Wild Edibles with Sergei Boutenko | Learn How to Forage for 25 Tasty Plants

(faintly speaking) – Get closer, ’cause we’re outdoors. I have to project a lot, and we’re gonna become fast friends today. Thank you so much for coming first of all. My name is Sergei. I’ve been studying plants for a very long time. And that’s kinda what makes me credible to talk about this. I’m not a botanist. I don’t claim to be. I’ve just been doing it a really long time. My family threw me into this is the short version of the story. When I was just 13 years old my mom decided to hike from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. And we had no business hiking. We’d never hiked more than a day before. They took me to like a Play it Again store, invested what little money we had into really crappy backpacks. And then on April, mid April in 1998, we had a friend drop us off on the Mexican border to start hiking. As an adult, I realize how crazy this is. But when I was a kid I was like, I guess everybody’s family does this, okay. (group laughs) When you hike that far you obviously can’t pack all the food on your back, right. So, you have to make arrangements beforehand to pack parcels of food that you ship to yourself. And then every time you pass a little town you resupply. Again, we had no experience hiking. We sorta started guessing well how much food could five hungry hikers really eat in a week, ’cause the resupply points were about a week apart. And I said five. So it was my mom, my dad, my sister, me, and then my cousin from Russia who came to visit us for a year, because my uncle wanted her to get a full rounded experience, right. So for six months of that year we took her into the woods to give her the American experience. But, that’s a different story. We get on the trail. And within a few short days we understand that our calculations were off. We just sorta figured how many dates can you really eat. We allotted five dates per person per day, small bottle of olive oil. We were also raw food vegans at the time. So we had a lot to think about. A week into the trip, we started running out of food. So, we have two more days left to hike and yet our food is gone. How many people have tried fasting before by a show of hands, anybody? It’s not very fun, right. You always think about food. Now imagine fasting when you’re expending 4,000 calories a day, even less fun. So, we had a little family meeting. We had to either decide whether we quit the trail and stop doing this or improvise. And my mom’s all about improvisation. So, she got some input. We, the kids were like well let’s quit. And my mom’s like, let’s not quit. We picked up a little book on wild edibles. And we started just learning about different plants. That was one of our little solutions that we came up with. That first week was really scary. And slowly we started learning new plants. We used to test all plants on my father, ’cause he didn’t speak English. And so my mom said that if we lost him, it wouldn’t be as big of an impact on the family. (group laughs) That’s Russian black humor. Long story short, we successfully completed the trail. At a certain point, we were eating 60 to 70% wild edibles by volume. So we were able to stretch the food parcels that we prepackaged and just put a bunch of wild food and then fill them up. And so from a very early age, I got to see that it’s doable. It’s realistic. Just like any new skill, it’s hard at first, but you perpetually get better. And so, today is gonna be about perpetually getting better. One of the things I really hope to accomplish is that through repetition we’re just gonna learn at least three new plants. And that’s my goal for today, that each one of you walks away knowing how to identify at least three plants. If you learn 10, great. But let’s keep the bar low, because my motto is always keep it simple, stupid. Let’s do 10 minutes of theory, because I think that’s important in the parking lot. And then the second part we’ll go into the park, to Jefferson Park, right over there. And we’re just gonna do hands-on looking at plants, studying them, talking about how you would eat them. I propose that today we’re not gonna eat anything. In fact, maybe we can make that agreement simply because I’ve been here for about a month exploring. And it’s not the cleanest park. So, in the interest of keeping everybody safe, let’s just look at plants. Let’s talk about ’em, sniff ’em. But let’s not put ’em in our mouth. Sound good? Promise, pinky promise. Okay. And the reason for that is because outside of there being plants that you shouldn’t eat, human pollutants are actually almost as big of a concern, in fact, maybe more so. Pesticides, herbicides, various chemicals railroad ties, that’s something we’re gonna talk about as well. So, why is it important to learn about plants? The main reason is because it enriches our life. It teaches us about our environment. And actually, that I recently learned from Expand Yoga, because I started coming here and doing more yoga. And I know there’s a whole list of various benefits, like you get more limber and psychologically you rest. But also I realized that yoga teaches you about your immediate surroundings, right. So, when Liz and Matt tell us to get in Warrior II, if you’ve never done Warrior II before, now you know you can do Warrior II. And then they say well reach around and grab, clasp your hands behind your back. And you’re like, holy moly, I didn’t know I could do that. And now I have that as a skill. It’s in my repertoire. So, you’ve just expanded your life, because now you know you can squat down like this. And if you ever needed to, you could do it, right. In that same sense, plants do the same thing. You go to the park, and you’re completely novice. And it just looks like greenery. You have no idea what it is. Then you start crouching down. You start slowly examining every tiny little morsel, every plant. And your world gets so much bigger. You think the world is huge, ’cause there’s seven continents. And you can fly for 11 hours and end up in Russia or wherever. How much bigger is the world when you start looking at all the little microcosms? So, to me one of the biggest benefits of wild edibles is that it literally enriches your life. It makes it bigger. And how fortuitous that Expand Yoga is sponsoring this. It’s like symbiotic relationship almost. Let’s figure out if our worlds need expanding. I made some handouts. Take one, pass it around. I’m gonna quiz you. Remember college, anybody? Pop quiz. This right here is a test that I came up with. It’s in my book. I have a wild edibles book. Shameless plug. I have a couple copies that will be for sale afterwards, but. This is a test that’s gonna help us figure out how much we know about the natural world versus how much we know about the technological, modern world. So when everybody gets it, we’re gonna take it together. I made this in 2012. So, some of the brand names are now becoming obsolete. But let’s start form the left, the top left, and let’s just shout it out. What’s that first T. – [Woman In Group] Twitter. – [Sergei] Twitter, and no cheating by the way. No looking at the bottom. How ’bout the next one? – [Group In Unison] Facebook. – [Sergei] Next one. This is where everybody gets stumped. – [Woman In Group] Myspace. – [Sergei] Myspace. How ’bout the check mark. – [Group In Unison] Nike. – [Sergei] Next one. – [Group In Unison] Apple. – [Sergei] McDonald’s. Mercedes. Lacoste, a