Foraging Pittsburgh

Wild Food Walks, Workshops, & Guided Nature Hikes

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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! Old Growth Forest Hike & Spring Water Gathering



On Saturday August 27th, I will be leading a great event — “Old Growth Forest Hike & Spring Water Gathering” — and, I’d love for you to join us!

If you’ve never experienced the magnificence of Cook Forest, it truly is one of the most remarkable natural areas in Pennsylvania.  It is one of the last remaining old growth forests in the entire Eastern United States, currently hosting 11 old growth areas that total over 2,300 acres.  One of these areas within the park, the Forest Cathedral, is arguably the finest concentration of old growth trees in the Northeastern United States.  This particular area is home to dozens of old growth eastern white pine and hemlock trees, many over 300 years old and towering above 140 feet in height!

In this event, we will hike and explore the Forest Cathedral within Cook Forest in search of Pennsylvania’s tallest and oldest trees.  We will discuss old growth forest characteristics while studying defining features of this unique landscape.  We will cover wild plant and tree identification, and we will examine several edible and medicinal plants as we walk the trails.


Additionally, during the second part of the event we will visit a pristine spring to gather wild Pennsylvania water straight from the source.  We will discuss how to locate clean springs, the benefits of drinking wild spring water, the importance of developing your own personalized water strategy, locations of other springs in Pennsylvania, and more.  You are encouraged to bring your own vessels so that you can harvest fresh, clean spring water following the event.

The program will entail light to 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: Old Growth Forest Hike & Spring Water Gathering
When: Saturday, August 27th 2016
Where: Cook Forest State Park, Western Pennsylvania
Time: 1-4:30 PM
Investment: $30

To register, please contact me (Adam) at

Immerse yourself in the beauty, mystery, and perfection of an old growth forest on Saturday, August 27th.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Be wild,
Adam Haritan


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Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens) — An Edible & Medicinal Creeper


You’d never guess it, though these two flowers will seemingly produce one fruit.  This is partridge berry (Mitchella repens), a member of the coffee family and a species whose evergreen leaves form dense mats on forest floors throughout Pennsylvania.  Both flowers must be pollinated in order for fruits to emerge.  After successful fertilization, the two flowers’ ovaries fuse and mature into a single red berry.  Look closely at a single fruit sometime this autumn and you’ll see two dimples on each one; these are spots where the petals were attached.

Partridge berry is named after the ruffed grouse, a relative of the European partridge and an animal who enjoys this fruit almost as much as I do.  “Mitchella” is named after Dr. John Mitchell, a plant collector who lived in Virginia and who was a friend of Carl Linnaeus (yes… the Carl Linnaeus).  “Repens” means “creeping,” describing the growth habit of the plant.

Partridge berry is edible, and while the fruits don’t have much of a taste, I still enjoy snacking on them when walking the trails (it’s all about the wild plant genetics).  Medicinally, partridge berry has been used successfully as a parturient to aid in childbirth.

This particular wildflower is a bit difficult to witness in bloom, though the plant itself is easy to find.  Check it out on your next jaunt through the forest!  I can only imagine you’ll be glad you did.

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Youghiogheny River, Monongahela Cultures, And The Friendsville Site

youghriverlearnyourland“Juh-wiah-hanne” — a stream flowing in a contrary direction. From that word we get the “Youghiogheny,” a 134-mile long river that flows in a snake-like fashion through West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  At its northernmost point, it empties into the Monongahela River.

It’s interesting when you dig into the history of this river.  You’ll typically uncover information dating back no earlier than the colonial era, learning about George Washington’s expedition of 1754, moving on to Braddock’s expedition of 1755, followed by the inevitable influx of settlers into the area after 1758.  You’ll proceed to learn about the coal mining era of the 19th century and the concomitant logging craze that severely altered the landscape.

Neat information, for sure, and what else would you expect from a U.S. government-backed education?

However, it goes deeper, and the history of the Youghiogheny River also includes the Monongahela cultures.  These were indigenous Americans of a wide-ranging settlement area of the Ohio River system that included the Youghiogheny as well as the Monongahela tributaries.  The Friendsville site, for example, is a Monongahela village dating between 1000 and 1200 AD.  It’s located on the western bank of the Youghiogheny River in Garrett County, Maryland.

Tens of thousands of artifacts have been recovered from this site in the past few decades, including limestone, shell, and hematite tempered pottery.  Additionally, prehistoric artifacts have been recovered in the lawns of a few houses, and several Native American burials were found when a basement was dug for the construction of a building in 1946.

