants in disguise, like the winter skeletons of pokeweed, mugwort, and tara-no-me (I'll explain!). 

The weather will be in the mid-40's but chilly. We will sip a non-alcoholic hot toddy where fresh fir, gingery magnolia and honeysuckle cordial will warm you. 

Five dollars per ticket will be donated to Green-Wood. Our meeting point will be at the Prospect Park West entrance. More details will be emailed upon sign up.


Fully Booked (sorry!)

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Winter honeysuckle flower

What's that Bud?

Prospect Park

10 March 2021, 3pm - 5pm

$53.00

Now that our afternoons are lighter, come and discover the edible buds of pre-spring on an afternoon stroll through Prospect Park's woods and woodland edges. We will sniff the delicious scent of the first winter honeysuckle, and learn to identify edible plants like elderberry and pokeweed still in their winter disguises. We may even discover some interesting and edible fungi (fingers crossed).

After our walk (and before a week of predicted rain!) we will sip botanical sundowners and snack on a selection of wild treats.



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To the Woods!

Inwood Hill Park

24 April 2021, 11.30am - 2.30pm

$57.00

At Manhattan's northern tip we will greet spring in the island's oldest forest.  The terrain here is very diverse, with valleys and ridges, rivers and straits meeting in one place. 

The plants are as varied, with native spicebush woods shading carpets of invasive lesser celandine, and day lilies, garlic mustard, nettles and field garlic outcompeting indigenous wildflowers. 

Come and meet them all during a green three-hour trek, ending with a tasting picnic featuring the flavors we have just seen.


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Wildflowers in spring

Spring Edible Plants at the NYBG


10 May 2021, 11am - 1pm

$65 (non-members), $59 (members)

I am thrilled to be back at the NYBG teaching an outdoor class when the garden is bursting with blooms. The gorgeous Native Garden and Thain Family Forest offer a unique urban opportunity to see a wild and wide collection of indigenous edible plants in one spot. (Although I can't help stopping en route every time I notice and edible weed. So we will talk about those, too!)

Well-known wild edibles like fiddleheads will have emerged and will give us the perfect backdrop to discuss the serious issue of over-harvesting and unsustainable foraging practises. Ramps will be under discussion, too. I encourage shoppers, foragers, and vendors, to buy, collect, and sell ramp leaves only. Why? Learn more in this class. You can even help spread the word and make a difference: On social media I use the hashtag #rampleavesonly

Tickets for this spring forage class are available only through the NYBG. Because of the garden's COVID protocols we will not be picnicking but you will certainly learn how to make your own wild-inspired snacks! (It helps if you own a copy of Forage, Harvest, Feast, but it is certainly not mandatory)

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