French tennis brand, right. Now it gets harder. Now, let’s look at the names of the plants. What’s A? – [Woman In Group] Oak. – [Sergei] Oak, I’m impressed. How ’bout the next one? – Pine. – Fir. – [Sergei] Fir, I like fir. C. How many people say clover? Raise your hand, nice and high. How many people say sorrel? It’s sorrel, good job. All right, D. – Maple. – Maple. – [Sergei] Not maple. Great. E. – [Man In Group] Maple. – [Sergei] Maple seed pod or helicopter, right. F. – [Woman In Group] Douglas fir cone. – [Sergei] Douglas fir cone. See how the voices are kinda like getting? – [Group In Unison] Yeah. Okay, G. (faintly speaking) I like it Christmas tree. What type of Christmas tree? – [Woman In Group] Is it a fir? – [Sergei] It’s a fir. Yeah, so fir tree. H? (faintly speaking) Aspen good. And, I? – [Group In Unison] Maple. – That’s a maple. Okay, so, you guys did better than most. But we could still expand our world a little bit more. The second handout is what I call Sergei’s wild edibles cheat sheet. So is basically a little printout I made. It’s a PDF. And it, on the front it has nine of my favorite plants. And on the back it has some nutritional data and stuff. And so, I’m gonna give you the paper version which you can laminate or you could use it and love it on this hike. And then if you wanna laminate it later, ’cause I’m, I laminated this for Liz and Matt. There you go, present. – Thank you. – You could go to my website which is on here, print this off for free. Take it to the print shop. Get it laminated. Stick it in your car or your backpack, and now you have a little field guide. All right, so, there’s some major benefits to wild edibles. And I wanna quickly run through those as well as how to stay safe. Benefit number one, free food. Everybody knows that. That, people kinda… That’s synonymous with wild edibles. But when you look at it in depth food costs are continuously rising. Every year they go up three to 5%. When I wrote my book in 2013 they were already expensive. But in 2019 grocery store food bills are even higher than before. Especially if you wanna eat healthy, you go to Met Market or you go to a co-op, you can barely get out of there for less than 100 bucks, right. The food that we are gonna learn how to harvest and eat today is significantly gonna reduce your monthly expenditure on food. So during the summer months, May through November I can offset easily 40% of my food cost just by harvesting food out of my backyard. You don’t even have to go far. Some people’s think, wild edibles it’s a big pain in the butt. You gotta get in your car. You gotta take an entire day off of work, go somewhere far. It’s literally stuff that’s growing all around your house, in a neighborhood park, that kinda thing. So wild edibles equal free food. Wild edibles are also healthier for you as well as the planet. So because these plants are wild, they’re as nature intended. They have longer root systems that can go down below depleted topsoil and draw out vital minerals. And they also often grow in soils that haven’t been depleted. Janice Schofield, an author that I deeply respect, she also says that wild edibles have stronger immune systems for the area where they grow. So for example, if you live in Tacoma, Washington, and you harvest a dandelion that also lives in Tacoma, Washington, you can boost your immune system in the local region. Additionally, when you eat chips or crackers from the store, they come in plastic, triple wrapped in plastic. And the sole purpose of that plastic is to be thrown away. That bothers me every time I do it. That’s the only use for that thing. It’s for cleanliness and to be thrown away. When you eat plants, anything that’s left over goes in your compost, turns into soil. It reduces waste. So, healthier for you and the planet. Benefit number three is the epitome of local food. The average food, the average produce travels roughly about 2,500 miles to get from where it’s grown to your plate. A dandelion grows in your backyard. So, literally you walk out the backdoor, and that’s textbook local food. So, less of a carbon footprint. It also diversifies your food. Michael Pollan in his book In Defense of Food writes that hundreds of years ago we used to eat up to 80,000 different species of things. And when I say species I’m not just talking about elk and deer, different plants, thousands of different plants, thousands of different nuts and seeds and grains. And then over time that’s reduced, reduced, reduced to roughly, he says 3,000. I actually think it’s closer to 300. So we think we live this diverse life where one day we have Italian food, then we have Mexican food, then we have Russian food. And really all we’re eating is wheat, corn, corn byproducts, rice, sugar, and a few different things. Why do you think it’s important to have a diverse diet? Anyone? So diversity is important, because all food is comprised of different micronutrients. And the more diversity we get in our diet, the more likely we’re to meet all of our recommended daily allowances. We eat some miner’s lettuce, it gives us some vitamin C. We eat some kale, it gives us some protein and some other minerals, and so on and so forth. And when we eat a very diverse diet, our bodies get enough. And I really think that the first person that coined the phrase eat a balanced diet, he or she probably pointed at everything and said here’s some lakes. Eat some food from there, some algaes. Here’s the ocean, eat some more seaweed from there. Eat some pine nuts from the mountains. Eat a diverse, balanced diet. So, wild edibles will help us expand our food options exponentially. They also prepare us for unfortunate events. Should ever, should a disaster ever happen you’ll actually know what to eat. And, two other benefits that are worth mentioning is A, they’re gonna help you bond and make memories with your friends and family, that really kind of important. Have you ever cooked a meal together? You laugh, you play. Now imagine going outside and harvesting the food and then making the meal. It’s, it just kinda adds another layer. And finally, we’re all here outside becoming more and more of a commodity these days. We’re standing, we’re getting vitamin D, probably a little bit too much for our liking at the moment. But we’re getting vitamin D from the sun. We’re breathing in fresh air. And we’re gonna crouch and we’re gonna dig, and that’s gonna lead to a benefit we call exercise. That’s my spiel. I could talk more on this. But I think we should just get at it, start talking about plants. A little warning, we’re gonna be very repetitive today, and I do that systematically, because I want you to remember. One of my wild edibles teachers, she actually leaves in Issaquah. Her name is Karen Sherwood of EarthWalks NorthWest. And that’s one of the lessons I took away from her is that if you are repetitive, you strengthen a muscle, and then you’ll remember it for the rest of your life. So, that’s how we’re gonna remember a lot of plants. On that note, let’s go. This is the only one I found. I’ve been coming to this park for about a month now, every couple days. And this is the only wild sweet pea that I found. This is a very controversial plant. So, at every wild edibles class I’ve ever done, somebody’s always like but what about the guy in Into the Wild. He supposedly died from eating sweet peas, a version of this plant. The first thing I wanna say about that is