Foraging Pittsburgh

Wild Food Walks, Workshops, & Guided Nature Hikes

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New Event: Spring Foraging Workshop & Hike


I am happy to announce that I will be hosting the 2016 Spring Foraging Workshop & Hike on Saturday, April 16th at North Park in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Spring is the perfect time to learn the skills involved in foraging for wild food. Roots, tubers, shoots, greens, buds, and flowers are among the various plant structures that are available for harvesting.   Learn how to properly identify and harvest various wild species in Pennsylvania so that you can achieve greater levels of health, self-reliance, and nature connection.

The first part of the event will feature a presentation and discussion on springtime edible wild plants and mushrooms. During the second part of the event, we will explore the trails of North Park and discover, discuss, and learn about the edible plants in their habitats.

By attending the Spring Foraging Workshop & Hike on April 16th, you will learn:

  • The importance of foraging for wild edible plants and mushrooms
  • Sustainable harvesting practices
  • Wild plant identification
  • Tree identification
  • Edible and medicinal uses of trees
  • Wild plant nutrition
  • Harvesting methods
  • Culinary applications
  • Medicinal benefits

…and much more!

Interested in spending an afternoon with a great group of foragers?  Here are the details:

When: Saturday, April 16th
Time: 1pm – 4:30pm
Where: North Park — Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Investment: $45

While this event will mainly focus on edible plants and trees, we will also briefly discuss wild springtime mushrooms and other fungi.

This event will take place rain or shine, and it will entail light hiking. Space for this event is limited in order to maximize the learning environment, and registration with payment in advance is required. The exact meeting location will be provided upon registration.

To register, please contact me (Adam) at:

I hope to see you there!

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Skunk Cabbage — Calcium Oxalates Or Something Else?


Eastern skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is one of our first native wildflowers to appear in Pennsylvania.  Look around wet, swampy areas… and you might see a patch.  Or, you might smell a patch.  (They emit a strange, somewhat malodorous fragrance.)

Skunk cabbage is edible when properly processed.  This typically involves boiling the folded green leaves (which appear after the flowering stage) in a few changes of water.  If you skip this step, you will experience a strong burning sensation in your mouth.

Most sources claim that this burning sensation is caused by insoluble calcium oxalate crystals.  Interestingly, however, additional research suggests that calcium oxalate crystals may NOT be to blame.  Or at least they may not be the only compounds to blame…

Other members of the Araceae family (of which skunk cabbage is a part) demonstrate similar burning sensations… sometimes far worse and toxic.  However, researchers studying these other species have suggested that compounds other than calcium oxalates — for example, a proteolytic enzyme — are the primary causal agents for this irritation.

Well, the leaves of skunk cabbage still require processing — whether or not calcium oxalate crystals are the primary irritants.  And if you have never considered eating skunk cabbage, perhaps this will be your year!

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Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) For Atherosclerosis


This is a common winter sight near wetter areas in Pennsylvania — the fertile fronds of sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis).

The green fronds (which are sterile) are gone this time of year, having succumbed to the first signs of frost months ago (hence the name “sensitive”).

Even if nature isn’t our thing, we can still appreciate this species… because… sensitive fern may hold value in modern medicine.  Research suggests that an ethanol extract from this species has the potential to prevent atherosclerosis — a pretty serious condition which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Of course, many lifestyle habits can help to prevent atherosclerosis, though remember — nature is certainly no stranger when it comes to offering (the best) solutions.

Anyway, check out sensitive fern on your next walk around the pond!

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Vitamin C Content of Conifers


Eat pines, not pills!

While this list focuses on the leaves of conifers, vitamin C is also concentrated in the inner bark of many species (for example, eastern white pine inner bark at 100g contains approximately 200mg of vitamin C).

Vitamin C is prevalent year-round, though there is a trend of increasing content during the growing season for many conifers, with levels typically reaching their highest in the autumn months.

How do you prefer to get your vitamin C?

*Sources for this list include Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2009), Canadian Medical Association Journal (1943), and Farmacia (2013).

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The Sugar In Maple Syrup Can Be 3-5 Years Old


Tap a maple tree, and the liquid tastes slightly sweet.  Did you know, however, that the sugars (mainly sucrose) in this sap can be 3-5 years old?

Interesting new research suggests that sugar maple trees (Acer saccharum) store atmospheric carbon over several growing seasons… essentially building reserves to be drawn upon in times of stress, drought, or defoliation by insects.  Humans formerly thought that all sugars were stored from the previous year’s growing season.  This research suggests otherwise (1).

When the sap begins to flow in late winter/early spring, the maple tree draws upon several years of carbon storage to build its sugars. At least that’s how the new theory goes.

Relevant to you?  Who knows!  Interesting, though.

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Lion’s Mane Mushroom For Depression


Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) for depression… ever consider it?  If you haven’t, perhaps the results from a particular study may change your mind (1).

Consuming 2 grams a day for 4 weeks reduced depression and anxiety in female subjects. Results were evaluated using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (CES-D) — a common self-screening test used to measure depressive feelings and behaviors.

