Walks + Forage Picnics

Summer 2021, weed walk in Prospect Park. Photo by Juliana Sohn

Welcome to my plant-walk page. Please scroll down to book or look a specific walk.

Scheduled classes and events are posted here. Private walks for you or for a group of friends or work-team members are by appointment. 

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

My second cookbook, Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine, is a useful reference for my walks and also if you are a chef, cook, or gardener hungry for new flavors (there are 510 recipes exploring the range of possibilities for 36 very versatile plants). Order from your nearest bookshop or Amazon.

Vegan fava bean and Japanese knotweed tarts with redbud and forsythia flowers

About my Walks

I lead plant identification walks, teach classes, and offer #foragepicnics or wild-inspired drinks in wild and tame green spaces. As much as these experiences are about sharing my passion for plants, they are an introduction to and immersion in the rich natural world that surrounds us even in the middle of the New York City. Locals get to explore a side of the city they did not suspect existed, while visitors meet green wildness in the concrete jungle.

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. Yes, we we even walk in winter!

On field trips that are essentially experiential classes, we identify and talk about three broad categories of flora (and not just edible): so-called weeds, whose habit is invasive; exotic plants (introduced species) that have culinary uses; and 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, as well as culinary ideas and techniques for unfamiliar ingredients. We talk about the constantly evolving 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. Plant blindness can be cured.

The group size is small, low-impact, and personal; 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

Bald cypress syrup on a hot day in August

Most walks end with a shared, wild-inspired tasting picnic. 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 high-quality, organic or locally-grown, where possible. I take broad dietary preferences (vegan, vegetarian, omnivore) into account where possible within a group. You can also book a diet-specific, private walk.

Field garlic, juniper and mugwort for a November walk

I begin to prepare a few days ahead of a walk by scouting the route, collecting fresh wild ingredients in an appropriate spot (often not the same as the walk-location), and then spend a day in the kitchen, creating the tasting picnic.

Gluten-free chickpea and mugwort crackers

Ways to Walk and Talk

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

Team Building Adventures - for corporate groups and schools.

Private Walks - for institutions, friends; with/without picnic.

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

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. 

Forage Fund

In an effort to make walks more accessible I have launched an experimental Forage Fund. Anyone who is able, may donate - and thank you for your generosity. If you would like to reserve a ticket from the Forage Fund, please get in touch via email (myviljoen at gmail dot com) - or a DM on Instagram. This is a work in progress. 

Hot forest toddies on a New Year's Day walk

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations up to four days in advance will receive a refund. Cancellations up to 72 hours ahead of a walk receive credit for a future walk (to be used within a year). Cancellations within 24 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 the Brooklyn Botanic Garden have their own cancellation policies, per those institutions. 


Late Summer and Fall 2022

North Woods 
Central Park, Manhattan
15 October 2022
12.30pm - 2.30pm

The northern woods of Central Park hide ravines, secret lawns, and rocky outcrops, and provide shelter for the migrating birds that move south at this time every year. We will walk up and down and up again and then around: This part of Central Park offers an intensely diverse nature-experience: the botanically ragged edges of the Harlem Meer - crowded with rushes and edible weeds; the formal gardens (crammed with edible chrysanthemums...just saying); the politely exuberant English Garden; and the more feral, natural slopes where sumacs, spicebush and pine suggest the nature that lies beneath the city grid that was laid across it.

Bring your birding binoculars and your appetites. The reward is a tasting-picnic on a hill, featuring some just-foraged goodies from Maine, as well as local autumnal goodness.

 Forest Snacks. Photo by Kiyoko

Edible NYBG
16 October 2022
11am - 1pm
$59 - $65

Gorgeous autumn! We'll be exploring the glorious grounds and meeting some of the interesting - edible - cosmopolitan plants of the city (like hardy orange and ginkgo) as well as fragrant firs of international and domestic repute, and native spices and herbs like spicebush and juniper.

I'll be serving a Forest Toddy and a wild-inspired snack.


Autumn at the Water
Hunter Island, Pelham Bay Park
22 October 2022
12.30pm - 3.30pm

Under mighty trees, on ancient rocks, overlooking islands like a mini-Maine, we will see autumn touch the best and wildest part of the Bronx. 

A year ago (exactly) we had a most marvelous walk in these woods and beside the water of the Long Island Sound. The tide was high and a brave cohort of walkers actually swam. While I can't promise swimmable weather, the suprising beauty of the place will still be there, and the walk is timed to meet that rising tide. 

We will picnic on an island in a fall-tinted sea of marsh grasses, and walk our way back in an explorative circle though the woods. 

If our fingers stay tightly crossed, and the rain gods are merciful, we may even see a mushroom or two. Otherwise, it will be sassafras and spicebush, acorns and pine, and all the botanical surprises that every walk yields.

If you are public transiting: It's a long subway ride, a short bus hop, and a 15 - 20 minute, one-mile walk (very safe). Take the 6 to the end of the line (Pelham Bay), transfer to the B24 bus to City Island. Make sure to hop off at City Island Circle before the bridge to City Island.

More details on sign up. 

Fully Booked

Autumn in Green-Wood
Historic Green-Wood, Brooklyn
29 October 2022
11am - 2pm

The most beautiful trees in the the city are turning color and losing their leaves. If rain has arrived, autumn's mushrooms may have appeared. 

Regardless of the whims of fungi, we will walk and talk under the stately and peacful giants and meet interesting edibles like native American persimmon, an acorn or three, Kentucky coffee beans, and ginkgo fruit. Yes, that ginkgo. As ever, edible lawn weeds will be woven under our feet.

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

Fully Booked

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