Foraging Pittsburgh

Wild Food Walks, Workshops, & Guided Nature Hikes

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New Event! Fall Flora & Fungi Hike at McConnells Mill State Park


On Sunday, November 13th I will be leading a great event — “Fall Flora & Fungi Hike at McConnells Mill State Park” — and, I’d love for you to join us!

Autumn is the perfect time to explore the backcountry in Western Pennsylvania in search of interesting and useful plants, trees, and mushrooms.  McConnells Mill State Park, with its deeply-cut gorges, hemlock-lined ravines, whitewater currents, and historical landmarks is a prime area for autumn exploration.

During this event, we will hike a 2-mile loop around the park while discussing various subjects related to Pennsylvania’s flora and fungi, including:

  • edible and medicinal plants
  • edible and medicinal mushrooms
  • tree identification, along with edible and medicinal uses
  • medicine-making using wild plants and mushrooms
  • natural history of the area

… and more!

The program will entail moderate hiking (the terrain includes some rocks and hills), and the event will take place rain or shine.  Please note that in order to maximize your learning experience, space is limited and registration with payment in advance is required to secure your spot.  The exact event location will be provided upon registration.

Interested?  Here are more details:

What: Fall Flora & Fungi Hike At McConnells Mill State Park
When: Sunday, November 13th 2016
Where: McConnells Mill State Park, Western Pennsylvania
Time: 1-3:30 PM
Investment: $20

To register, please contact me (Adam) at

Come celebrate autumn with a great group of hikers on November 13th!  We look forward to seeing you there!

Be wild,
Adam Haritan

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New Event! Acorn Harvesting And Processing Class & Autumn Foraging Walk


Before there were cupcakes, white bread sandwiches, and Little Debbie snack cakes… there were acorns.

And life was good…

Sure, there were no iPhones, shopping malls, or Sunday afternoon football games… and Bieber had yet to hit the scene.  A boring life some may say!

But there were acorns!

Lots and lots of acorns, waiting to be harvested by people (on 4 different continents!) who knew exactly how to dry, store, process, and turn them into life-sustaining food.

Sure, these familiar tree nuts still blanket our yards, parks, and wooded areas today, though unless we’re taking them home to make Thanksgiving crafts, we leave the acorns alone.

That’s fine, of course, for the squirrels, jays, and oak tree populations.  They enjoy seeing so many acorns out and about.

But for our health?  Maybe not so much!

Here’s why…

The acorn is America’s original superfood.  At around 14% fat, 42% carbohydrate, 9% fiber, 32% water, and 3.5% protein, the acorn is also replete with vitamins, minerals, and numerous phytonutrients.

Plus, they embody all the latest buzz words in the health food scene:  local, organic, sustainable, gluten-free, non-GMO… you get the point.

Here’s the catch:  You can’t just eat acorns off the ground.  They contain certain compounds that must be gently removed.  After a few simple processing steps, however, you can soon have your very own acorn flour… which can be made into bread, porridge, pancakes, meatballs, cookies, and more!

If you’re interested in learning how to properly process acorns, I invite you to join me for the upcoming Acorn Harvesting And Processing Class at North Park in Allegheny County (followed by an autumn foraging walk)!

In this program, you will learn:

  • Acorn gathering tips (how to separate the good from the bad)
  • Differences between red and white oak groups (important for processing)
  • Several leaching methods
  • Drying and storing methods, and more!

Additionally, during the second part of the program you will learn autumn plant and mushroom identification, edible and medicinal uses of wild plants, medicine-making tips, and a whole lot more!

Each participant will have the opportunity to taste a treat made with acorns, and will receive an e-book (on acorns, of course!) following the class.

Interested?  Here are more details…

When:  Saturday, October 22nd, 2016
Time:  1-4:30 PM
Where:  North Park in Allegheny County, Western Pennsylvania (exact location emailed to participants)
Investment:  $45

Note:  Space for this program is limited in order to maximize the learning environment.  Registration with payment in advance is required to secure your spot.

To register, please email Adam:

Come enjoy an eventful autumn day in a beautiful park with a great group of foragers!  We look forward to seeing you there!

-Adam Haritan

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Honey Mushrooms And Liver Cancer


Would you believe it?  An extremely parasitic wild mushroom found all over the temperature regions of the world may hold value in treating one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

A brand new study looked at the honey mushroom’s role in killing liver cancer cells.  Specifically, an extract known as armillarikin was shown to induce apoptosis (essentially “cell suicide”) in hepatocellular carcinoma cells.  The results from this study were just published in the journal OncoTargets and Therapy (1).

Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, associated with a relatively low 1-year survival rate and less than 10% 5-year survival rate.  Current aggressive therapies include surgical treatment, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy with multiple drugs.

Honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea) are frequently found with ease during the autumn months in Pennsylvania.  You can often bring home several pounds at a time, returning week after week to familiar spots and continuing your harvest.  Of course, “more research” will need to be done on armillarikin’s role in treating liver cancer, though it’s nice to read that this compound may be considered “a potential candidate for further development as a therapy or adjuvant treatment for HCC.”

Also, it’s worth noting that armillarikin has been studied for its anti-cancerous effects against leukemia, lung, and colon cancers.  Additionally, the scientific literature abounds with studies on hundreds of other wild mushroom species and their roles in treating various cancers.

