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A GREAT reblog from Berlin Plants! Thank you SO much!

Berlin Plants: Reading History in the Green Spaces of the City

The parsley family presents a formidable challenge for the urban forager. As a large family of typically aromatic plants, it contains many herbs such as cilantro, fennel, and lovage – all of which complement and enhance routine culinary experiences. Yet, nefarious members like hemlock (Conium spp.) or water hemlock (Cicuta spp.) contain powerful neurotoxins that can be deadly even in small doses. In Berlin, a cursory look around any green area is likely to yield a member of the parsely family – its distinguishing umbels being an easy tell-tale sign. However, for the inexperienced (and sometimes experienced) observer, the exact determination of the species can be difficult. In fact, proponents of cautious foraging philosophies often do away with the whole family, but instead of excessive caution we believe that better plant identification skills are warranted. In practice, this means relying on an established botanical key which unfortunately is a lot…

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Posted October 5, 2012 by forageporage in Uncategorized

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Although some Autumnberries, Elaeagnus umbellata, are still yellow and orange, and not fully ripe; there’s plenty, juicy, fat, red berries!

 Just find an Autumn Olive schrub with red berries and you’re in!  It’s a good idea to taste a berry or two, from each bush, before picking.  They don’t all ripen at the exact same time.  This weeks super tart berrys will be next weeks ripe, yummy berries.

I like to use old water jugs for gathering.  Just cut open the tops and you have a free, recycled, reusable, handy container; which can be fastened to your belt, for two handed pickin’.

 For a detailed discription of Autumn Olive, Elaeagnus umbellata, please see:


Last year I picked 6 gallons of Autumnberries.  About half got processed into puree and juice; to be frozen for later use.  The rest were eaten fresh; or the whole berries were bagged and frozen.  The puree is fabulous; as is, or…

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Posted September 13, 2012 by forageporage in Uncategorized

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Forageporage's Blog

 During the summer months, tiny fairies sprinkle silvery, glitter dust all over Autumn-olive, Elaeagnaceae umbellata, shrubs.

Surely, there can be no other explanation!

Although, the undersides of the leaves and the twigs are always silver speckled; now they’re intense!

The tiny golden berries and the tops of the leaves are, also, silver dusted.

Soon, the berries will begin to turn yellow, orange and then red as they ripen.  Oh my goodness, I can’t wait; as Autumnberries are, hands down, my favorite foragable.

Until then, we can start scouting berry laden Autumn-olive shrubs.

There are hundreds of them around Wareham!

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some near you!

Hey look, we have company!

Just click on any photo to enlarge.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you around the end of September; for the berry harvest.


For more Autumn Olive, Elaeagnus umbellata, Autumnberries, please see:





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Posted July 31, 2012 by forageporage in Uncategorized

Gathering Goldenrod   4 comments

We see Goldenrod, Salidago spp, everywhere.  Clusters of sunny, yellow spikes, line roadways, waterways, parks, sidewalks and fields; through out summer and fall.  Different species range in height from 1 ft. to 8 ft, standing upright, on smooth, green stems, with very faint parallel stripes.

Solidago  odoras’  parallel veined, darker green leaves are lance shaped with a lightly folded mid-vein and smooth to lightly toothed edges.

Goldenrod’s yellow flower rays form in crazy plume-like clusters, not unlike an unruly head-top ponytail; or wacky summer touristy hat!.

Crush a leaf between your fingers; as Goldenrod’s anise fragrance is an identification giveaway.  The best time to pick is on a sunny, dry day; just after the dew evaporates.  Just clip the top 1/4 of the plant (the meristematic growth); making sure to take less than 10% of what is available in any area.  Many plants propagate through roots, stems and seeds.  Roots and stems provide support to neighboring species; as well as the plant being foraged.  If I’m not using the root or stem there is no need to take it from where it is useful.  Even if the plant dies, its base will remain to nourish the area.

