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Successful May Morel Forage!

General Posts, Identification
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Thanks so much to everyone who joined us for our May Morel Forage today! And my sincerest heartfelt apologies to those who tried to come out and got stuck in marathon traffic. (And congratulations to all the runners out there who ran the Pittsburgh marathon and half marathon!!)

Happy Morel Hunters with Morels

Happy Morel Hunters with Morels

We had an awesome day, everyone found morels (Morchella semilibera). We also found some very young tender Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) which should also be very tasty!

Half-free Morel, Morchella semilibera

Half-free Morel, Morchella semilibera

The inside of the half-free, just like that of other true morels (black, gray and yellow) will be hollow:

You can see how this half-free morel stem is completely hollow. Also, the top of the morel is attached almost at its bottom, not at the tip top.

You can see how this half-free morel stem is completely hollow. Also, the top of the morel is attached partway down, leaving a "skirt" and giving it its common name: "half-free."

The stalk of this morel is much more tender and delicate than that of the other morels (which can be tough and rubbery), and is great chopped up and sauteed along with the cap, making for quite a meaty meal.

We identified lots of other wild edibles on our way to the morels, including our first sighting of Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) of the year.

Lambsquarters, Chenopodium album

Lambsquarters, Chenopodium album

In addition to the Lambsquarters, Morels and Dryad’s Saddle, other edibles we saw and discussed included:

  • Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata
  • Onion Grass
  • Burdock, Arctium
  • Broad-Leaf Dock, Rumex obtusifolius
  • Plantain, Plantago major
  • Deadnettles, Lamium purpureum
  • Chickweed, Stellari media
  • Purple Violet, Viola
  • Yellow Wood Violet, Viola biflora
  • Mayapples, Podophyllum peltatum
  • Dandelion, Taraxacum officinalis

Thanks so much to everyone who came! Get out there and look for morels…they are just coming up in Western Pa! The yellow morels follow the half-free, so we should have at least 3 more weeks of happy hunting!

yellow morel mushroom

yellow morel mushroom

More local information about mushrooms can be found with the Western PA Mushroom Club. You can attend a monthly meeting or go on one of their weekly hikes…if you are interested in learning more about mushrooms this is a great place!

And make sure to do a thorough “tick check” when you come out of the woods…there seem to be an abundance of ticks this year!

Happy hunting, stay safe,

~ Melissa Sokulski

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Screen-Free Week: 11 Ways To Get Out and Enjoy Nature!

General Posts
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It’s almost  Screen-Free Week and here in Western PA it couldn’t have come at a better time! It’s FINALLY getting warm, morels are just popping up, cheery dandelions are everywhere, and bird migration is getting into full swing - tons of songbirds are making their way back to and through the area! Here are Food Under Foot’s outdoorsy, nature-oriented suggestions for keeping you so busy you won’t even miss your tv/computer/social media!

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Here are sojme ideas for ways to spend your screen free week from Food Under Foot. It’s what we’ll be doing this week!

1. Go Camping

We absolutely LOVE camping here at Food Under Foot - especially during morel (and dryad’s saddle) season! Last year we stayed in a yurt at Keystone State Park, where in addition to roasting morels over the fire we watched an osprey catch a fish in the lake, watched a hawk catch its dinner on land (both birds of prey flew their catches up into a tree just feet from the yurt to eat!), saw lots of colorful migrating songbirds flitting around in the woods, watched the gazillions of frogs and even took a dip in the lake!

Dryad's Saddle, An Edible Polypore Mushroom

Dryad's Saddle, An Edible Polypore Mushroom

2. Forage for Mushrooms/Hike with a local mushroom group

It’s morel season! If you are not sure how to identify this mushroom, look into going on a hike with your local mushroom group. If you live in Western PA, you are lucky enough to have the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Group nearby, if you don’t, check the North American Mycological Association for a group near you.

morel mushroom

morel mushroom

3. Have an Afternoon Tea, with Dandelion Tea Cake

Dandelions are easy to come by this time of year! Pick lots of the flowers from an unsprayed area away from the roadside, and follow this recipe for delicious Dandelion Tea Cake.

Dandelion Tea Cake

Dandelion Tea Cake

4. Go for a Bike Ride

Bike trails are great ways to see the country side! Here in Pittsburgh we are lucky enough to have the Great Allegheny Passage Rails for Trails, which goes along rivers and cuts through woods and countrysides, weaving through bike towns.  Bring your camera to photograph all the lovely native wildflowers, such as trillium, which are in bloom right now.

Native Wildflower - White Trillium

Native Wildflower - White Trillium

5. Go Birding

Bird migration is in full swing! Check out your local Audubon, they are likely having weekly bird walks these days! Or just grab some binoculars and a bird guide book and head out to the river or the woods (or the feeder in your yard!) If you don’t have a bird feeder in your yard, you can make one out of pinecones, peanut butter and seeds, or use an old milk container.

Robin Making A Nest

Robin Making A Nest

6. Nature Journaling

Foraging is fun, but sometimes I like to head out with a sketchbook and pencils or watercolors and capture my experience on paper. This is a great way to hone your observation and identification skills, and get to know plants, mushrooms and animals a lot better. You don’t have to be an artist, just brave and adventurous!

Watercolor of Morels

Watercolor Morels

7. Write…about Nature

Write a handwritten letter to someone, write a story, write a journal entry and if you need a prompt: write about the nature you have been observing this week, and your experience of being screen-free.

comic

8. Read a book with great nature writing.

goneaway

Some of my favorite include:

Elizabeth Enright: Gone Away Lake, Return to Gone Away Lake, The Four Story Mistake, And Then There Were Five….well, just anything by Elizabeth Enright!

The Penderwicks in Spring, Jeanne Birdsall

Walden Pond, Thoreau

Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey

Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury

Red Tails in Love, Marie Winn

9. Cartoon Chronicle Your Experience of Screen Free Week

hiatus

10. Go Foraging, of course!

Here are some things that are up right now where we are:

dandelion flowers

dandelion flowers

  • dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)
  • morel mushrooms, Morchella
  • dryad’s saddle mushrooms, Polyporus squamosus
  • garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
  • onion grass/wild chives
  • deadnettles, Lamium purpureum
  • stinging nettles, Urtica dioica
  • ground ivy, (Glechoma hederacea)
  • Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum, or Fallopia japonica)
  • fiddleheads (please harvest sustainably!!)
  • ramps (sustainably, please!)
  • wild ginger (sustainably!)
  • burdock, Arctium
  • mullein (medicinal)
  • motherwort (medicinal)
  • catnip (medicinal) (Nepita cataria)
  • broad-leaf dock
  • yellow dock, (Rumex crispus)
  • violet, (Viola)
  • wild asparagus
  • winter cress (yellow rocket), Barbarea
  • chickweed (Stellaria media)
  • plantain (Plantago major and P. lanceolatata)
  • cleavers (Galium aparine)
  • Redbud Flowers (Cercis canadensis)

Redbud Flowers

Redbud Flowers

11.  Make Dandelion Wine

dandelionwine

Why not? There are plenty of dandelions out there. You can use our Dandelion Wine recipe. And while you’re at it, read Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. If you’re not into wine, you can try your hand at Dandelion Fritters, served with maple syrup.

These suggestions should keep you busy and happy and not even missing the tv or computer screen!

Have fun, and if you have other suggestions please post them below.

See you on the flip side!

~ Melissa Sokulski

Food Under Foot

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A Walk Through Frick Park

General Posts
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Getting ready for our walk this Sunday at Frick Park Earth Day, I decided to check out the area where the walk is scheduled.

This year Earth Day is in a NEW location, Lower Frick Parking Lot.

Sign in near the parking lot a half hour before the walk, and you will be directed to our walks which begin at Falls Ravine Trail at 1 pm and 3 pm.

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I saw lots of amazing plants and animals today walking around there…we are sure to have an amazing walk on Sunday. Hope to see you there!