Lion’s mane has been well researched in the cognitive-improvement arena, so it makes sense that this mushroom might also play some role in alleviating depressive symptoms.  The researchers in this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial suggested that 2 classes of nerve growth factor promoting compounds — hericenones and erinacines — might have something to do with the results, though “more research is needed.”  (Isn’t this always the case?)

Regardless, seriously consider checking out this mushroom if your mental state isn’t feeling so strong.  No — depression isn’t caused by a deficiency of an icicle-like fungus, though it may have something to do with a complete lack of nature connection.

Therefore, seek out wild lion’s mane, and perhaps the act of spending time in nature will do more for your well-being than any mushroom alone ever could.

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Ceramic Parchment Fungus (Xylobolus frustulatus)


Okay, so it doesn’t look like the most exciting thing we could ever hope to find in the forest, but without it, those fallen oak trees would have a pretty difficult time recycling back into the earth.

This is Xylobolus frustulatus, or ceramic parchment — a crust fungus that degrades lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose in oak trees. While it performs most of its work on the microscopic level, its presence can be detected by these tile-like “frustules” that cover logs, sticks, and stumps.

It’s fairly common and available for appreciation year-round, so if you find yourself walking through the woods, take a look around and say hello to your friendly crust fungus, Xylobolus frustulatus.

Photograph taken December 2015 at Hartwood Acres, Western Pennsylvania

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Hang Out In A Place Like This, And It’ll All Make Sense


May I ask you a question?

If you close your eyes and imagine yourself fully relaxed and stress-free, incredibly content with the feeling of complete freedom — where would that be?  What would your surroundings look like?

For some of us, the beach comes to mind.  For others, the mountains are calling.  And without a doubt, some of us would be perfectly fine sitting at home with our family and friends!

These are all great answers.

For me, I enjoy old growth forests.  Exploring a wilderness inhabited by ancient trees gives me the sense that I am finally home.  It’s a feeling that I rarely experience elsewhere, and I imagine that it has something to do with the wildness of the place — kind of like the wildness of the ocean, the wildness of the mountains, and the wildness of our friends and family.  (Ha!)

Interestingly (and unfortunately), much of this wildness is gone…

Read the rest of this post (and watch the video!) at Learn Your Land.


A Grateful Recap Of This Past Year’s Foraging Events

As another calendar year slowly transitions into the next, I’d like to take a brief moment to thank each and every single one of you who supported the work of Foraging Pittsburgh, Wild Foodism, and Learn Your Land — all projects I currently manage.

Countless individuals attended foraging walks I hosted throughout Western Pennsylvania, and I am grateful.  We began in early spring with the wildflowers and edible plants, and finished in mid-autumn with acorn processing.

Here are a few pictures from this past year’s events:


“Medicinal Mushroom Workshop & Summer Foraging Hike” at McConnells Mill State Park


“Wild Plants As Medicine & Summer Foraging Hike” at North Park


“Hunting Wild Mushrooms” with L.L. Bean at North Park


“Wild Edible & Medicinal Plants” with True North Wilderness Survival School, Hartwood Acres


“Foraging The Countryside” at Sleepy Moon Farm — Scandia, PA

Additionally, it was a pleasure leading foraging events for Mt. Lebanon School District, University of Pittsburgh, Trowel and Error Garden Club of Sewickley, and many more organizations!

As I reflect on this past year, I am continually amazed by the number of people interested in connecting with our land in this most intimate way.  Foraging for wild plants and mushrooms is more than a hobby.  Its purpose is not limited to providing nourishment for the body.  Ultimately, eating wild species from our landscape ensures deep nourishment for the soul… a soul that has been longing for this reunion between ourselves and our land since the day we arrived on this planet.  I am excited to witness the seeds we’ve planted this year blossom into the most rewarding lifestyle ever imagined — one that involves connection, appreciation, and freedom.

Stay tuned for the upcoming year’s foraging events.  I’ve got many great programs in the works, and I’m excited to bring lots of new information forward!  If you’re not signed up for the Foraging Pittsburgh email list to receive notifications for upcoming events, you can sign up here.

Thank you, again and again and again!
-Adam Haritan


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Turkey Tail And Its Genoprotective Effects


Race (to the woods) for the cure…

Exposure to synthetic and semi-synthetic chemical compounds has been linked to human cancers. Many of these compounds directly react with DNA, causing mutations that may ultimately lead to cancerous conditions.  This is known as genotoxicity.

An interesting new study came out…

Turkey tail, one of the most common sights in our woodlands (you can harvest it today!), has been recently shown to demonstrate potent geno-protective effects.  Alcohol extracts of this mushroom (you can make it today!), in the researchers own words, were considered “strong anti-genotoxic agents able to stimulate the geno-protective response of cells contributing to enhanced immune function and toxin removal.” (1)

In other words, turkey tail is probably a mushroom worth befriending.  Now go harvest some!