If you haven’t made peace with our wild fungal friends, now is as good of a time as ever!  To learn more about honey mushrooms, check out this video I created:

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New Event: Spring Foraging Hike Around The Lake

springforaginghikearoundlake3I am happy to announce that I will be leading the “Spring Foraging Hike Around The Lake” event on Sunday, May 22nd at Moraine State Park in Butler County, Pennsylvania.

As the spring season continues, more and more edible plants continue to make appearances.   True — many spring ephemerals have come and gone, though the next round of annual and perennial greens are sure to be found.  This transitional time is the perfect opportunity to learn the skills involved in foraging for wild food.  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.

This event will feature a 2.5 hour hike (approximately 2 miles) around the beautiful Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park.  We will explore and discuss several mid-late spring edible and medicinal wild plants in their habitats.  Though mushrooms will not be the focus of the event, we will briefly introduce the subject.

By attending the Spring Foraging Hike Around The Lake event on Sunday May 22nd, you will learn:

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

…and much more!

What do you think?  Are you interested in hiking around a beautiful lake with a great group of foragers?  Here are the details:

Where: Moraine State Park in Butler County, Western Pennsylvania (40 miles north of Pittsburgh)
When: Sunday, May 22nd 2016
Times: 10am — 12:30pm, or 1:30pm — 4:00pm (please specify which time slot you prefer)
Investment: $25 per individual

Note: There are 2 time slots listed above to keep the group sizes smaller. Please let me know which time slot you prefer.

This event entails moderate hiking, and is geared towards adults.  It will take place rain or shine.  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:

(…and don’t forget to mention which time slot works for you!)

I hope to see you there!
—Adam Haritan

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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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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!

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3 New Reasons To Consume Medicinal Mushrooms


Mushrooms wear many hats. No, not fedoras, stetsons, and top hats.

Think of these hats as metaphors, describing instead the roles these important species perform in their ecosystems. For example, mushrooms are world-class decomposers, recyclers, bioremediators, parasites, pathogens, poisons, hallucinogens, and food.

Additionally, the fungal kingdom houses some of the world’s most powerful medicines. What traditional cultures have known for centuries, modern research is continually discovering: mushrooms contain potent medicinal compounds that can aid the human body in functioning optimally.

Recently, three new studies have been published demonstrating the medicinal benefits of three separate species of mushrooms…

Read the rest of the article (and watch a video!) at Learn Your Land.

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Current Resources For Wild Plants, Mushrooms, & Foraging


There are several great resources online to help individuals improve their skills in botany, mycology, herbalism, and natural plant medicine.

Here are a few that I’ve been using recently:
To properly identify and key-out mushroom species, I highly recommend this website.  Michael Kuo, mushroom enthusiast and English professor, provides exceptional information and numerous references on hundreds of mushroom species throughout North America (and beyond!).

EthnoHerbalist covers the cultural history and health benefits of various medicinal plants.  The site’s creator, Kevin Curran, is a biology professor at the University of San Diego who teaches courses in cell biology and ethnobotany.  Many herbal websites lack scientific citations, though EthnoHerbalist is different:  it serves as a review of the latest clinical results that either support or refute the health claims associated with specific plants.

Go Botany
For online plant identification, I typically use Go Botany.  Even though its scope covers the New England states, I still find it very applicable for most of the plants inhabiting Western Pennsylvania.

Western PA Foragers Facebook group
If you’re interested in wild food foraging… and you live in Pennsylvania… and you have a Facebook account… definitely check out this wonderful foraging community.  Members actively participate in discussions related to plant identification, mushroom identification, foraging, recipes, resources, and more.  Don’t forget to hit the “Join” button to join!

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Honey Mushroom & Deadly Galerina — Identification and Differences


Unless you’re hiking around a botanical garden, it’s very unlikely that you will encounter identification labels attached to wild organisms.

No “Acer saccharum” next to the sugar maple.  No “Dicentra cucullaria” next to the Dutchman’s breeches.  No “Armillaria mellea” next to the honey mushroom.

What’s an amateur naturalist to do?  It can all seem so overwhelming…

Before you toss your mushroom basket in the trash, however, keep reading.  I have a solution.

You see, one of my goals at Learn Your Land is to deepen your connection to nature by helping you identify the wild species within your ecosystem.  Specifically in this post, I’d like to help you distinguish between two common mushrooms found throughout North America.

One is the honey mushroom, a choice edible fungus that fruits in large quantities.

The second is the deadly galerina (Galerina marginata), a toxic mushroom that resembles the honey mushroom in appearance.

As you might be able to tell, this information is extremely important for individuals interested in harvesting honey mushrooms for the table.  Both species grow in similar habitats and their seasons overlap.  What’s more, neither species is labeled in nature…

Read the rest of the article (and watch a video!) at Learn Your Land.

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5 Edible Fall Mushrooms


Autumn is a great time of year to go mushroom hunting… especially in Pennsylvania!  The image above depicts 5 choice edible mushrooms that can be found during the autumn months.  Some of these require more rain than others to fruit, though with a bit of persistence (and luck!), you’ll have no trouble finding all five.

For more information on each species, check out these articles I’ve written: