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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Allegheny National Forest — Past, Present, & Future


The Allegheny National Forest is Pennsylvania’s only national forest, and it’s a place I enjoy visiting.  Over the last few centuries the land has been dramatically transformed, and it will most likely experience the effects of human-induced alterations as time moves forward.

By the 1880’s, most of what is now known as the Allegheny National Forest had been logged.  The old growth hemlocks, pines, beeches, and oaks were removed.  With the land essentially abandoned, people referred to it as the “Allegheny Brush Patch.”

In 1923 the area was designated the Allegheny National Forest, and efforts were made to remediate and restore the land.  Pioneer species like black cherry, red maple, and black birch became established, animal populations increased, and timber harvesting resumed under stricter regulations.

I took these pictures while recently exploring the Allegheny National Forest, and a quick drive through the area will give the current impression that the land is rather pristine.  Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case.  You see, when Congress purchased the land almost a century ago, it only bought the surface rights.  The mineral rights underground remained the property of oil and gas companies — companies whose presence is heavily felt today.  Over 12,000 oil and gas wells are currently scattered throughout the 517,000-acre forest… each one accessed by a clear-cut road.  Some estimates predict that by the year 2022, approximately one-fifth of the total forest will be stripped of vegetation and converted to an oil field.

So much for rehabilitated land…

It’s easy to get disillusioned by all this, especially when probing deeper into the history of natural areas like the Allegheny National Forest (look into the Kinzua Dam construction when you have a minute).  However, the Allegheny National Forest just so happens to be home to countless benevolent creatures that actually work with, rather than against, the natural world… despite not owning any rights to the land.  These creatures (including the gray catbird and wood sorrel, the latter which certainly is edible and tasty) make places like this all worth while, and they’re the perfect reason to keep coming back.

Anyway, check out the Allegheny National Forest on your next jaunt through Northwest Pennsylvania.  You may be glad you did.

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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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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.

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Beyond DEET – 7 Natural Tick Repellents From The Plant Kingdom


Foraging for food in the supermarket is just a bit different from foraging for food in the wild, wouldn’t you say?

While both scenarios present a set of challenges (in the supermarket:  beating the weekend rush, using coupons before their expiration dates, enduring the dreadful parking lots, etc.), wild food foraging may be known to pose the more immediate threats (misidentification, embracing the elements of nature, etc.).

One of the challenges of being a wild food enthusiast in Pennsylvania is exposure to ticks.  These small arachnids, particularly the deer ticks (i.e. blacklegged ticks), are no small threats, as they are vectors for illnesses including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.

Typical precautionary measures include wearing long sleeved pants and shirts, wearing light colored clothing to easily spot the presence of ticks, and using repellents.

But which repellents are effective and safe?

Read the rest of this post at Learn Your Land.

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Nature’s Imprints


Foraging isn’t always about the food. The connection to nature penetrates much deeper.

Foraging allows us to connect to all the species within our landscape, and while we may think that we’re leaving with a basket full of nettles, we’re also leaving with an infinite amount of nature’s imprints… for example, the sight and song of this white-breasted nuthatch, who kept my eyes off the woodland floor for just a few moments while it danced up and down the tree. Seems like I wasn’t the only one foraging and having a good time that day!

Impressions like these are irreplaceable, and although we can leave a grocery store with enough food to last a lifetime, our shopping carts will always be devoid of things much greater, things that cannot be quantified with RDAs or DRIs…

Nature’s imprints.

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Marcescence – What It Looks Like and Which Trees Display It


Is there something wrong with this tree? Poor guy, shouldn’t it have dropped its leaves by now?

When walking through the winter woods, you may notice certain trees retaining their dead leaves. The term used to describe what you’re seeing is marcescence, a condition which may fulfill a variety of purposes (nutrient recycling, deterring animals from browsing buds, etc.).

The American beech tree (Fagus grandifolia), pictured here, classically displays marcescence. Other trees that retain their leaves include oaks (Quercus spp.), hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), and hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana). You’ll occasionally see this with witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and sugar maples (Acer saccharum) too.

Even though spring is finally here, most trees have yet to bud.  A good piece of winter/early-spring tree ID advice is this: if you see a deciduous tree in winter and early-spring holding on to most of its leaves, you may be able to narrow it down to the trees listed above… not always, but it’s a great starting point!

This photograph was taken on March 2nd (my birthday!) at Moraine State Park in Western Pennsylvania.

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Pennsylvania Once Looked Like This


Pennsylvania was once covered in land that looked like this, as recent as only a few centuries ago.

How could it last, though?  Surely, this land was much better suited for development.  For progress!  Lots of roads and cities, houses and apartments, high-rises and strip malls… lots and lots of strip malls – replete with a Big Lots and LA Nails in every single one.

Much of this is gone.  Are you sad?  Why lament, though?  We have stadiums and office buildings, sidewalks, movie theaters, pipelines, and Thai food on every corner.  And don’t forget, we do have suburban and city parks, sprinkled with soccer fields, ice rinks, and tennis courts.

That stuff is… well, it’s okay… but it’s not real.

In those rare moments when you’re not being sold deodorant in a magazine, sold reality in a newspaper, sold financial planning on a billboard…. do you ever stop and think “There’s got to be more to life than this…”?  Ever get the feeling that something is missing?  That something was taken away from you? Hm… you want it back, don’t you?

Well, it’s here.  Yep, it never left.  That thing you crave… it’s in these pockets of undisturbed reality, where the towering hemlocks, pines, beeches, and birches live.  And you know what, you had it not too long ago, and you can experience it once again.

The therapist, politician, and 5 o’clock news reporter will never tell you that your heart longs for the reunion between you and land that looks like this.  Because well, that’s not good for the economy.

You won’t be able to buy anything in land that looks like this.  There’s no shopping to be done.  What could an old growth hemlock $ell you anyway?  Oxygen?  Beauty?  Love?

Well, I must tell you that, should you reacquaint yourself with land that looks like this, you may end up leaving with an empty bag.  Pockets full of pine cones and no cash.  No plastic to unwrap and throw away.  A blank receipt all along…

Kinda like how you came into this world.  And kinda like how you’ll exit:  nothing to own, not even your self.

But I’ll tell ya this.  You’ll leave with a heart full of meaning… of ultimate fulfillment.  You’ll get that feeling of reuniting with the childhood friend you’d sip root beer with on your parents’ porch decades ago as 5 year old initiates to this life… no news to discuss except whether or not the salamander will come out from under his rock today… that kinda feeling. 😉

Allow this to become your reality as much as you possibly can, and see if it doesn’t become the best life you’ve ever lived…

*Originally published at Wild Foodism

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Hiking The 20-Mile Loop Trail At Raccoon Creek State Park

A few times a year, I love hiking a particular trail at Raccoon Creek State Park in Western Pennsylvania.  It’s a 20-mile loop trail that can be completed in about 8 hours.

Instead of doing it alone, I thought I’d bring my camera along and share the entire experience with you (I cut 8 hours down to 7 minutes … talk about a difficult task!).

During this hike, we explore the woodlands, the mushrooms, and even a sacred mineral spring, whose healing waters treated ill travelers centuries ago.

Check it out – I’d love to know what you think!

*Note:  this video is best viewed in HD