Deadnettles, Lamium purpurea

Deadnettles, Lamium purpurea

Creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea

Creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea

Mayapple, Podophyllum

Mayapple, Podophyllum

Plantain, Plantago major - just coming up

Plantain, Plantago major - just coming up

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara

Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica

Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica

Violet, Viola

Violet Leaves, Viola

Violet Flower, Viola

Violet Flower, Viola

Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata

Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata

Cutleaf Toothwort

Cutleaf Toothwort

Dutchman's Britches

Dutchman's Britches

Trout Lily

Trout Lily

Broad Leaf Dock

Broad Leaf Dock

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Burdock

Burdock

Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris

Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris

And many many more (edible) plants! It is going to be a great walk - plenty to discuss!!

And as if plant life isn’t abundant enough, check out  some of the animals we saw today:

Big Black Rat Snake

Big Black Rat Snake

Red Winged Blackbird

Red Winged Blackbird

Robins: the male's head is darker than his back, the female's head and back are the same.

Robins: the male's head is darker than his back, the female's head and back are the same.

There are all kinds of walks to choose from, on the hour from 12 to 4 (last walk at 3.) Our wild edibles walks are at 1 and 3.  Get there early to sign up! The full list of walks is here.  Our walks at 1 and 3  are called Wild Edibles Walk, there’s another wild walk at 12 and 2 called Foraged Flavors, which I’m sure will be lovely as well.

If you can’t make it this Sunday we will be going again in two weeks - on a two hour excursion through the park identifying wild edibles and looking for morels! Find out more about that walk here.

See you soon!

~ Melissa Sokulski

Food Under Foot

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More April Edibles

General Posts, Identification
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Today I walked around Frick Park (getting ready for next weekend’s walks for Frick Park Earth Day!) I also snapped a few more pictures of plants in the neighborhood; lots of great stuff coming up!

Last year's crab apples with this year's new leaves

Last year's crabapples (Malus) with this year's new leaves

Chickweed, Stellaria media

Chickweed, Stellaria media

Mullein, Verbascum

Mullein, Verbascum

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Deadnettles, Lamium purpureum

Deadnettles, Lamium purpureum

Japanese knotweed, Fallopia japonica also Polygonum cuspidatum

Japanese knotweed, Fallopia japonica also Polygonum cuspidatum

Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca

Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca

So much coming up!

Now is a great time to start with a wild plant ally.  If you haven’t gotten your wild ally workbook yet, NOW is the time! It is still pay-what-you-choose, and it is a great time to start the process of observing and learning.

As new plant life emerges every day, I encourage you to choose an abundant local weed - like dandelion, nettles, plantain, violet, or burdock - and study it throughout the year.

The workbook guides you through exercises, gives you suggestions and space to explore your plant ally, and in the process learn deeply about wild edibles, healing, and the natural world.

Once you have your workbook, you can use it year after year, exploring new edible plants as you like. A great tool for homeschoolers, nature explorers and learners of all ages! This is how I began learning about wild edibles (dandelion was my first wild ally).

I would love to hear what you choose as a wild ally! Comment below or send me an email.

Visit our previous posts to see what else is around:

Festive Foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski of Food Under Foot



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April Walk Through Schenley Park

General Posts, Identification
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I took a little walk through the woods of Schenley Park today. Here’s what I saw:

Bunch of Garlic Mustard

Bunch of Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard Getting Ready to Bolt and Flower

Garlic Mustard Getting Ready to Bolt and Flower

Burdock

Burdock

Burdock with Ground Eroded Away, Exposing Taproot

Burdock with Ground Eroded Away, Exposing Taproot

Burdock with Taproot

Baby Burdock with Taproot

Dandelion Leaves

Dandelion Leaves

Flowering Dandelion

Flowering Dandelion

Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Row of Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Row of Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Motherwort (medicinal)

Motherwort (medicinal)

Forsythia (medicinal)

Forsythia (medicinal)

Broad Leaf Dock

Broad Leaf Dock

Tomorrow I’m going to Frick…I will bring my camera and let you know what I find!

