This Saturday, get a taste of the wild during Backyard Abundance’s food foraging class

Foraging class!
Foraging can be a great way to get back in touch with the environment. — photo by Fred Benenson

Backyard Abundance will host a free food foraging class for area residents looking to enhance their knowledge on how to locate and identify wild, edible plants, flowers and fungi. The class is open to the public and will take place this Saturday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Bluestem Shelter at the Lake MacBride Nature Recreation Area.

Backyard Abundance director Fred Meyer said the idea to put on the event was born from a conversation with Mike Loots this past spring about ongoing environmental predicaments.

“People do not see value in a healthy environment because we see ourselves as completely separate from it,” said Meyer. “Food comes from a grocery store, material necessities wait on store shelves, vacation is a plane trip away and entertainment is found on hundreds of TV channels … With almost zero interaction in the natural environment, why would we concern ourselves with it?”

So what do Meyer and Loot see as the solution? Teach people how to forage.

“We thought foraging for food in a public space would accomplish several goals,” Meyer said. “First and foremost, it would get people outside, interacting with the natural world in a fun way.”

The non-profit director also anticipates the class will get participants to eat food in a way that connects them to other animals on the planet, demonstrating that humans are not a special species separate from nature.

“Our hope is that people will begin connecting back to [the natural world], or at minimum, realize that its protection is important for our long-term health.”

For Loots, a language arts teacher at Northwest Junior High School, foraging is all about connecting with nature.

“To forage we must listen more than speak, to look more than show, to ask humbly and wait for a reply,” said Loots.

During Saturday’s early-evening excursion, Meyer expects attendants will receive a “reply” from the nettles, dandelions, bramble leaves, violets and potentially Queen Ann’s Lace that attendees may encounter. Other available edibles could include elderberries, rose hips and wild plums.

“Have you ever had a ripe wild plum off the tree?” Meyer asked. “It is like a little ball of sugar and juice … my mouth is watering just thinking about it.”