that story is very inaccurate. You read the book, it says one thing. You watch the movie, it’s a completely different story. Jon Krakauer has been criticized heavily for a lot of his books. But Into the Wild is probably the biggest criticism he’s received. There’s an author. His name is Samuel Thayer, really awesome dude, a forager I respect. In his book Nature’s Garden, he has a great account of Into the Wild, kinda the true story. Basically, what ended up happening is Chris McCandless he starved to death. That was the official coroner’s, what the coroner determined. But it wasn’t a very good story, because this kid going out into the woods and for many, many months not getting enough calories and then starving to death, how you gonna sell that. It’s a much more interesting story to sell this sort of scary fable about how plants, he just ate a plant and it killed him. So he supposedly mistook wild sweet pea for wild potato. After he died, both wild sweet peas and wild potatoes were studied extensively and neither of the plants were found to be poisonous. In fact, one of the botanists that studied the plant said that I would eat both plants, so. This is a very lovely, tasty plant, that tastes just like a bean sprout. And, it grows all over. It develops purple flowers. Sometimes they’re yellow. It kinda looks like a house pea. It’s a vine, right. Today, a lot of what we’re gonna be doing is I’m gonna say please describe it to me. Please describe it to me. So just take it, take a look, pass it around. Take one, pass it around. So what does it look like? – [Woman In Group] It looks like a sweet pea (faintly speaking). – [Sergei] It looks like a sweet pea. I need more information than that. – [Woman In Group] Yeah, rabbit ears for leaves. – [Sergei] Rabbit ears for leaves. – [Woman In Group] Curlicues. – I like curlicues and tendrils. So initially when you go out and you look for plants, they all look green. And it’s hard to differentiate between the two. And, this is where we get scared, because we’re like, well how do I learn what a sweet pea is versus a sweet potato or whatever. You learn about it in the same way that you learn how to identify a cabbage versus a head of iceberg lettuce. Our brains have folders in our heads, and the folders just start storing information. And that information is called a search image. So when you’re very young, you probably didn’t know the difference between a lemon and an orange right. Your parents could show you a lemon and an orange, you’d be like I don’t know. They both look round, and they both have a skin. And eventually, as you came in contact with lemons and oranges, you started differentiating one and the other. The same thing is gonna happen when we talk about plants. So when I say what does it look like, and somebody says it has tendrils, that’s a very good identifying characteristic that’s gonna help you recognize the plant. So we’re improving our search image. And when you look at a plant long enough the folder gets really full and then for the rest of your life you’ll know this is a wild sweet pea. The sweet pea also teaches us something called meristems. And meristems are the growing parts of plants. So, when a plant is growing, meristem actually comes from the Greek term to divide. So when cells divide and split apart, those are called meristematic parts. So when a plant is young, it’s light green, and it’s very flexible. It’s full of sugars. It’s full of minerals and vitamins. And that’s when it’s most nutritious and most delicious. As the plant gets taller or longer, the plant cannot support itself if it’s all flexible. So it starts developing a solid foundation, very fibrous. So, if you feel this plant, the bottom is very, is stiff compared to the top. So this part is meristematic like the tops of asparagus, for example. You can snap them off. They’re very flexible. They’re very delicious. But you go down the stem, and it’s very fibrous, not as delicious. So as foragers, we’re gonna wanna look for the tops, the meristematic bits. So on the wild sweet pea, in addition to the flower, the meristematic part is this tender little bit. On we go. There you go, my gift to you. (faintly speaking) Sergei, yeah. – [Woman In Group] Sergei, so is the, so the whole plant is edible. – So the whole plant is edible, but we’re gonna talk about that. It’s kind of, it’s very objective. While you can eat this part, how hungry are you. More often than not, I’ll just go through, and I’d harvest a small bowl of those, and that’s what I’d throw on a salad. Okay, on we go. My friends get sick of this, ’cause they’ll take me out on a hike, and I’m like. There’s like five things to talk about right here. So the next think that I wanna talk about which most of us already know is grass. Grass is a plant that most people can already identify, right. There’s lots of different varieties of grass. And in my book it’s probably the best survival food, because everybody knows what grass is. It’s hard to miss it, miss… There’s some sedges and stuff that kinda look like grass, but more often than not, people know what grass looks like. Grass has all the vitamins and minerals necessary to maintain proper body function, which means that if your car ever gets stuck in the forest, and you don’t know what else to do, you’re really hungry, grass will sustain you. Now we’re not cattle. We don’t have seven stomachs. It’s very hard to digest. But again, if we look for the meristematic bits, the light green parts. They’re kinda chewy, and here, hold on. Whenever I do this on camera it never works, but boom, bam, see. So maybe let’s all try this. Let’s all come over here and just kinda pull on the top. And try and expose this light green part. So grass is kind of a tube right, and if you pull at just the right place, you can expose, you kinda hear like a little squeak. (faintly speaking) So when we were hiking on the trail, for example, one thing I would do, I would get ahead of my family, ’cause I was walking the fastest. I was a 13 year old boy and had a lot of energy to expend. And I would just walk all day and then, and throw it away. Throw it away. So, by the end of the day, maybe I had 1,000 pieces of grass. And this part is actually quite delicious. Again, it’s that kind of meristematic asparagus like part. And then the other thing that accomplishes is ’cause nature is very wise, so when I harvest this, eat this little bit, and then throw the grass, I’m planting more grass. The symbiotic relationship. Ann Wigmore, has anybody heard the name Ann Wigmore before? She’s the lady that popularized wheat grass. So she was a Lithuanian woman who had all kinds of health problems, and the medical industry basically said we can’t help you. And she noticed that her cat was sitting and eating grass every time it was sick, and then it would get better. So Ann Wigmore started eating grass and her health problems started going away. And she was the lady that pioneered wheat grass. So now you go to the store and you pay $4 for a little shot of wheat grass, that’s because of her. But I have a little secret for you. You could just juice the grass in your yard, and then save $4. How ’bout that? – [Woman In Group] Is it the same quality? – It’s the same exact quality. There’s nothing special about wheat grass other than it grows the fastest. I used to grow wheat grass for a health institute. And certain red hard wheat just produces the most grass the quickest. But there’s lots of other wild grasses that are more nutritious than that. Now, if you’re gonna juice grass or blend it in a smoothie, you have to ensure that it’s, hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides. So, in my own backyard I know for two years we haven’t been spraying it. I would definitely throw that in a green smoothie or juice it, but I wouldn’t go necessarily to a park to do it. The next plant is right over here that I want to talk about. Anybody know what this is? (faintly speaking) – [Woman In Group] Big dandelion things. – I like where you’re going. You guys are not wrong. So this is called sow thistle. And I already know what this looks like. So why don’t you guys pass it around. Sow thistle is in the same family as dandelion which is the sunflower family. And it’s essentially the root of lettuce. So thousands of years ago when lettuce didn’t exist, people just ate dandelions and sow thistle. If you’ve ever chewed on dandelion, you know that it’s very bitter. My guess is how we got lettuce from dandelions is people got really sick of that bitter taste, and so they started looking for varieties of dandelion that were less bitter. And once they found that variety they started waiting for that variety to go to seed, growing those seeds, and then again choosing selectively the least bitter variety and growing those seeds. And over time we had romaine lettuce which almost looks nothing like dandelion, but it’s in the same family. So both sow thistle and dandelion are extremely good for our inner organs. The bitterness, kinda the white, milky sap which some people say is not good to eat. That’s pure bs. That bitterness is actually really good for cleansing our gall bladder, our pancreas, our kidneys. And it also aids digestion. We need bitters to help produce saliva and bile in our stomach. And it helps digest food. Unfortunately, now that we eat donuts and cheesecake and all that stuff, bitter just doesn’t compete. So, we throw the dandelions away or we complain that they’re weeds when in fact we should be eating more of this and throwing the donut away. The easiest way to eat dandelions is to blend them in a green smoothie, ’cause when you blend sweets with bitter the sweetness counteracts the bitter. And then the other thing that’s good to do with them is put them in a pesto. So you make pesto with pine nuts, a little Parmesan, basil. Just cut out the basil and throw the dandelions in there. And then the sweet and, sorry, the salty and bitter, it just, it tastes delicious. All right, let’s keep going. There you go. – Thank you. – Sergei. Do you, are you gonna talk about oxalates or do you? – Absolutely. – Good. – Thanks for bringing that up. Yeah. What was your name? – Jenny. – Jenny. – Nice to meet you Jenny. – nice to meet you too. – Craig. – Craig. – And how ’bout dandelion roots? I mean they seem so substantial, can you? – I love it. Yeah, let’s talk about it. – Okay. – So let’s address dandelion. I had two questions. Number one, oxalates. There’s two ways to think about plants. Number one there’s the botanist, toxicology perspective which is like, is this plant poisonous or edible based on its chemical buildup. And when you look at that almost everything is poisonous. So if you read a book about toxicology, you find that things like mint are poisonous. Dandelions have certain alkaloids or oxalates in them that are poisonous in large quantities. And the second perspective is more the Native American perspective where nothing is poisonous. It’s all about dosage, certain parts that you can eat, and the time of year that you can eat it. I tend to side more with the Native American perspective, because all the research that I’ve done sort of points in that that is the right direction. So oxalates, all greens have some trace amounts of either alkaloids, oxalates or anti-nutrients that… It’s a mechanism to preserve the plant. So the plant doesn’t want you to only eat kale, because if we only ate kale would go extinct. So kale tells you this. It says you can eat me, but if you eat 10 buckets of me, you’re gonna have some signs of less than perfect health, maybe a stomach ache. Maybe you’re gonna get a little hives, some relatively minor issues that we would like to avoid, but nonetheless it’s not gonna kill you. My mom, Victoria Boutenko, she came up with the concept of green smoothies and popularized them through her books. And people loved it for 10 years and then all of this don’t eat kale and spinach, because it has oxalate stuff started coming around, because people supposedly would get gall stones from that right. The trouble with that theory is that chocolate, beer, wheat, and a bunch of other stuff have oxalates in them too and nobody’s saying don’t eat chocolate, wheat or beer, at least not at the local brewery. But it’s the green smoothie that gives you the gallstones right. So, I have many resources online about this subject in particular. I actually have a YouTube video. I’m on YouTube prevalently. And basically, it’s a non-issue if you eat a diverse diet. If you were to eat buckets of kale every single day, again, you might run into some problems. If you rotate your greens, if you rotate the food that you eat, it’s not an issue, because those oxalates will get eradicated through your kidneys and liver. So, it’s not a big deal. Now, if you were to eat seasonally, this would be even less of an issue, because in the spring time you’re gonna eat lots of dandelion, then dandelions go away. You’re gonna eat something else. But because we’ve quote, unquote improved life where now we have kale all year round at the grocery store, it’s more of an issue. The second question was do you eat things cooked. Yeah, wild edibles, you’re gonna cram ’em in your diet every which way. You can throw them in salads. And I’ll spotlight some of the things that you could do with salads. Put these in smoothies, juice ’em. You can also put them on your pizzas and saute them up. Throw them in soups. Get them into your diet as best as you can, because these are super foods. And these are supplements that you don’t have to pay for. One of my rants on supplements is that it’s kind of controversial. Some people don’t like that I say this. But I’ve never taken supplements. I’ve tried many times, but I found that there’s no effect. Supplements, first, are sold on a fear based scheme. The nutrients that are around is not enough. If you just eat organic food, you’ll never be healthy. That’s kind of how that supplement story starts. And then you’re like oh no. Man, even if I shop at a Whole Foods and buy the best ingredients that I can buy, I still don’t get enough. That’s scary. Maybe I should get your supplement. You take the best supplement and best most expensive supplement. You twirl it around and read on the ingredients list and what is it made of? – [Woman In Group] Corn. – If yeah, most of the time it’s rice protein with some of the good stuff, like 90% rice, 10% everything else. But if it’s a really high quality supplement, it’s made out of fresh, organic produce. So, please explain to me how if lettuce doesn’t have enough of what I need, but the supplement that I’m buying from you is made from lettuce, how does that make sense? Okay, let’s talk about this plant right here. Everybody grab one. When we harvest plants I encourage everybody to engage all of their senses. We have five senses, because each one of those communi, is a different form of communication. Each one