amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

The Morel of the Story – Urban Foraging with Bryan Dowkes



On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, I went on a whimsical urban foraging walk with about a dozen people under the expert guidance of Bryan Dowkes, a forager, educator and writer who runs a group called Foraged Ottawa [Meet Up: Ottawa Foraging: Wild Plant and Mushroom Walks].


We met at Strathcona Park near the Adawe Crossing Bridge.

It was a great day for a walk near the river, still a bit chilly but sunny and dry. Bryan started by sharing some foraging books, including The Forager’s Feast:  How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles by Leda Meredith, which he said was a great intro to foraging. For some reason this made me think of The Worrier’s Feast by Wax Mannequin. In fact during the walk, I found myself thinking of songs that went with a few of the plants we talked about. There needs to be an urban foraging playlist! 
dandelion bud

The walk took us from Strathcona Park to beneath the bridge at the Queensway, almost to Hurdman and back, about 4 kms, give or take my walking time there. We covered 14 different plants on the official tour and a few more on the way back from the tour. It was a lot of fun and very whimsical. I made a few puns (see title), and made a little small talk with fellow tour participants.


Here are a few of my photos and notes. Any inaccuracies or errors are all mine.

One of the key things I learned during the walk was that it is important to understand a plant’s entire cycle. I was delighted to discover, for example, that dandelions begin as buds that are edible and delicious. I should mention that we were advised to be careful about eating the plants in the park or surrounding area due to dogs, traffic, etc. 
wild violets
We saw and discussed dandelions, garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed (which tastes a little like rhubard – Bryan gave us samples from knotweed he’d already cleaned., wild violets, day lilies, burdock, trout lilies, motherwort, ground ivy, white pine, mullen, mica cap mushrooms, wintercress, and stinging nettle.
mica cap mushrooms
Bryan with spring pesto

Bryan kindly offered us some of his delicious spring pesto, made with wild leeks, stinging nettles and garlic mustard. It was really garlicky, but had no garlic in it. Yum. Recipe is on the Foraged Ottawa FB page.
































spring ephemeral – fragments from a walk


Inside a locket worn by
Napoloean, a strand of
Josephine’s hair and dried
violet petals

let’s feast until the demise
of a day lily’s bloom
we will stuff it with goat cheese,
drink dandelion wine

tasty new growth abounds
but there is poison too

pay close attention to the
margins of the leaf

cut the violets as if you’re
a barber or a deer

disturbed soil
a recipe for wild horseradish
unfettered pony
heart-shaped beliefs
escaped colonies
the endangered trout lily
tenderly discussed

foraging is an all season love affair
but I would like a fling

I do like bitter things
beware forager’s certainty

palmate leaves shaped like the hand
with five fingers five leaves
numbers and nature

the properties of pine pollen
lamb’s ear
fuzzy leaves
gregarious mushrooms
if you cut them they will bleed

If you have the chance, I encourage you to attend one of Bryan’s walks. He’s knowledgeable and friendly. The walk was great fun. Visit the Meet Up group or the Facebook page to find out more details.


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