Be sure to join us on our upcoming walks, scheduled for April 19 and May 3 (Morel Hunt + wild walk!)

For more pictures of April wild edibles, including nettles and chickweed, see my April Showers blog post.

Festive Foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski

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Wild Walks and Mushroom Foray scheduled!

General Posts
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Frick Park Earth Day Walks

Our first walks will be at Frick Park Earth Day Celebration!
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This year walks on Earth Day at Frick Park are Sunday, April 19, from 12 - 4. Our walks will be at 1 and 3, each for 45 minutes.
The city foots the bill, so these Earth Day walks are free to you, all you have to do is show up! Just get there a bit early so you can sign up, the walks are usually limited to 20 people each.
There will be other walks as well: mushroom walks, spider walks, tree id walks, herp walk (lizards and salamanders), bird walks. It’s a great day, hope to see you there!


Join Us Morel Mushrooming!

Let’s forage for morels together! We can’t guarantee we’ll find morels, but we’ll take you to places we’ve found morels in the past.  We’ll also identify other wild edibles as we hike along looking for mushrooms.

Please join us for our first walks this month, and a mushroom foray in early May.

Bring a basket, paper bag or mesh bag (you can reuse the ones you get from buying onions or oranges) to collect morels, and some water to drink.
When: Sunday May 3, 2015, 11 am - 1 pm
Where: Frick Park. You will receive exact start location upon registration.
Price: $15 adults
$5 kids 6 - 12
Free kids 5 and under

RSVP: Please let us know you are coming! If enough people want to go we will add another day. Email Melissa@FoodUnderFoot.com to RSVP. Please tell us your name, phone number, and how many people in your party. Thanks!

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April Showers Bring Mushrooms, Edible Weeds and Flowers!

General Posts, Identification
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I love April!

This is the month - here in the Northeast anyway - when the earth really wakes up.

Last month was deliciously full of maple sap (which I added as the liquid in my smoothies), and here and there things were coming up: garlic mustard, onion grass, nettles, deadnettles, and chickweed.

But this month - wow! By the end of the month we’ll be grilling morel mushrooms and making dandelion wine.

I just went out for a quick tour around my tiny, north-facing slope of a backyard and here is what I found:

Onion Grass

Onion Grass

Broad Leaf Dock

Broad Leaf Dock, Rumex obtusifolius

Hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta

Hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta

Creeping Charlie, Glechoma hederacea

Creeping Charlie, Glechoma hederacea

Day Lilies

Daylily, Hemerocallis

wild carrot, Daucus carota

Wild carrot, Daucus carota, which I recommend skipping because there is too much poison hemlock around, which is a look-alike to wild carrot, and that is not a mistake you want to make!

catnip, Nepta cataria

catnip, Nepeta cataria

white clover

white clover, Trifolium repens

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinalis

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinalis

Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica

Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica

Curly - or yellow - dock, Rumex crispus

Curly - or yellow - dock, Rumex crispus

Chickweed, Stellaria media

Chickweed, Stellaria media

Now is an excellent time to get those dandelion greens - the flowers haven’t bloomed yet so the leaves aren’t as bitter as they will be. It’s also a great time to harvest the roots for tincture, tea, or coffee substitute. All parts of dandelion are edible and it is very good for the liver.

Before the month is through we will see Japanese Knotweed, Dryad Saddle Mushroom and Morel Mushroom. The garlic mustard will be flowering, as will the violets. Cleavers is sprouting up now and we might even see lambsquarters by April 30. It’s a fun month for foragers!

So dig out your foraging basket and get out there!

We have walks scheduled at Frick Park’s Earth Day on Sunday April 19, and a Morel Hunt in early May - we hope to see you there! Make sure you are signed up for our newsletter (upper right part of the website, in the green box) for more details!

But take care out there as well! Though I put a picture up of wild carrot, there is also poison hemlock out there - and it is taking over! So avoid the wild carrot because mistaking it for hemlock is not a mistake you want to make!

