Russ Cohen is the regions foremost expert on wild edible plants. He is a self proclaimed “landscape nibbler” who tries to find something edible everywhere he goes. Russ lead our group of around 35 through out the edges and woods of Blue Heron farm. Organic farms are a great place to find edible species because they do not use pesticides and use only minimal fertilizers. Most farmers don’t mind you roaming along their perimeter looking for species if you ask for permission. The majority of the species we found are considered invasive.
Upon arrival, Russ greeted us with two snacks. First, a homemade fruit leather made from the autumn olive berry. It tasted tart, much like a good cranberry. The consistency was equavilent to the fruit leathers we remember from our snack cart days in school. Russ boiled the berries down with some sugar. The result was put through a sieve then poured onto a baking sheet to dry. After tasting, we then washed the leathers down with some staghorn sumac juice. A tasty and tart tea-like drink reminicent to lemonade. Fairly simple to create, just grab a few staghorn berry clusters and let them steep in water.
To the left is Queens Anne’s Lace. The root of this plant is actually a wild carrot. Amateur foragers beware because the leaves of this species do resemble the poison hemlock.
Further on we came across Sweetfern. The Sweetfern has many uses including insect repellent and poison ivy relief. Colonials steeped the leaves as a tea during the tea party era, wikipedia also lists this species as redneck reefer.
We also found Wood Sorrel which looks like heart-shaped clover and tastes like lemon; a great addition to salads.
We came across immature Concord grapes and learned that grape leaves are excellent for pickling by helping to keep things crisp.
I spotted a huge chicken mushroom , also known as a sulfur shelf, that was just starting to decompose.
Finally, on the way back we came across husk tomatoes , or ground cherries. Deliciously sweet like little candies.
We learned a lot and found quite a few edible species in a small amount of space and time. We even picked up Russ’ book, "Wild Plants I Have Known...and Eaten" to help us identify species on our own on future foraging expeditions. Russ leads many walks throughout the year and if you have any interest on this subject, we highly recommend partaking in one.