After insect inspection, I strip the leaves and buds from the stems; going against the direction of growth.  Goldenrod is quick and easy to strip; making it a great activity to include little ones in on the fun.  The buds take a long time to dry and frequent turning is essential.  I picked enough to fill a gallon container. Any unused plant material always gets returned to whence it came.  I love that my Goldenrod tea has no carbon footprint.  I walked to where it was gathered.  It was processed with my hands; and dried in the air.  Free and clean.

Anywhere you see the open flower spikes (on the left), you will find plenty of budding spikes (on the right).

The fresh or dried leaves and flower buds brew up into a delicate, golden, anise-flavored tea.  I prefer mine dried; the flavor is mellow and less green.  It’s best to pick before the flowers open; like this:

Pour about 6-8 ozs of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of the dried tea.  Infuse for 5 to 10 minutes; covered.  I have a fancy little infuser that fits nicely into most mugs.  A tea-ball works well; as does a fine mesh kitchen strainer.  When I’m feeling extravagant, I add ½ teaspoon of good local honey and a wedge of lemon; (although it’s great straight up).  YUM!  I use the dregs twice; then take them outside to compost.

The Shakers enjoyed Goldenrod’s ability to mask the taste of other medicinal herbs; as well as it’s “stimulant, carminative, diaphoretic, aromatic and diuretic properties.” (1)

In his Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman states, “Goldenrod is perhaps the first plant to think of for upper respiratory catarrh (excess phlegm).  The properties reveal a role in the treatment of flatulent dyspepsia (indigestion); as a urinary antiseptic and as a gargle in laryngitis.” (2)

I like Goldenrod for all of these reasons.  Two cups a day eliminates my acid reflux and the inflammation it causes in my stomach and esophagus.  The sore throat, cough and verps that accompany acid reflux are gone.  And BONUS my sinus’ are clear, also.  And DOUBLE BONUS: Goldenrod has no known drug interactions! (3)

Like Dandelion*, Taraxacum officinale, Goldenrod wipes out my seasonal allergies.  Many folks blame Goldenrod for their Autumnal misery.  I know Golden Rod to be a seasonal ally.  Rag Weed is the true enemy!

Occasionally, I’ve feel the need to cleanse my entire system.  Boneset*, Eupatorium perfoliatum,  is a good system-wide cleanse; however, its taste is nowhere near acceptable to me.

So, I mix equal parts of Boneset, and Goldenrod; to increase palatability.  The plants, themselves, gave me the idea, as I often find them growing together!  For each mug of tea I use 1 heaping teaspoons each, of dried Goldenrod and dried Boneset, in approximately 7 oz boiling water; and steep for 10 minutes, covered.  After the plant material is strained I add maple syrup or blackstrap molasses and a lemon wedge.  This tea is “da Balm”, and it works; gently returning me to my regular ol’ self!

Be careful, harvesting, as Golden Rod enjoys a similar habitat and flowering period as Wild Parsnip and Tansy; and they often grow interspersed.  Upon close inspection these plants are entirely different. Unlike Goldenrod, Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa (on the left), flowers in umbrella-like clusters.  Its leaves are ovate and sharply toothed; on a stout, deeply grooved stalk.  In the next photo you can see Wild Parsnip, close up.  I was shooting the web of life, on the plant.

Fortunately, for this post, the plant is Wild Parsnip!  The first year taproot of Wild Parsnip is edible, just be cautious around the foliage: “Warning: The combination of wet or sweaty skin, contact with the leaves, and exposure to sunlight may cause phytophotodermatitis.  The symptoms are like those of Poison Ivy, but the affected area may remain reddened for months.” (4)

Tansy*, Tanacetum vulgare, grows on purple, hairless stems, has clusters of yellow button flowers and the leaves are fern-like.

Tansy has medicinal applications, as the fragrance indicates; yet, must be used with caution, as some of the constituents in the oil are deadly in large doses.  I greatly appreciate Tansy’s ability to keep unwanted insects and pests away.


