For those of you who have had at least one experience foraging wild food, you understand how it changes your vision. When walking, biking, and driving your eyes are now drawn to finding food amongst the plants and trees. It is like a whole new world has opened up and invited you in. You find yourself taking photos and asking friends with more experience, “Can I eat this?” Facebook has groups where people post photos of their discoveries and ask “friends” to help them id the plant and if what they found is edible. Foraging is like hunting for hidden treasures, but without the tools the treasures remain hidden.
You can obtain the tools to find these hidden treasures by taking Pat Armstrong’s Edible Wild Plants courses. Pat will teach you the basics of plant identification and about the common edible plant families in the seasonal Introduction to Plant Identification classes. Once you have basic plant id skills, you can advance to the seasonal courses where you will learn about the seasonal edible wild plants to be discovered in our area. Each course focuses on about 70 different plants that grow in our biome and can be harvested during that season. Pat will teach you how to identify the plants, what part to harvest, when to harvest, how to prepare the harvest, and because each class includes samplings, you can experience the taste of a few.
Pat takes the time to collect and bring live specimens of the plants to class and then takes you on field trips so you can practice your new plant id skills in nature. She always prepares a few seasonal foods for you to sample, like Persimmon Bread or Nutty Wild Rice & Berries or Sumacade – yum! Each student prepares at least one recipe using one or more of the plants taught during the course and shares it with fellow students. Lisa Stuart, a Edible Wild Plant Certificate graduate, loves to cook and prepared Stinging Nettle Chocolate Mint Ice Cream in summer, Elderberry Cheesecake with 5-Nut Crust & Wild Black Raspberry Coulis in fall, Field & Forest Chocolate Chip Cookies in winter, and Wild Nettles Quiche in spring. Her recipes, along with other Edible Wild Plant students’ recipes, are assembled into an annual recipe book given to each graduate, with some books available for others to purchase.
In April, Pat will begin teaching a one evening Intro to Summer Plant Identification class and the advanced Feast on Flowers – Summer Edible Wild Plants course – taught over six Tuesday evenings, including two field trips. Here are what a few of her students have to say about Pat and these courses:
“For those who have not spent much time out in nature, these classes will open a whole new world you didn’t know existed. For those who have, these classes will greatly increase your appreciation and connection with nature. The instructor Pat, is your tour guide for this journey. She is a local expert and freely shares all the knowledge and wisdom she has accumulated over the years. I think there should be cautions or warning signs on these classes. Caution: May be prone to identify wild edibles while driving. Caution: May start bringing strange things home for family dinner. Caution: may start seeing health improve as a result of eating wild edibles!
To your wild journeys!” ~ Ellyn Schmitz
“I had some previous foraging experience prior to signing up for the wild edibles certificate program and was amazed to learn the wide variety of plants and trees we can use for food. Pat Armstrong is a gifted teacher and is passionate about wild foods and enjoying nature’s abundance. We learned the edible parts of each plant, when to harvest and how to best prepare them. Pat would often include interesting ethnobotanical information on the uses of plants as food and medicine throughout history.” ~ Lisa Stuart
“I am currently working on my Edible Wild Plants Certificate at TRI. The classes have opened up another way for me to understand and relate to nature. Pat Armstrong not only brings a depth of knowledge but a lifetime of commitment to living sustainably to her classes. Since taking the classes I have incorporated several nutritious wild edible plants into my diet and have been able to spark an interest in edible plant identification in my grandson. Now when we go on vacation or take a walk in the woods we recognize and appreciate the worth of plants we used to just walk by. And, where allowable, we harvest and enjoy them!” ~ Jean Ruffin