Forage well and safely,

Melissa

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Nettle Infusion

General Posts, Herb, Medicinal, Recipes
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Next month the bright green nettles will burst from the ground. Spring will arrive and the abundant world of wild edibles will begin anew.

Early Spring Nettles

Early Spring Nettles

Until then, I have stores of dried plants and herbs to use up. One of my favorite winter drinks is nettle infusion.

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Tea, Infusion, Decoction - what’s the difference?

When we think of tea we probably think of a tea bag which turns hot water brown and delicious. In fact, “tea” is a term properly used only when making the tea from one plant, the tea plant, or Camellia sinensis. Depending on how it is prepared, if it is wilted and how long it is oxidized or fermented, depends on whether it will be white, green, oolong or black tea.

Today we also drink herbal tea, which though technically is not “tea” since it is made with plants other than Camellia sinensis, is still plants steeped in water, which imparts flavor and medicinal properties into the drink.

Infusions and Decoctions are stronger medicinal drinks. They take a bit more work to make and are deeply healing.

Infusions: boiling water is poured over plant matter - usually leaves and flowers. It is then covered and left to steep at least four hours if not overnight.

Decoctions: plant matter - often roots, sticks and seeds - is simmered in water on the stove for at least 30 minutes.  Chinese medicinal tea is usually cooked as a decoction, with any aromatic elements - like mint leaves - added at the very end, when the stove is turned off.

Nettle Infusion - Urtica dioica

  • Take a quart jar and cover the bottom with about 1/2 inch of dried nettles.
  • Pour boiled water over the nettles to fill the jar
  • Place the flat part of the lid over the top. I don’t screw the ring on, but I do cover the jar.
  • Let steep four hours to overnight.
  • Strain and enjoy, either heated or at room temperature.
  • Will keep for 3 days stored in refrigerator.

Add 1/2 inch dried nettles to the bottom of a jar

Add 1/2 inch dried nettles to the bottom of a jar

Add boiling water

Add boiling water

After a few hours the infusion becomes dark and the nettles have expanded

After a few hours the infusion becomes dark and the nettles have expanded

Nettles is a fantastic herb for overall health. It is full of vitamins and minerals, including calcium. I have heard herbalist call nettle infusion “green milk.” It is particularly great for pregnant and nursing women, though pregnant women should start in small amounts and may want to consult with their midwife first.

Nettles is also known to influence the kidneys. When there is low back pain, knee pain, weakness, infertility, ringing in the ears, graying hair due to kidney energy deficiency, nettles is a great herb to take.

In Chinese medicine the kidney meridian influences reproduction, development, bones, brain, teeth. It is responsible for the emotions of fear, resolve, will and wisdom. The kidneys also govern pre and post natal jing, which is the energy you inherit from your parents and pass on to your children: your genes and dna.

Food Under Foot’s David Sokulski recently met a man from North Africa living in America. He was in his 20s when he got very sick. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is the type you are born with. This used to be referred to as Juvenile Diabetes (but now thanks to our awful diets of processed foods and sugar kids are getting Type 2 Diabetes - which used to be called Adult Onset Diabetes.) Type 1 means your body does not make insulin. Only 5% of diabetes today is Type 1, and it is thought that diet does not influence Type 1 the way it influences Type 2.

He was put on insulin. His mother sent him dried nettles from North Africa and told him to drink a daily infusion of it. When he ran out he bought more here.  Soon his doctor needed to lower his insulin, then take him off completely. His Type 1 diabetes - thought to be incurable - was no longer showing up.

He continues to drink the nettle infusion. He worked up to three cups a day but developed a rash, so he backed off back to one cup a day.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT medical advice! Please do not remove or adjust ANY medications without consulting a doctor! It is simply an interesting true story about nettles I wanted to relay to you.

You can also add nettle infusion as a base for smoothies, soups, and risotto.

I also like to add dried nettles to soup and smoothies.

Enjoy your wild pantry! The sun is out today…I can tell spring is in the air!

~ Melissa of Food Under Foot

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