of those senses is meant to help keep us safe. So, sometimes when people get poisoned from eating stuff they’re not supposed to, it’s because they just like. And they only engage one sense. Well, that’s four other tests that you failed to do. And the other thing on that that I want to say is that wild plants are not dangerous. The only way that you would get poisoned is if you’re just going through the weeds, and you just start eating stuff before you identify what they are. All right. There’s no bad dandelions sitting in an alley waiting for you to walk down that alley so they can jump down your throat. So, number one if you can resist the temptation to just eat foreign foods, you’ll always be safe. Then we engage our senses. So, we put all plants through five different tests. First, what does it look like? So, what does this look like? – [Woman In Group] Chamomile. – [Sergei] Kinda like chamomile, I like it. You’re a professional. – [Woman In Group] It smells like chamomile. – So it looks like chamomile. So already it’s telling us hey this looks like a familiar food that I’m accustomed to eating, right. That’s a very good point. I’m so glad you brought that up. The next test is how, what does it feel like. – [Woman In Group] It’s soft. – It’s soft. I can conceivably eat this, because it feels soft. If I were to try and eat that telephone poll, maybe my eyes would get confused. I don’t think they would, but if they, if my eyes got confused, I’d feel it. And my hands would tell me what my eyes missed. This is really hard. I’d break my teeth if I would eat it, right. This little plant has now passed the looking test and the feeling test. Now, what does it smell like? – [Woman In Group] Flower, smells like pineapple kinda. – If you smash the flower, it smells like pineapple. And I’m so glad you’re bringing this up, because this is called pineapple weed. And it’s a wild chamomile. So, look at that. This is how we learn about plants. So it looks like chamomile. Well, lots of plants look like chamomile. We feel it. It feels soft. We smell it. Wow, it smells like pineapple. So now, we just learned looks like chamomile, smells like pineapple. Those are really good identifying characteristics. So we have two more senses. What does it sound like? In Native American lore, you would actually talk to the plant and it would talk to you which is a quality that I’ve lost. But I interpret that sense to be like what is the environment sound like. I hear somebody mowing. Is that, is somebody spraying chemicals? Is there a big roadway nearby? Is there anything, is there any sound that might jeopardize the edibility of this plant? And then the very last test is what does it taste like. And so, you’re not just gonna grab a bunch of it at the beginning and just put it in your mouth and go I hope it tastes good. You’re gonna approach it cautiously, and you’re gonna just eat a little bit, and then you’re gonna wait. And then if you do this cautiously and over time, you’ll understand chamomile, wild chamomile, aka pineapple weed. If you dry this, it makes a really good tea. Chamomile has calming properties. If you have any sort of allergic stuff going on because of the seasons or food allergies, it’ll soothe those. And it also helps to improve sleep. So, what I would do, I would actually throw these flowers and tender leaves into salad. I would saute them. Put ’em on an omelet, if you will. Throw them in soups or just dry the leaves and make a tea out of them. – So if you did do that, if you put it on a salad, how many of these would you do with a thing? – So, okay, so if it was my very first time eating this plant, I would just put a handful on it, right. And then just see what happens. – Put a handful. – A handful is fine. A lot of people get nervous about wild edibles, because they think if I misidentify it the consequences are huge. But the qua, the consequences most of the time are relatively insignificant, like you might get a little bit of a stomach upset. That being said, we wanna eliminate as many variables and consequences as possible. So, we approach new food cautiously and then we eliminate those variables. And in fact, actually, on that sheet that I gave you, I have Sergei’s rules for foraging. And it’s three simple rules. Number one, don’t eat something if you don’t know what it is, kinda commonsense. A lot of people actually disregard that surprisingly. I get emails all the time, people say my kids and I went out and we harvested this plant. Can you tell us what it is? We ate a bunch of it. So I actually made a rap song that’s on YouTube called Don’t Eat Something if You Don’t Know What it is that plays around with how silly that can be. The second rule is eat new foods in small amounts. So, maybe when you’re young everything is foreign to you, and your parents are very cautious. What is, what happens when he eats sweet potatoes? He’s good. What happens when he eats lettuce? He’s fine. And then maybe you get to peanuts, and your parents figure out pretty quickly, he’s not, peanuts don’t do so well for him. So you learn at a young age what you’re allergic to and what you’re not allergic to. Well, in the interests of staying safe that’s essentially what you’re doing when you’re playing around with new plants. So you’re gonna approach all new plants as though you’re potentially allergic to them. So even though Sergei says pineapple weed is 100% edible, the first time you eat pineapple weed you’re just gonna eat a little bit. And then rule number three is you don’t mix plants, because if I made a salad with 15 new wild edibles and then I had an allergic reaction, it’d be very hard to weed out what caused it, right. All right, let’s keep going. (woman laughs) So real quick, what do you guys see right now when you look at this park? What’s the first thing that comes to mind? (faintly speaking) – [Sergei] Grass, dandelions. – [Man In Group] The dogs walking. – Dogs walking. I like all those things, ’cause look. You already just altered your world a little bit. Maybe before this started, you would’ve just seen a park. Now I already heard two different edibles, grass and dandelions. And three, I love that you said dogs walking, because that’s a really good thing to consider. Hey, there’s animals. It’s a high trafficked area. Good job. One more thing about dandelions. These things are really edible and they’re delicious, the little flowers. So, when you’re at home, I invite you to, this is your homework, is take one of these flowers and plop it in your mouth, chew it up. You’ll notice that it’s very sweet, kind of has a pleasant green kale like taste. These things concentrate vitamin D. And guess what? In areas where we lack it many months out of the year this is a really good thing to put in your diet. Now how do you eat it? Flower fritters, you can fry them up in a little bit of oil and batter, great. You can also take these and stick ’em in honey. And the honey will just concentrate, preserve them right. So you make like a dandelion infused jam. You can throw them on salads raw. You can throw them in soups. One thing I like to do sometimes is actually take the petals out of it, put ’em in an ice cube tray, fill it with water, freeze ’em. Now you have flower petaled infused ice. And in the summer you drink. It looks beautiful. Makes sense. Okay, we’re gonna go into the shade over there, kinda get a little reprieve from the sun and talk about some plants. – Is it necessary to wash