Foraging/Identifying Plants

my latest therapeutic endeavor

Dear readers,
I’m taking some liberties here to talk about my hobbies rather than any art/work updates (hope that’s ok). While on my road trip I became very interested in identifying and foraging plants (especially while encountering landscapes that are completely foreign to me such as the desert). This interest has stuck with me now that I’m back in New York. I struggle to even describe the amazement of knowing that many of the “weeds” growing out of the sidewalks here are actually edible, medicinal, packed with nutrients and often full of cultural and historical significance. Although I wouldn’t necessarily eat anything I found on the sidewalk, I now have a greater respect for and connection to what grows around me.
As part of this journey, I’ve been using this app called iNaturalist. It feels like playing Pokemon Go, but instead of catching fake creatures, you are identifying plants/fungi/insects and more. The app also can suggest IDs based on your photo and location and community members can also suggest IDs. I highly recommend using it to get in touch with the nature around you.

In terms of foraging, I have found and used some plants from parks (although you are technically not supposed to forage in NYC parks.) Many of the plants I foraged are considered weeds so at least what I’ve taken is plentiful. One thing I would like to learn more about is the ethics of foraging. I’ve been able to deduce some things just from common sense (i.e. don’t take too much!). But I’d love to see others’ perspectives/writings/thoughts. If you are into foraging and want to discuss, let me know!

Here are some of my foraged finds:

From NYC

Black nightshade on my block: I learned about this one from Alexis Nikole Nelson (who has a lot of online resources on foraging). I tried a berry! It didn’t taste too bad. Kind of too on the fence of sweet vs savory for my taste but glad I now know what it is!

Woodsorrel from… everywhere basically: Once you start noticing this one, you’ll see it everywhere. I used to think this was clover, but the main difference is that it has heart-shaped leaves and tastes fresh and lemony :)

Here is some woodsorrel that I put on top of salmon.

Common Purslane outside my building: Ok so I did not forage this because I saw this growing out of the sidewalk where I know my dog has peed before. But I wanted to include it because, right after I saw it, I saw some bigger purslane at the farmers market. I guess this might be an obvious point to make, but it still amazed my inner child to know something I walk past every day can also look like this in a food market. I guess that speaks to how disconnected I am to my food!

Big happy purslane

Austrian Pine 3 blocks from my apt: These lovely trees always drop pine cones that my dog loves to chew and chase around. I happened to notice the pine cones on it were still green so I picked a few to make a tincture and also to attempt to make mugolio (a kind of fermented syrup).

At first, although I knew these were pine trees, I didn’t know what specific pine they were. So I went down an internet rabbit hole and learned to identify it as Austrian because it has flexible needles that grow in groups of two. Now I (think I) know how to distinguish White pine, Red pine, Austrian, and potentially Pitch pine as well (call me for your pine needs lol).

Fat Hen aka Lamb’s quarters in Ditmas Park: I foraged some of this stuff (not the ones in the picture though) nearby my neighborhood in a patch of foliage that was far enough away from the sidewalk that I felt ok about it. I used this along with a little woodsorrel to make a pesto which I put on homemade gnocchi. The picture is up close because my gnocchi came out really misshapen and ugly (but delicious).

I also put nutritional yeast on it which is that yellow powder ( In case, you were wondering what that was! )

From the ~road~

Sagebrush from Idaho: I made some sagebrush bundles on the road and am currently steeping a tincture. I know that sagebrush is considered a very spiritual plant and tried to be careful about where I was getting branches from. I took a little bit from different plants rather than one plant and never from private land. I was able to dry the bundles on the dashboard of our van on the roadtrip and it made the car smell so lovely. In general, I was so taken away with the beauty of the desert.

Yarrow: I think I found this yarrow growing behind a motel in Chemult, Oregon. You can find yarrow in New York as well, but it has a lot of look-a-likes so be careful! I’m currently making a medicinal tincture with it. This was also such a great smelling plant.

Ponderosa Pine: I can’t really remember the state I was in? It may have been Nebraska? But I took a few needles to make a tincture.

And that’s all I have to share! I hope to find more friends that want to forage/ learn about plants. If you are interested let me know :)

Have a great weekend,
Aarati