Forage Walks and Classes



Until we pass through the shadow of the valley of virus, all walks are on hold. Do scroll down to get a sense of where we usually go, though!

Check my Instagram @66squarefeet for what I am finding, and to help guide you, if you are new to foraging. There's also my book, Forage, Harvest, Feast, and lots of field guides to help you.

In the meantime, if you would like to join my mailing list for the next walk email, please send your details to myviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com.

Please take care, wash your hands like mad, keep your distance, and feed yourselves well.


My second book, Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine (36-plus plants and 510 recipes), is available at Chelsea Green Publishing, at your nearest bookshop, or, you know, Amazon.

About my Walks


There has never been a better time to learn to forage for food.

I lead plant walks in the urban and wild green spaces that surround us. While edible plants are the focus on my walks, all plants are part of our mobile discussion.

As we walk we learn about two broad categories of edible 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 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


Tours may involve hills and steps and rough paths, and require a moderate fitness level, to walk 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 - Walks are listed on this page seasonally, below.
Private Walks - For friends, kitchen crews, corporate teams, conservancies.
Gift Walks - Give a wild foods walk with picnic as a gift.
Plant Identification and Education - I assess your land or garden.
Talks, Classes, Consultation - Talks, tastings, mixology and menu creation, specialising in wild and unfamiliar flavors.

Walk Perks

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

Cancellation Policy 

Refunds at my discretion.
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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Thursday, 19 March 2020 (4 tickets left)
Vernal Equinox Mixology
5pm - 6.30pm
$52

Sneak out of work (a little) early and join me in the early spring evening to toast the first official day of the best season. We will sip botanical cocktails (including a no-alcohol version) featuring spicebush, magnolia and fragrant fir.

Our libations and snack will follow a  walk where we learn to identify magnolia buds, winter honeysuckle, and spicebush, and discuss how to turn them into unique cocktail fixings for the rest of the year. Plus, the early-season bonus of a wild and weedy edible smorgasboard: bittercress, field garlic, ground elder and early garlic mustard.

Details will be emailed to you on sign up.

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Saturday, 11 April 2020
Forest Revival
Inwood Hill Park
12.30pm - 3pm
$55

At the northern tip of Manhattan is the island's oldest forest, and it is just waking up. Tulip poplars soar skywards, sheltering dainty native wildflowers like Dutchman's breeches, as well as the largest grove of spicebush in the city.  It is the spice I use more than any other, in my kitchen, and in spring its fresh twigs, flowers and leaves are edible. 


Between the Hudson and the Spuyten Duyvil we will walk through the shadow of the valley of spicebush, climb a hill, and discover the wildly invasive edibles (think daylily and nettles) before descending the ridge high above the river. 

We will enjoy our picnic beside the water, and taste the plants we have just seen.

Inwood is reachable by the A train to 207th Street, a five-minute walk away. If you are driving, be warned that street parking is extremely competitive. Allow extra time.

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Saturday, 18 April 2020
Edible Flower Walk
Historic Green-Wood, Brooklyn
11.30am - 2.30pm
$55*

* $5 per person is donated to Green-Wood Cemetery

Set within gentle hills and dales, this is the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, fought in the American War of Independence.

Today, the only explosions we will see belong to the flowers - gorgeous cherry blossom and magnolia. Green-Wood Cemetery is now a gentle and welcoming space filled with some of the most beautiful trees in New York City. Above our heads new leaves will be unfurling and under our feet there may be violets.


On our three-hour ramble we will identify trees, and edible lawn-weeds like chickweed, shepherd's purse, and poor man's pepper. We will talk about how to use edible flowers, and learn to identify the wide array of ornamental plants we encounter. Our tasting picnic will of course feature some of the flavors we have just encountered.

Green-Wood is reached by car, subway (R to 25th Street), or bus. And bicycle, of course - there is good parking for bikes.  And bathroom at the entrance. More details will be emailed after sign up, in the week of the walk.
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Sunday, 19 April 2020
New York Botanical Garden
11AM - 2PM
$79 - $85

I am delighted to be returning to the New York Botanical Garden to teach a springtime class about edible native plants!

We will begin in the classroom with an image-rich slideshow, followed by a ramble in the beautiful Native Garden where we will learn to identify tender bayberry (above), chokeberry, juniper, fiddleheads, sweetfern and much more, before ending in the Thane Family Fores with a shared, wild-inspired snack in the company of delectable early spring spicebush.

Space is limited to 20 students, and please reserve your spot via the NYBG

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Tuesday, 22 April 2020
Earth Day Invasivore Walk
Alley Pond Park Environmental Center
12.30pm - 2.30pm
$10

I am very happy to have been invited back to APEC for another Earth Day ramble. 

On this midday walk we will explore the rich grounds of this inspiring wild space in Queens. We will identify and gather invasive edible plants like field garlic and garlic mustard, and talk about their impact on natural environments, and we will also learn to identify many delicious native species, too. There will be a snack!

Please book via the Alley Pond Environmental Center.

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Saturday, 25 April 2020
Between the Woods and the Water
Pelham Bay Park
12.30pm - 3pm
$55.00

Nestled quietly behind the arc of trucked-in sand that is Orchard Beach in the Bronx is some of the city's most beautiful scenery. And there is no one there.

Islands dot this southern lull water of the Long Island Sound, and in the woods it is still possible to see native wildflowers like cutleaf toothwort and trout lily. Both are edible. We will not be eating them.  We will also find sassafras and spicebush, fragrant denizens of the forest's understory. 


But we will be on a Japanese knotweed mission. The rampant invasive perennial acts like a thug, monopolizing ecosystems' real estate. It is good to eat and stuffed with resveratrol. 

Yes: we will be devouring Japanese knotweed and spicebush in our picnic.

To get to Orchard Beach, take the 6 train to the end of the line, hop a bus, and then walk about 10 minutes. Or drive, of course. It's fun, and it is an adventure. More details on sign up!
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Saturday, 16 May 2020
Edible Plant Blitz
Fort Tilden
11.30am - 1.30pm
$52

Scientists have bioblitzes, an intense period of biological survey where they count as many living organisms in a particular area as possible. We are going to count edible plants.

The mid-spring dunes and shoreline of New York City's barrier islands are filled with interesting edible plants in an environment that defies city-expectations. It is the Wild East. Come and learn to tell the difference between Japanese black pine and native pitch pine, and sniff the delicious scent of fresh juniper. Baby pine cones make the most delicious preserves and pickles, and your life is not complete until you have tasted pine pollen vodka. And if vodka's not your thing, the pollen makes the best biscuits!

Edible green things will be popping up, everywhere. We will discover bayberry, beach plum and sumac, and learn to identify fragrant super-invader, autumn olive (oleaster), for future fruit-gathering. There will be lots of weeds. We will keep count of every edible species we find.



Our tasting picnic will feature pine pollen and pine cones, three ways (I have always wanted to say that) as well as the spring flavors we have just encountered.

Car parking is on site at Fort Tilden and the Q35 bus stops a 10-minute walk away. 


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