that? – Yeah, is it necessary to wash it? Absolutely, you wanna wash stuff. – Okay, just askin’. – I like it. Okay, there’s been a few followups about dandelion, one is about the root and one about the leaves. Let’s see if we can’t get both, here so. We’ll do some digging. And careful there’s blackberries. Okay, so. Number one, if you can find a dandelion, actually I’d love everybody to grab a leaf of dandelion if you can. Okay everybody has a dandelion leaf, right? Here’s a test to identify a true dandelion. You’re gonna flip it over, and you’re gonna run your finger along the main vein. Tell me what you feel. – [Woman In Group] Smooth. – Smooth. Fuzz, let’s see. – [Woman In Group] Fuzzy. – No it should be smooth. So the leaves are a little fuzzy, but the vein of a dandelion is smooth. That’s a true dandelion. So that’s one great identifying characteristic. – [Woman In Group] So this one with fuzz on it is not. – So the one with fuzz on it is not a dandelion. So there’s lots of different varieties of dandelions. Like I already mentioned, they’re in the sunflower family. The sunflower family is the largest family of plants. There’s nearly 24,000 varieties. And a lot of those are edible. I don’t wanna speak in absolutes. I don’t wanna say all of them are edible, ’cause some people might be allergic to dandelion for example. And so for them they’re not edible. But it’s a very good family to get accustomed with, accustomed to, because you could potentially expand your food choices 24,000 different ways, right. And I believe there’s over 300 varieties of dandelions and all of them are edible. You can eat the leaves in smoothies and soups, salads. You can eat the flowers. You can eat the stems. And you can also eat the roots. But generally, I don’t eat the roots, because when you harvest the roots it kills the plant. So in my book I have a chapter called respect the roots. With something like a dandelion, it’s not a big issue, because dandelions are extremely resilient. So if you see 100 dandelions growing you can eat 99 of them, and they’ll be fine. But with other plants like wild ginger for example, it’s really, really sensitive. So if you start harvesting roots, you’re gonna wipe out that population. And then it won’t grow there. So in an effort to be more ecological I suppose and responsible I often stay away from the roots and just harvest the greens and the fruits, ’cause I feel like that’s nature’s gift to us. And I also am kinda lazy sometimes. And I feel like it’s a lot easier to harvest some greens than some roots. That’s kind of where I stand on roots. If you were to eat them, you could bake them in the same way that you bake sweet potatoes or potatoes. In the South, they actually make a coffee substitute out of dandelion roots and chicory roots. It does not have caffeine. So you get the taste of coffee, but you don’t get the stimulant. What else can I tell you? Is there any other questions about roots? – [Woman In Group] Do you worry about the soil that they’re growing in? In this park would you eat the roots? – In this park, I probably would not eat the roots, because I haven’t run, done my due diligence. I haven’t called the Park’s Service to figure out what they spray or don’t spray. But in my yard I would eat the roots absolutely. Yeah. Okay, we’re standing under a tree. Who knows what kind of tree this is? – [Woman In Group] Horse chestnut. – Horse chestnut. So horse chestnuts are not traditionally considered edible, but since we’re here I just wanna point out. Everybody grab a chestnut. So they look very similar to the chestnuts that we eat around Christmas time. The one major difference between those and horse chestnuts is that the edible ones have a deep point on one side. And these ones are kinda round with no point. If you ever wanna identify a true chestnut, it’s gonna look just like this, but on the butt of it is gonna have a sharp point. So why are some edible? Why are not, some not? It’s kind of an alkaloid issue. We talked about oxalates. Horse chestnuts just concentrate more tannins. So they’re very bitter. They hurt our stomach. They’re not considered edible. So you would not eat these. But, the other horse, the other chestnuts with the point. They have less tannins. Thus they are more edible. And again, something like this Native Americans might not consider poisonous, because there are ways of extracting tannins from acorns and chestnuts. But they’re very labor intensive. And like I said, I’m a little bit lazy. I like to kind of throw something in my blender and get going. So I can do it, but I generally don’t. Make sense? Again, we have some wild grasses. Now, you can see there’s two different varieties at least. So you have kinda more of like a wild oat type looking grass which has seeds. And then you have like a big, you have another variety of grass which probably from a foraging standpoint is gonna be a much better thing to spend your time harvesting, because look how thick it is versus this. And you pull on the top. There’s more meristematic bits to eat versus this. So one thing to think about, if you’re harvesting food, you’re gonna go for something that gives you more reward, right. And it’d be the thicker grass. The other thing worth pointing out right here is blackberries. So blackberries, obviously the berries are edible. But the leaves on blackberries are also edible. And in fact they’re really good for things like dysentery, for fungus stuff. They have antibacterial properties. If you’re ever traveling for example. And you run into stomach issues, you can eat charcoal. But you can also eat blackberries, raspberries, thimble berries. Those leaves will help settle your stomach. – [Woman In Group] How would you eat them? – So how would you eat them? Good question. So, right here, check it out. Another lesson in meristems. So everybody try and kinda get close. And you can see that some, as the plant matures the thorns get really stiff and hard. But then if you look at the top part, you see that it’s lighter green. That’s the meristematic part of the blackberry. And now very carefully just feel the thorns and notice how they’re not quite developed yet. So, you can go through with a little knife and peel the thorns and eat the little stems of the blackberry. And that’s kinda more like your little wild asparagus or you can take the young leaves which are pretty much thorn-less, use those in a salad or if you boil them down the thorns become completely not an issue. They just go away. The best way that I’ve found to use them is you just dry these leaves, crush them up, throw them in tea. And then take a little bit with you when you travel internationally. And now you know that this stuff will help settle your stomach. Now the one caution about your blackberries and raspberries is you don’t wanna eat the leaves when they’re wilting. So you want to eat them fresh or you wanna fully dry them, because in the wilting process they start releasing more alkaloids or something, and it can sometimes have the opposite effect. But if you eat them fresh, within an hour of harvesting or fully dry, completely no problem. All blackberries and raspberries are in the rose family. Roses, apples, blackberries are in the same family. And, a lot of those relatives are edible and delicious. By the way, wild roses are delicious in salads, just the petals themselves. And, since in Washington you have a lot of them and they grow like weeds, eat the weeds. Right behind you there’s another plant I wanna talk about. It’s called common mallow. That’s it yeah. (faintly speaking) Here’s. We’ll sacrifice this root for the group. Okay, kinda wanna hear. What does it look like? – [Man In Group] Chrysanthemum. – [Sergei] Geranium good. – [Man In Group] Geranium. – What else? (faintly speaking) I’ll tell you a little a story. So, I went to, here in Tacoma actually, we’re really lucky, ’cause two really good foragers live within driving range. One of my teachers her name is Karen Sherwood. She lives in Issaquah. And every Memorial Day holiday, she hosts a three day retreat outside of Yakama where all you do all day long is you harvest plants and then you make food. And you harvest plants and you make food. Really good thing to look up. Her company is called EarthWalks NorthWest. And then another guy does the same thing out of Portland. His name is John Kallas. He’s another awesome dude. So when I went to my first workshop with Karen she says Sergei here’s a big bowl go get a bunch of clovers. Put it in your salad. We’re gonna put it in everybody’s salad. So I go out with the bowl, and I don’t collect anything. I can’t find a single clover to save my life. And I come back deflated. And I’m like, Karen there’s no clover. She says take this bowl go back to the field, squat, crawl if you have to but bring it back full of clovers. So I go back to the exact same field where I was. It was kind of on a farm property. And I squat, and I start looking closely. There was an entire field of clover. I just wasn’t looking close enough. So, there I learned the importance of describing a plant. And when I say what does it look like, I’m not looking for anything specific. I mean, I am, because I know what it looks like. But, I’m looking for key words to hear, like how will you remember this plant. So when I say, what does it look like, what I want to hear from you is how will you remember this plant. Let’s try it again. What does it look like? – [Woman In Group] Like a doily. – [Sergei] A doily, I like it. What else? – [Woman In Group] It’s soft. – [Sergei] It’s soft. I love that. – [Man In Group] Got a rough stem though. – Very good. So, look it all these things. It looks like a geranium and a doily. It’s got a soft, fuzzy flower and a rough stem. Great characteristics. – [Woman In Group] Lots of stems but sort of one main one. – Yes, it has lots of stems instead of main ones. Now, if you look at how it’s growing on the ground, what can you tell me? You think it’s a creeping plant or do you think it’s gonna grow straight up? – [People In Group In Unison] Creeping. – Very good identifying characteristic. So, this plant is called mallow, common mallow or malva. And it’s actually a close relative of okra. So, when you see this plant, this is one of the best eats that you can forage. And it’s a very common weed. It likes dry soils. So you’ll generally find it growing in the sun. Every part is edible, though the flowers or the leaves, I’m sorry, are the most delicious. And if you were to eat them, they taste just like okra. They have a gelatinous quality to them. So, what can you do with that? You could put in a gumbo. You can make an okra gumbo. Great in soups. Sometimes when you make a smoothy and it starts to separate, it kinda looks unappetizing. You throw a little common mallow in it, and it just makes, it binds it better. In fact, in the olden days they used to use this plant in the cheese making process where they would use it as a binding agent. It also has little flowers. And the flowers kinda look like, they almost look like the little blue bells that grow everywhere. And these flowers are delicious in salads. If you ever go to a potluck, and you bring a salad and sprinkle a handful on top of that, people will go bananas. And, this grows in your backyard. Any questions about common mallow? – [Woman In Group] How do you spell that? – M-a-l-l-o-w. – Okay. – There’s a guy, his name is David Wolfe, he’s kind of a health nut guy. He’s been all over social media for many years. But when I met the guy, right before we started hiking the trail actually, he introduced me to this plant. And what we would do is we just take big leaves of mallow, roll avocado in them, and sprinkle them with lemon juice. It was a really delicious snack actually. On we go. We didn’t go very far. What is this plant right here? It’s a bottle. Somebody said, say it. – Dead nettle. – Dead nettle. That sounds really scary. Everybody grab one. And let’s study it. Perfect. We might sit here for a while. (faintly speaking) There is some over there too. This is called purple dead nettle. And it has a very ominous name. It’s actually not poisonous at all. This is a wild mint. Doesn’t smell like mint. So we’re engaging all our senses. Everybody smell it. Kinda has a musky smell. The reason it’s called purple dead nettle is because it kinda looks similar to stinging nettles. And because of that, people don’t like the way that nettles itches. I guess that’s where it got the name. All mints have a square stem. So just like the dandelion has a smooth stem, all mints have a square stem. The mint family is full of edible plants. It’s a good thing to know how would you use this? I would just basically take that much of it and throw it in anything, whether that is a salad. This, it’s a little bit fuzzy. So, I probably wouldn’t eat this raw. But, I mean, I could eat it raw, but because it’s a little bit fuzzy I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. So, let’s come up with some ways you would eat this. Anybody? – Like a saute. – Saute. I like the tea idea, but I mean, let’s get creative here. What else could you do with this? Don’t worry, if you say something I don’t like, I’ll tell ‘ya. Pizza. Anybody else? – [Woman In Group] Tempura. – Tempura, yeah I like it. Those are all great. – [Woman In Group] Can you eat the stem? – You can eat the stem. And all mints again help to calm the system. So if you have any sort of seasonal allergies or you ate something, and it doesn’t agree with your belly. Eating a little bit of mint will help to soothe it. So that’s a really good thing to know. So maybe if you’re going traveling internationally, if you wanna go above and beyond, you take some purple dead nettle, and you dry the leaves. And you mix it with some blackberries or raspberries and you dry the leaves. And you kinda make yourself a little bag of greens which hopefully customs won’t sniff you for. I usually put it in a little supplement bottle. I think that’s what supplements are good. They have a nice, little thing. And then I just make a tea out of them abroad. Okay, who remembers the quiz that I gave them? Everybody grab some of these. (woman laughs) These are little baby helicopters. And helicopters identify a plant or a tree. And what’s that tree? – [Woman In Group] Maple. – Maple very good. So this forest, this park has lots of different types of trees in it. And trees are a class of foods that I would sort of consider as like a survival food, ’cause a lot of the common trees that we’re used to encountering have edible parts, and maple is certainly one of them. They’re kind of in that grass area, where it’s not the best meal that you’ll ever have. But they are edible. So, in dire circumstances, you could eat these tiny little maple seeds. That’ll give you some nutrition. You can also see how some of these leaves are very tender. And actually, it’s maple, so they’re very