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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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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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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The Health Benefits Of Stinging Nettles


Three jars of stinging nettles, dried and ready to infuse.  Each cup of “tea” is as nourishing as a bowl of soup.  Don’t believe me?  Try it!

This plant isn’t your ordinary green — it has been extensively researched and shown to treat, among other conditions, benign prostatic hyperplasia (using the root; you can harvest that now, too), type 2 diabetes, and allergies.

In other words — got BPH?  Look into nettles.  Type 2 diabetes?  Look into nettles.  Allergies?  Look into nettles.  Yeah, I said it.  No, I’m no herbalist or doctor, though sometimes we need permission to do our own research and use our best judgement.  Looking for real health?  You probably already know what to do.  Go for it… you’re worth it!

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Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) – A Fragrant Edible & Medicinal Plant


Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) isn’t your ordinary wild plant.  It’s a bit different than the other species on the trail.

How so, you may be asking?

Well, spicebush smells like heaven.

Okay, it doesn’t quite smell like lilacs or roses, though it does emit a pleasant perfume whenever rubbed or crushed… much better than any store-bought synthetic fragrance I’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of smelling…

Anyway, I encourage you to taste this plant.  You can make infusions (“teas”) from the twigs and leaves, and you can eat the fruits fresh.

Extracts from the bark have been shown to demonstrate anti-microbial and anti-fungal effects, especially against the fungus Candida albicans (Letters in Applied Microbiology 2008).  Spicebush also contains a compound known as laurotetanine — an alkaloid with potent anti-viral effects (Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 2006).

Spicebush… who woulda thought?  Check it out on your next walk!  The fruits will ripen for several weeks into autumn.

(This photo was taken in North Park, Allegheny County Pennsylvania.)

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American Spikenard (Aralia racemosa) – Wild Fruits of Western Pennsylvania


Here’s a plant worth knowing:  American spikenard (Aralia racemosa).

The berries (botanically drupes) are pretty tasty… not too sweet, not too bitter.  Having said that, you probably don’t want to sit down to a whole bowl of them.  As a trail nibble though, they’re perfect.

American spikenard is in the same family as ginseng and wild sarsaparilla (Araliaceae), and is therefore reported to contain similar medicinal compounds (for example, saponins and ginsenosides, which demonstrate tonifying effects).

What else can we say about American spikenard?  A study from 2009 found that an extract from its aerial parts demonstrated anti-tumor activity against breast tumor cells (Planta Medica 2009).  A more recent study from 2011 found that extracts from the roots of American spikenard demonstrated analgesic (pain-reducing) activity… comparable to aspirin (Research Journal of Pharmacy and Technology 2011).

Pretty great, huh?  Check out American spikenard on your next walk — the fruits will continue to ripen for several weeks.

(Photo taken in North Park, Allegheny County Pennsylvania)

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Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) in flower


Take a good look at these flowers.  Find them during your next stroll, and return in late summer/early autumn.

This is autumn olive — a deciduous shrub that produces numerous edible fruits (usually red with silver specks).  Not only are they delicious, they’re highly nutritious as well (and go great in smoothies).


One study revealed that autumn olive fruits contain up to 17 times the lycopene content compared to tomatoes (Fordham et al., 2001).  Lycopene (which almost always gets attributed to tomatoes) is a carotenoid pigment and powerful antioxidant that may protect our bodies from free radical damage, premature skin aging, DNA damage, etc.

The same study found that autumn olive fruits contain up to 10 times the beta-cryptoxanthin content compared to oranges and tangerines.  Beta-cryptoxanthin is another powerful antioxidant that can be converted to vitamin A in the body.

Autumn olive tends to be quite invasive in Pennsylvania.  Look for them in open pastures, fields, and along the edge of woodlands.  These photographs were taken about 15 miles from Pittsburgh (the flowers in May, the fruits in September). 

Sad to say you won’t find these tasty drupes in the supermarket, though the chase is more fulfilling anyway.

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Ramps (Wild Leeks, Allium tricoccum ) In Pennsylvania


Wild leeks (Allium tricoccum), aka “ramps,” need no introduction, though here are a few cool facts regarding this wild spring food:

•The leaves from wild leeks contain at least 1.5 times the vitamin C content of an orange.
•Wild leeks contain medicinal compounds known as thiosulfinates, of which allicin is one. Allicin, a thiosulfinate usually attributed to garlic, possesses antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties.
•Research from Biological Conservation (2004) suggests that removal of 95% of wild leeks within a plot could take 148 years to fully recover.

I like to harvest a leaf or two from a plant, then move on to the next… always leaving plenty in tact to maintain the population. 

Wild leeks are slow to reproduce and could take years to recover from poor harvesting practices, so hey… always keep the species’ longevity in mind when bringing some home for the table!

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Check Your Backyard First Before Buying Another Superfood


I know what you’re thinking.  “Oh no, not another article on superfoods…”

Or maybe you weren’t thinking that at all, but now you are because I brought it up.

Or maybe I’m just looking into things a little too much.  Anyway…

I’m not here to proclaim that I have discovered a new miracle food – an ancient plant that sheds unwanted pounds, curbs your appetite, supercharges your immune system, and contains so many antioxidants that the concept of infinity seems miniscule in comparison.

Foods like that probably exist, but I’ll let someone else sell you on them.

Rather, my intention in writing this article is a bit different.

If you’ve felt confused over all the superfood hype – not sure which Amazonian berry should go into your morning smoothie; considering if it’s really worth spending $29.99 on 3 ounces of powdered fruit that contains more vitamin C than 12,000 oranges – I’m here to say, “It’s okay.”

Really, it is.  Your health can flourish with or without these products.

Phew, take a breath.  I just saved you some serious cash!

However,  I’m not going to let you off the hook that easily.  If I did, my writing would be done for the day, but I would also be doing everyone a big disfavor…

Read the rest of this article at Wild Foodism