All this plant talk is making me thirsty.  Think I’ll go make a cup of tea.  Won’t you join me?

Thanx for stopping by. See you next time!

Just click on any photo, to enlarge.


(1) Amy Bess Miller. Shaker Medicinal Herbs.

Storey Books, 1998

(2) David Hoffmann. The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal.

Element Books. 1996

(3) A-Z guide to drug-herb-vitamin interactions, Schuyler W. Lininger, Jr. DC, editor in chief

      Prima Health, 1999

(4) Lee Allen Peterson. Peterson Field Guides Edible Wild Plants.

Houghton Mifflin. 1977


More Goldenrod:


 More Dandelion:


More Boneset:


 More Tansy:


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Our Sunday Guest, Oliver, from The Forager’s Year; with BEES!

The Forager's Year

I haven’t gone and stolen my bees winter stores out from under (or over) them in the dead of winter, I have just been slow to write this up – the first honey harvest, done back at Easter. To be honest I didn’t actually know that I was going to harvest at the time – I was really just making the most of the fact that my neighbour, who unlike me actually has some beekeeping experience, was available to come over and give me a hand.  I thought that at most we might perhaps grab a comb if possible, but there was more than expected and we are now stocked with honey to last right through until a hopeful future harvest next mid-summer.

With the pair of us kitted up, the hive opened and a little puff of smoke delivered, comb after comb was lifted with a few surprises:

  • First…

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Posted July 29, 2012 by forageporage in Uncategorized

Our Sunday Guest, Kat Koch, with “Yellow Jacket Stings”   Leave a comment

Yellow Jacket Stings. These words are enough to make the average American recall memories of checkered tablecloths and picnics, swarmed by black and yellow bodies. Most people view this insect as a pest. While they can be dangerous, they are also incredibly beneficial for your garden, and are a source of food for skunks, bears and some birds.


These members of the Vespidae family are pollinators as well as insect eaters. In fact I recently learned of a charming habit of the worker wasps involving their consumption of insects. Trophallaxis is a process where they catch insects and chew them into a paste, which they then feed to the wasp larvae — yum! Wolves and birds do a similar kind of thing, but somehow, while still cool, when an insect does that it seems just a little bit creepier.

There are 16 species of Yellow Jackets in the United States, only two of them native: the Eastern and Western Yellow Jacket. The other 14 come from such countries as Germany and Honduras. Most of them are around a half inch long and have the characteristic black and yellow striped body. Some species create their nests underground, while others build them in trees or human-made structures. Only the females sting, and, unlike honeybees, Yellow Jackets can sting multiple times.

Did you know you that you can track Yellow Jackets? They, too, leave physical marks of their presence. In order to build a nest, these wasps harvest leaves and wood pulp, for example, your patio furniture. Little grooves will begin to form in the wood as they harvest. Since they use different sources of pulp, if you look closely you’ll see that their nests are actually different shades of color. Fascinating!

Yellow Jackets are known as social wasps. Their nests can have up to 200 members — more if the winters are mild. Life centers around the queen, who is the main reproducer. Males and sterile female worker wasps make up the rest of the population. Yellow Jackets become most aggressive late summer through early autumn, when they are defending their young while simultaneously moving towards their own deaths.

Encounters with Yellow Jacket nests can be a harrowing experience. Some people are deathly allergic to their stings (0.5 percent of children, and about 3 percent of adults), and need an Epi-Pen injection and medical supervision to save their lives. If you are lucky, however, like I’ve been, interactions with yellow jackets can also provide an amazing learning opportunity.


For about five summers, I spent time instructing and directing summer camps. To help keep the campers safe, we were always on the look-out for Yellow Jacket nests. I’ve seen class groups accidentally step on a nest, get stung repeatedly, and then shift right into an incredible learning experience, using the widely found plant called plantain to help reduce the swelling and pain of the stings. Kids never, ever forget that plant, because its medicine is so effective!

