Plant Walks + Classes

Photo by Juliana Sohn

I lead walks, teach classes and offer forage picnics in wild and tame green spaces.

Please scroll down to see what is currently scheduled (I post pop-up walks on Instagram @66squarefeet, about a week in advance of the walk). Private walks for you or for a group of friends or colleagues are by appointment. 

If you would like to join my mailing list or enquire about a private walk, please send your details to myviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com.

For my favorite wild plants and flavors, and how to use them, peruse my second cookbook, Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine (36-plus plants and 510 recipes) - available at Chelsea Green Publishing, at your nearest bookshop, and Amazon.

About my Walks

There is nothing more exciting than meeting new flavors, and learning how to use them. Every part of every season offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the edible plants that surround us in plain sight, especially in places where we do not expect to find them. 

On field trips to parks and wild places we encounter, identify and talk about three broad categories of flora: so-called weeds, whose habit is invasive and which are considered useless; exotic plants (introduced species) that have culinary uses; and little-known edible native plants, which could - and should, but still don't - define an authentic regional cuisine. 

We discuss what parts of plants are safe to eat, and why, and 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 tune the senses to botanical and natural details at our feet, no matter where we find ourselves.

The group size is small and low-impact; it never exceeds 15 people. It's not unusual for new friendships to grow over the course of the walk. Meet plants, make friends.

Forage Picnics

Christina Whittaker and Jing Yang picnicking at Pier 6

Many walks end with a shared, wild-inspired tasting picnic with four to six courses. It's exactly what it sounds like: Tastes of in-season, wild ingredients as well as preserved forages from my feral pantry. Non-foraged ingredients are organic or locally-grown, where possible. I take broad dietary preferences (vegan, vegetarian) into account when preparing the tasting courses. You can also book a diet-specific, private walk.

Ways to Walk and Talk

Scheduled Walks - seasonal walks booked via this page (scroll down).

Private Group Walks - for conservancies, institutions, colleagues, friends.

Gift Walks - give a wild foods walk with or without picnic as a gift. 

Plant Identification - I identify the plants on your land, public space, or garden.

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

Consultation - edible garden creation, original recipes, menu design, mixology.

Walk Perks

Frequent Walker Miles - for every five walks you attend, the sixth is free. Please keep track and alert me when you're up for a gratis stroll. 

Cancellation Policy

Groups are small and picnics take time to create, source and prepare. Late cancellations and no-shows have a big impact. Refunds are at my discretion.

Cancellations up to four days in advance will receive a refund if I can rebook the spot, otherwise you receive credit for a future walk. If you cancel within four days of a walk you receive credit. Cancellations within 36 hours of a walk receive no credit or refund. 

If I cancel for any reason, you receive a full refund. 

Walks booked via outgoing links to institutions like the New York Botanical Garden (or conservancies) have their own cancellation policies, per those institutions. 

COVID-19 Protocols

Walks are open to everyone who is fully vaccinated. 

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Seasonal Walks

Bronxploration
Pelham Bay Park
23 October 2021
12pm - 3pm
$60

At the end of a long subway ride (if you live in Brooklyn, at the opposite end of the New York spectrum) and a short bus ride, is Pelham Bay Park. 

And in the park - the largest in New York City - it is fall. Here is a little corner of Maine in the Bronx, all calm islands and edible seaweeds clinging to the rocks. The forest runs right down to the Long Island Sound, and a walkway through the maritime grasses feels distinctly un-urban. 

Like most city parks, Pelham Bay hosts a tangle of diverse plants. There are the invasive weeds (come back for juicy Japanese knotweed shoots in the spring) but also a surprising collection of native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. 

We will explore this interesting mix of shoreline, islands, swampland, and autumnal woodland, with a break for a wild-inspired tasting picnic (with a view).

After our picnic and walk there will be a reviving reward of hot yuzu and spicebush tea served from the trunk of my car.

Fully Booked (Sorry!)
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Halloween Discovery
Green-Wood Cemetery
31 October 2021
12pm - 2.30pm
$60 

Come on a Halloween meander through autumnal historic Green-Wood, where we will identify the plants and some mushrooms that could make us go thump in the night. And yes, the edible ones, too! Kentucky coffee beans, late nuts and acorns, fungi (if rain and temperatures play well together), and edible lawn weeds will be part of our roving discussion.

$5 from each ticket is donated to the Green-Wood Historic Fund.

Fully Booked (Sorry!)
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