Of course, the Monongahela people (who were gone when the Europeans arrived) were probably saying the same thing: “Dig into the history of this area and you’ll be astounded!”  Because really, who knows how far back it goes, though I assure you that it doesn’t quite start with Lieutenant Colonel George Washington.

Anyway, check out the Juh-wiah-hanne on your next journey through West Virginia, Maryland, or Pennsylvania.  In my opinion though, Southwestern Pennsylvania (pictured here at Ohiopyle State Park) has some of the most beautiful sections… and the most incredible floral diversity.  You might as well start here!

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New Event! Medicinal Mushroom Workshop & Summer Foraging Hike



On Saturday, July 9th, I will be leading the Medicinal Mushroom Workshop and Summer Foraging Hike at McConnells Mill State Park… and I would love for you to join us!

If you’re interested in learning how to identify, harvest, and use medicinal mushrooms, this is the perfect event for you.  Additionally, the second half of the program includes a wild plant and mushroom foraging hike through the beautiful Slippery Rock Creek Gorge within the park.

What exactly are medicinal mushrooms?  I’m glad you asked…

Medicinal mushrooms are the superstars of the fungal kingdom.  Plenty of research suggests that these mushrooms demonstrate powerful anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties, and many experts consider them to be top candidates for immune-system support.

Here’s what the research says:

  • A 2012 study from ISRN Oncology found that the turkey tail mushroom significantly improved the immune systems of breast cancer patients following conventional treatment.
  • The chaga fungus is one of the richest sources of betulinic acid, a compound that has been shown to exhibit anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-HIV, anti-malaria, and antioxidant effects (Current Medical Chemistry, 2005).
  • A maitake mushroom extract has been shown to demonstrate protection against diabetes by slowing glucose absorption in the body (Biotechnology and Applied Biochemistry, 2013).

…and the list goes on and on.

Now, are you ready for the best part?  Medicinal mushrooms grow in Western Pennsylvania!  In fact, they grow all over Pennsylvania.

Being a huge proponent of medicinal mushrooms myself, I’d love to show you how to properly identify, harvest, and create meals and medicines using these powerful mushrooms.

Additionally, if you’re interested in learning how to identify and harvest wild plants for food and medicine, this event will cover all that too.

The second part of the program, as mentioned earlier, will include a hike through Slippery Rock Creek Gorge in the park as we identify and discuss the summer edible and medicinal plants and mushrooms.

By attending this program, you will learn:

  • The top 5 medicinal mushrooms of Pennsylvania and how to identify them
  • Medicinal mushroom health benefits
  • Where to look for medicinal mushrooms
  • How to harvest medicinal mushrooms
  • How to dry and store medicinal mushrooms
  • How to make decoctions
  • How to make tinctures
  • Wild plant field identification
  • Wild plant nutrition
  • Plant harvesting methods
  • Latin nomenclature

…and more!

Here are the details:

When:  Saturday, July 9th, 2016
Where:  McConnells Mill State Park in Lawrence County, Western Pennsylvania (39 miles north of Pittsburgh)
Time:  1:00 – 4:30 PM
Investment:  $45

The program will entail light to moderate hiking (the terrain includes some rocks and steep 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 class location will be provided upon registration.

To register, please contact me (Adam) at

Come enjoy a fun and exciting Saturday in a beautiful park with a great group of foragers!  We look forward to seeing you there!

Thank you,
Adam Haritan

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Foraging Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)


Drive any road in Pennsylvania this time of year and you’re likely to see these colors off in the distance.  Purple, lavender, lilac, white… many shades characterizing one plant — Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis).

I like to think of this plant as wild broccoli.  It’s in the mustard family (like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.), and before these particular 4-petaled flowers open, the buds can picked and eaten like broccoli.  (Broccoli consists of, after all, unopened flower buds).  Dame’s rocket is slightly bitter though slightly sweet.  It’s non-native to the United States, so even though it’s one of the most beautiful wildflowers this time of year (in my opinion), many people won’t mind you picking it.

Remember — the potent bitter flavor detected in wild cruciferous plants, like dame’s rocket, is attributed to certain sulfur-containing chemicals within the plants themselves, known as glucosinolates.

These compounds, along with their metabolites, help to facilitate detoxification within our bodies, especially in the processing and removal of xenobiotics (chemicals that are foreign to our bodies).  Glucosinolates and their metabolites also act as anti-tumor agents.

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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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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.