So, what about that 0.5 to 3 percent of the population that is deathly allergic to Yellow Jacket stings? How can you tell if someone is going into anaphylactic shock? The following symptoms are common: itching all over, hives or swelling stemming from sting site, shortness of breath, flushing, throat constriction and metallic taste in the mouth, to name a few.


Treatment of a Yellow Jacket sting depends on the number and severity of your symptoms. Call 911 immediately if you are in any doubt about treatment.

Encounters of a curious kind… I am always amazed at the transformative process of doing Kamana journals on the hazards of our world. As the actual risks are clarified, I begin to lose some of my fear and my fascination is continually piqued.

Yellow jackets offer a great opportunity for us to practice our awareness skills, as well as a chance to delve into the mysterious and seemingly creepy world of the insect. What is your relationship to yellow jackets? What kind of personal experiences do you have with them? And what else can you learn about these curious creatures?

Much gratitude to:

Dan Corcoran

Adult Program Director
Wilderness Awareness School


and Kat Koch


Kat Koch is an Instructor with our Kamana Naturalist Training Program. When not running amuck in the woods you might see Kat dancing Lindy Hop or Salsa, singing and playing various instruments, making bow drill fires or teaching yoga.

for permission to reprint this article.

And Then I Got Stung, AGAIN!   Leave a comment

Back in April, on an unseasonably hot day, while battling back the Knotweed Forest, I got stung by a wasp.  Without the blessing of acclimation, I was covered in sweat, as it rained in my eyes.  Maybe, that smelled good to the beast; however, I wasn’t able to get a good look at my attacker.  He was big, black and blurry, best I could tell!  Between the heat and the sting, I was ready for ice.  On the way in, I grabbed a Plantain Leaf, Plantago juncoides, chewed it up a bit and slapped it on the sting;  which brought immediate relief. The cool darkness of my kitchen was wonderful.  Ice felt marvelous on my arm, and on my lips.  As I nursed my wound and relieved my thirst, an overwhelming urge to curl up, set in.  The stone kitchen floor looked so cool and inviting, that I figured I had gotten a little too much sun, and decided to go lay down.  In retrospect, this was a dangerous mistake, however, I was unaware that I was having a severe allergic reaction.  I missed that entire day, sleeping 9 hours, waking up feeling ready to go back to bed, not being able to eat, thinking I was coming down with the flu, or some junk, I went back to bed and slept until the next morning.  My body was working so hard, to stay alive it refused to do anything but rest and recover.  The next day, I woke up wheezing and struggling to breath; which, began a week long odyssey of E.R., and Dr visits, resulting in several breathing treatments and prescription, after prescription.  Now I carry an Epi-pen, an Albuterol inhaler, and liquid Benadryl; wherever I go.

Two weeks ago, I received an email from Blanche Cybele Derby; explaining that she was coming to the Cape, for a visit, and would like to stop by, on the way home, to meet me.  My first though was rather childlike, “SHE wants to meet ME!?!?!?”  Then a thousand questions splattered my thought train!  OMGoodness, I’m going to have an hour or so, with my Foraging Idol!  Blanche is a foraging encyclopedia!  My head was swimming for a week, until; finally, the knock came upon my door.  Realizing we, both, already have an idea of each other, from our published efforts, I knew I had the advantage.  I’ve watched the “Edible Plants: Wild and Tame” series, and read both editions of “My Wild Friends”, repeatedly.  All Ms. Derby had to go on was this blog.  My plan was to unleash my inner Librarian.  I prepared a list of questions, with the intention of writing an interview, here.  Our conversation flowed freely, as Blanche’s apparent love and knowledge was enthusiastically shared.

