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!
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.
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
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
a recipe for wild horseradish
the endangered trout lily
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
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.