Forage Walks and Classes



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 your everyday meals with wild and unsual flavors.

Scroll down to see what is on offer. Small, private walks (four people or fewer) 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.


Check 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 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 plants: so-called weeds - plants that are invasive, or considered useless, or pests; 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 your 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 under our noses, especially in places where we do not expect to find them. These experiences offer us an immersive opportunity to breathe out, and relax. If we pay attention. Call it forage bathing.


Picnics

The 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, or 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. 
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 - Original recipes, menu creation, 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 credit towards any future walk.
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Foraging in Winter
Where: NYBG
When: 21 January 2021, 11am - 1pm

Plants are not silent in winter. Walk with me to listen to them.

A winter walk in nature is like being backstage before the show starts. When I was still performing (as an opera singer) I was always amazed that the audience knew so little of what went on behind that heavy curtain, and in the wings. But winter is what is necessary for the razzmatazz of spring.

Appreciating the apparent rigor of the frozen and dormant plant world is key to celebrating its resurgence in spring. Winter for foragers is a chance to map what is good, for the weeks and months to come. 

We will scratch and sniff spicebush twigs, spot winter's delicious field garlic leaves, and read the stories that bark tells. Winter burs mean delicious burdock stems in May, because old plants seed new ones. Wizened panicles on hollow canes mean pokeweed with be lush there in late April. A brittle stick is an excellent and aromatic mugwort kebab skewer, while a rattling seedhead is juicy Japanese knotweed in waiting.

We will learn to recognize the signs that wild foods leave us: learn them here and you can apply your pattern recognition anywhere. 

Booking is via the New York Botanical Garden.

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January Tramp
Prospect Park
17 January 2021
12pm - 2pm
$52

It may be January but the weather has been relatively mild and there is lots to see in the winter woods, wastelands, and fields. And Prospect Park checks each of those environmental boxes. 

After 10 months of pandemic this popular park is more worn around the edges than it has been before, but it offers what is always has: a chance to see, recognize, and learn about the many edible plants and mushrooms that surround us in the Northeast, from indigenous shrubs to invasive weeds to ornamental trees planted for beauty - but that also hold edible secrets in their branches, leaves and buds. And there may be winter mushrooms. We will talk about where to look and what they like, and why.
 

Our January tramp will take a us over lawns, under evergreens, past dead logs, and over leaf-littered floors where optimistic snowdrops grow. Come prepared for a proper walk. The faster we move the warmer we'll be. We will stop when our masks begin to suck to our faces. 


At the end the reward is a steaming hot toddy perfumed with fir, juniper, and spicebush. And there will be a light snack. 

If you have credit from a canceled walk in early pandemic days, please email me at myviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com to reserve your spot. Otherwise please visit the PayPal button to pay and book.

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