On the top of the list of questions was, “What do you do about flying invaders?”  Blanche explained that she isn’t usually bothered by insects; although a green fly invasion, during her stay on the Cape, inspired her to crush Yarrow and rub it on her skin; which seemed to help.  That is truly a genius thought!  Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a wonderful bite remedy; therefore, if you do get bit, the medicinal properties will immediately relieve the pain, itch and/or rash that often follows. (2)  And, in retrospect, it seems to me that Yarrow has few invaders, as it does not get eaten, full of holes.  Blanche also related, that, in her experience, sweaty folks and meat eaters get stung, more often.  She is a dry vegetarian.  I am a very sweaty meat eater.  Hummmmm!  She vaguely remembered an article about Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, and Anaphylaxis, and gave me the name of a chemist, to investigate.

After our visit, I had several errands, then my plan was to begin writing up our interview.  And, Then I Got Stung, AGAIN!  This time it was a Yellow Jacket, which I plainly saw.  I didn’t realize Yellow Jackets are, also, wasps; but, more about that, tomorrow, with Our Sunday Guest, Kat Koch. (3)

I’ve read and been told that with each sting the effects will worsen.  And, this is certainly my experience.  I immediately felt my chest tightening and began to wheeze, as I fumbled for the Epi-pen; I could hear myself gurgling.  Following the pre-practiced instructions, I stabbed my thigh with the pen.  WOW, that stung and hurt, a lot!  Within seconds, oh. .  gee. . . . wow. . . . ., I felt like I could fly!  I ran upstairs, for the phone and dialed 911, as I used my inhaler and swigged Benadryl.  For some unknown reason, I had the foresight to turn on the AC!  Everything felt so much more real, immediate and alive; as the stairs, walls, even the cats struggled to breathe, with me.  A fireman, who was across the street, came to sit with me, until the ambulance arrived; as several other firemen and firewomen, magically, appeared.  Each one of them was gloriously beautiful and smelled sooo nice.  When the ambulance arrived, it was a Carvel Ice-cream truck, playing ice-cream vendor music.  The EMTs wore Carvel uniforms. I still did not realize that I was hallucinating; everything just seemed very right and very good.  In the ER a nurse placed a lead on my chest, and it felt like she punched me, so I winced.  This nurse and I discussed the fact that I was indeed hallucinating, and I agreed to kept in mind that she wasn’t actually punching me, and she agreed not to mind me wincing; as she continued to punch me at least a dozen times; maybe it was a thousand times.  The Doctor was a cross between Goofy and Dr. Kildare.  I received accolades for remembering and executing the “Sting Drill”, a breathing treatment, prednisone and several prescriptions; and was sent on my way, with an instruction sheet, containing Activity Restrictions and Additional Instructions, which reads, “DON’T MESS WITH BEES”, and a warning to take it easy for a few days!  I left with a million questions!  Honest to goodness, there has got to be a better way!

The past week has been real!  The closest I can come to describing it is, pneumonia-like.  Doing anything has required brute determination.  And, my mind is elsewhere, really, nowhere.  In an effort to look on the bright side, I figured a few days of taking it easy, gives me a chance to do some research, and write up the interview.  However, little has been accomplished.  Most of the week has been spent in front of the AC, having a “Lost” marathon.  It is really a much better story than I had imagined!  Right this moment, I’m pretty happy I’ve been able to sit up long enough to type this out.  Each day I feel a little more like me.  The interview post, with Blanche Cybele Derby, is coming along, slowly.

In April, I was given more Prednisone, then this go round.  I believe that is part of why I recovered faster and easier, then.  I could have asked for more prednisone, this time.  It was a tough choice, not to ask.  The short-term benefits of feeling stronger and breathing better, is very tempting; however, the long-term side effects of steroids, frightens me.  Not to mention the side effects of Epinephrine, Albuterol; et all.

Obviously, I have more questions than answers.  Any thoughts, comments, and/or wisdom that anyone would like to share, here, will be greatly appreciated.  My Mother always said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

      I will find a better way.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time.

(1) Blanche Cybele Derby:


(2) Yarrow, Achillea millefolium:


(3) Kat Koch: