Foraging Pittsburgh

Wild Food Walks, Workshops, & Guided Nature Hikes


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The Many Health Benefits Of Drinking Maple Tree Sap

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If you’ve ever tapped a maple tree, surely you’ve tasted the fresh sap – unprocessed and unboiled – straight from the tree.

If you have never tapped a maple tree, perhaps you’ve got one of those nice neighbors who generously shares his or her bounty of maple sap.  Or perhaps you’ve even purchased and consumed any of the various “maple waters” on the market today.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about (…tree sap? What the heck is that?), allow me to put this into context…

Read the rest of this article at Wild Foodism


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Stinging Nettles – Wild Winter Food In Western Pennsylvania

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Fresh edible greens in January … yes it’s true in Pennsylvania.

Among other wild greens, stinging nettles (Urtica sp.) can be found growing close to the ground this early into the year – providing a nice boost of chlorophyll to my diet as winter manifests.

Furthermore, to extend their usefulness into February and March, I harvest and dry the leaves (earlier in the year), and enjoy late-winter stinging nettle infusions.

This organism is quite unlike some of the highly-domesticated greens found in the grocery store. Nettles have 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.

But wait, there’s more. A brand new study published in Pharmaceutical Biology (2014) found that a protein fraction from the stinging nettle aerial portion displayed potent antioxidant and anti-mutagenic activities, which the researchers stated could potentially be useful in chemoprevention.

And to think, this powerful plant – full of nutrition and medicine (and no cost) – may live not too far from your home …

To learn more health benefits derived from the use of this incredible entity, please check out a piece I recently created over at my wild food nutrition blog (Wild Foodism), entitled 6 Double-Blind Human Studies Revealing The Health Benefits Of Stinging Nettle.


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5 unique health benefits of the maitake mushroom

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Common dietary advice almost always includes some variation of the phrase, “Eat more fruits and vegetables for good health.”  Pick up most diet books, talk to the health professionals, and look at the research:  fruits and vegetables are nutritional superstars.

Less often do we hear the phrase, “Eat more mushrooms for good health,” and if we look at the research, one may wonder why we neglect to include our fungal friends in the dietary limelight.  Perhaps we tend to lump them into the category of vegetables (this is what I was taught to do in my nutrition classes, for example, when creating meal plans), though if we study the biology of mushrooms, they more closely resemble fruits in their reproductive roles.  Or perhaps here in the United States, mushrooms just haven’t found their way into our national cuisine (though edible fungi have been on this continent far longer than bread and boxed cereal).

Whatever the reason, it’s all a bit unfortunate.  Many mushrooms are quite nutritious, and many are medicinal.  I’ve previously written about the nutritional benefits of morel mushrooms, and would now like to explore the world of yet another equally impressive fungal ally.

The maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa), also known as “sheep’s head” or “hen of the woods,” is a polypore that grows at the bases of oak trees.  In addition to its culinary versatility (one of my favorite choice edibles from the fungal kingdom), the maitake mushroom has been researched extensively for its nutritional and medicinal effects…

Read the rest of this post here.


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The nutrition of Autumn olive – Elaeagnus umbellata

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Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is a deciduous shrub that produces numerous edible fruits (usually red with silver specks) this time of year. Not only are they delicious, they’re highly nutritious as well.

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.

I spent the morning harvesting several pounds of these fruits near Pittsburgh, and will enjoy their gifts for many weeks to come. Sad to say you won’t find these tasty drupes in the supermarket, though the chase is more fulfilling anyway. Look for them in open pastures, fields, and along the edge of woodlands.