Walks + Forage Picnics

Summer class in the weeds. Photo by Juliana Sohn

Welcome to my plant-walk page! 

Please scroll down if you'd like to buy a gift-walk, or to see the current schedule of walks. Pop-up walks are first posted on my Instagram page @66squarefeet. And 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 to get news about scheduled walks please email me at myviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com. 

My second book, Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine, is all about edible plants and how to forage, grow, and use them. There are 510 recipes exploring the range of possibilities for these delicious and very versatile botanical ingredients. Order from your nearest bookshop or, you know, Amazon.

About my Walks

I lead plant identification and nature walks 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 a city.

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 pretty much any plant we encounter: So-called weeds, or plants whose habit is invasive; exotic plants (introduced species) that have culinary uses; and native plants, some of which could - and should, but still don't - define an authentic regional cuisine. 

In terms of edible plants, 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; pollution issues; sustainability; the relationship between invasive plants and natives, and why it does actually matter, if we care about the planet and 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 at our feet, and above our heads.

The group-size for walks is small, low-impact, and personal. It's not unusual for new friendships to grow over the course of the walk. Meet plants, make friends!

Winter walk

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, and 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.

Ways to Walk and Talk

Scheduled Walks - seasonal walks are booked via this page (scroll down).
Gift Walks - buy an open ticket to any scheduled walk, for someone you like.
Private Walks - for institutions, corporate groups, schools, families, friends.
Plant Identification - I identify plants on your land, public space, or in your garden.
Talks, Classes - for botanic gardens, conservancies, garden clubs, etc.
Consultation - native and edible garden creation, wild recipes, mixology.

Buy a Gift Walk

You can buy a ticket or tickets to any of my scheduled walks (with tasting picnics) via the button below. They are valid for one year from the date of purchase. I will reach out to you via the email address you provide at check out. The giftee should reserve their spot/s by emailing me as soon as they see a posted walk that suits their schedule, since these walks are open to public booking and may sell out quickly. Gift tickets are $80 and are non-refundable.

* (Private walks at a time and place of your choosing are available by prior arrangement, and are priced differently.)

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Frequent Walker Miles

Join the club! 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

Cancellations up to seven days before a walk receive a refund, minus PayPal's processing fee. Cancellations up to 48 hours ahead of a walk will receive credit for a future walk (to be used within a year from the purchase-date). Cancellations within 48 hours of a walk are non-refundable (this includes Gift Walk tickets, which will be forfeited). 

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

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

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Late Winter and Early Spring 2023


One. Green. Thing
Prospect Park
11 February 2023
11.30am - 2pm
$60

Has January has not been the greyest, mildest winter month New York has ever seen? Still, you never know: Real winter may arrive in February. Regardless - snow, or no-snow, the leaf-littered floor of the urban woods are very brown, with the exception of one. green. thing. Field garlic.

This unassuming wild chive is packed with flavor and as versatile as any other member of the Allium (that would be onion) genus. Plus, it's considered a weedy invasive plant, so we can collect it with a clear conscience in terms of the immediate environment. We'll learn about some possible toxic lookalikes, and some ways to make the best use of this pungent wild herb. 

We will also pay attention to sticks. And bark. And fragrant twigs. Winter is an outstanding time to take stock of the landscape and to identify future, spring forages.

Our wild-inspired picnic will be built around a piping-hot tomato and spicebush soup spiked with, yes...you guessed it! One. green. thing.


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Winter in the Dunes
Fort Tilden
18 February 2023
12pm - 3pm
$65

It'll be fun! Wear your woolly hats, your earmuffs, and your most snug fingerless gloves (you're going to need your fingers). If the weather is fine the beach in winter is a good place to be. Also, possible bonus sightings of seals... And sometimes even loons, way out on the water (I'm talking to you, birders).

We're going to be collecting a resinous treat for jamming: Tiny, sticky, baby pine cones. There will also be fragrant juniper needles, nifty mugwort sticks, and colonies of invasive white poplar (a species of cottonwood) whose buds may be within reach. They infuse oil and honey for balm and for sipping therapy.

Hot pine toddy will be served. And a few other goodies, too.

Details will be emailed (as usual) in the week of the walk. 


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The Wobbly Log
Prospect Park
25 February 2023
11am - 1pm
$60

There is a gift that winter gives: wood ears. These soft, gelatinous mushrooms grow on decaying logs, on which they feed. Yum. It's how fallen trees become forest-floor. And they are shape shifters. One day wood ears may be brittle and dessicated, no-way-this-is-edible. The next, they are disconcertingly alive, plump, and soft as velvet. Hmmmm, how-do-I-eat this? We can't know how they will be on our walk-day, but we will meet them. And, tucked into our forage picnic, we will eat them, too.

You could buy wood ears, of course: Many East Asian markets sell the mushrooms, dried. But seeing and touching them up close in your own neighborhood is a lot of fun. Especially if you know that it is valued and versatile, and growing in plain sight, once you know how - and where - to look.

And...we will talk about everything else we see, too: Pokeweed sticks, burdock burs, Japanese knotweed canes - all the signs of good food-things to come.


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Sugar Moon
Inwood Hill Park
11 March 2023
12pm - 3pm
$65.00
 
March is the month of the Sugar Moon, the last full moon before spring (full moon is on March 7th this year), and so-named for the rising of sweet sap. One thing we are guaranteed to discover in this wilderness of a park at Manhattan's northern tip is spicebush, whose buds will be swollen and plump, and whose twigs are deliciously fragrant. 

With March, you never know. It's fierce or it's gentle. I have walked in Inwood Hill Park in late March across a crunching layer of snow,  and I have foraged happily for field garlic, day lily shoots and garlic mustard, fresh and green among the dead leaves of winter, with not a snowflake in the forecast. Join the adventure!

Our picnic will be spicebush- and spring green-centric.

 
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Vernal Equinox Social
Prospect Park
Monday, 20 March 2023
5pm - 6.30pm
$50

Short and sweet: Join us after work to mark and toast this first day of spring. Daylight savings time has returned! Evenings are bright again! Spring is on its way... We will have a quick walk More like a scamper), hunting for the green, the edible, and the fragrant, and then we will gather and sip and celebrate the return of the growing season. There will be a choice of two drinks, hooch-less and hooch-y (also - served cold if it's a ice day, or steaming-hot if it's not!). And a canapé to showcase the most tender green things of March.


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Bud Break
Historic Green-Wood Cemetery
25th March 2023
11am - 1.30pm
$68.00

Standing beneath the beautiful, still-bare, but changing trees of Green-Wood, we will contemplate bud-break. Magnolia, maple and tulip tree buds will be swelling and opening.


Under our feet a mesmerizing tapestry of edible plants is breaking loose, showing what a lawn can be: Dandelions, bittercress, chickweed, ground ivy, and dead nettle are all useful weeds that boost a lawn's biodiversity and offer food for early bees. And humans!

We'll also meet firs and pines, juniper and dawn redwood, mugwort, field garlic  and more.

$5 from each ticket sale will be donated to the Historic Green-Wood Fund.


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2 comments:

  1. Thank you for keeping alive the Magical natural world !

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thought,,, I haven't joined your field guide tour for a while, your note is always breathtaking treat for me. Thank you, Marie-san!

    ReplyDelete

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