sticky. Grab a leaf, feel a leaf. And that stickiness is actually maple syrup, right. The lifeblood of a maple tree is a clear fluid that’s like maple juice. And then people will go in here and tap the tree and get a big bucket full of this clear maple juice, maple blood. And then they’ll boil it down for about 30 hours. I believe it’s 30 hours. It might even be longer. And eventually it’ll concentrate and turn into maple syrup. And just like you can do that with maple, you could also do it with birch. You could do it with aspen. And so, in Europe during World War II when there was food shortages a lot of people in Russia, in Germany, in France, they actually went and they would eat little buds of maples, the seedpods, the leaves. And they would cook ’em in their soups, just, it’s pure nutrition. So it’s really good to know about that. Hey, this is a maple. That’s a beech. That’s a birch and all parts of those things are edible. You can actually, there’s a layer inside the bark called the cambium layer, the inner layer. It makes for good eatin’. That would be in the same category as roots though. You wanna know exactly what you’re doing so as not to kill the tree. Over here. Okay, if I was a wild edible super hero and I had a tool belt, on my tool belt I would certainly include this plant. So grab a leaf and pass it around. I want to see if I can’t find the other. There’s two varieties of this plant. Here, grab a leaf, pass it around. This is called plantain. And it has no relation to the banana. This is a very fun plant. This plant has a lot of amino acids in it, which is also known like as protein, a lot of plant based protein. The reason I would have this on my belt as a super hero is because this plant can literally save your life. So plantain has this miraculous quality to draw poison out of your system topically. So if for example, couple years ago, I was showing off in front of some friends. And I was doing a handstand. I fell on the grass, and I got stung on my back by numerous bees. And I’m not allergic, so it wasn’t a big deal. But if you are, it could’ve been a really big deal, right. So, it started to hurt. It was uncomfortable. And I knew what to do. I ran around, and I found this plant. I chewed it up, made a poultice. Spit it into my friend’s hand, and I said can you please rub it on my back. Within 10 minutes the pain is gone. So if you ever get stung by an ant, a bee, a spider, if you step on a rusty piece of metal, and you can’t get to the hospital right away, this plant will actually draw toxins out of your skin. Janice Schofield, an author that wrote a book called Discovering Wild Plants, she talks about how her dad, I guess he was accident prone, and so one time he treated a gunshot wound with this stuff. And another time he had blood poisoning which is a very serious thing, and he was able to not die basically by using, applying plantain to the wound. Have you ever heard of psyllium husk? – [Woman In Group] Yes. – What is psyllium husk? It’s like, here you go. Liz found it. This is a, the other variety of plantain. Good job Liz. So this is lance-leafed plantain. This is broad-leafed plantain. So psyllium husk is a supplement type food that helps digestion. It’s like natural vegan gelatin, right. Where does psyllium husk come from? Plantain, it’s a wild crafted food. So a plantain will develop these seed pods that look very similar to baby corn. It’s a little too early for it right now, but they’ll develop these massive long stalks that can have up to 20,000 seeds on them. And those little stalks are delicious when you boil them. They taste just like baby corn. That’s number one. When those 20,000 seeds all develop husks around them, people somehow have shake the husk away, and that’s one psyllium husk is. So, what are some of the key identifying characteristics of plantain? – [Woman In Group] It’s like fibrous at the bottom. – [Sergei] It’s fibrous at the bottom, very good. – [Woman In Group] And the color at the bottom, yeah. – I love it, okay. So, the top of the leaf is a darker green than the bottom of the leaf. Can everybody see that? There’s something very obvious. – The veins grow out long. – Yes, so the veins grow out really long. Do you see that? They’re very easy to distinguish. – [Woman In Group] It smells wonderful. – I think that you like greens. Don’t you? – [Woman In Group] I like greens. – So here, check this out. Here’s one of my own personal identifying characteristics, so. If you take the stem of plantain and you carefully crush it. Look at this. – [Woman In Group] That’s so cool. – So try that. If you can find plantain near you, see if you can expose some of the threads. – [Woman In Group] Sergei, can you say out loud (faintly speaking)? – Yeah, come over here, so. Yeah, here play around with that. I’m gonna show these folks. Okay, so yeah, check it out. So if you just, see how the, have these lateral veins. If you just pull really carefully, it starts exposing threads. – It’s been sewn. – Like it’s been sewn, very good. So, now you know what plantain is like, right. And so if you’re ever in doubt, like is that plantain, you’re gonna say, veins that you can easily see, long seed pods, and if you pull on the stock, it’s gonna reveal threads, plantain. – [Woman In Group] Can you eat the leaves (faintly speaking)? – Absolutely, you can eat the leaves. They’re pretty rich in chlorophyll which is not a bad thing. But they do taste strong. This would be like an advanced green. So put it in a soup. Throw it on a pizza. I literally cram wild edibles into everything. When I was researching my book, I’m sitting there, and I’m just like what is this plant good for. I have nutritional data in there. I kid you not. The USDA, there’s a website called nutrionaldata.com and is basically a USDA information from the ’60s when the government just had a bunch of money they were throwing at figuring out what food is rich. And surprisingly they have quite a few wild edibles on there. So I’m sitting there compiling these charts and I’m thinking well what is plantain good for. And it’s literally good for everything. I kid you not. It’s not an exaggeration. What is dandelion good for? It’s literally good for everything. Its got tons of vitamins and minerals. Its got amino acids, antioxidants. So at that point I was like, it’s kind of silly to remember exact things, ’cause it’s literally good for everything. Okay, see this plant with the purple flowers. I’ll meet you right by it. Look how pretty this is. I don’t even know what kind of plant this is. But I know that it’s a mustard. And the reason I know that it’s a mustard is because mustards are in the brassica family which is nearly 2,000 different plants. It includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage. And all mustards smell like mustard. So sometimes we rely too heavily on our eyes. And we can just be like I don’t really know what this is. I don’t know what it looks like. But then you come over here, you grab a leaf. You crush it up. And if it’s a mustard, it should start smelling like mustard. So, I invite you to come over here and start and do this with me. This one’s pretty faint. There’s other characteristics, but the leaves on this are pretty faint smelling. Can anybody get a little hint of mustard? (faintly speaking) Look at how big this leaf is. Does anybody, so did we get a little hint of mustard? If not, there’s another mustard over here that you’ll definitely smell it. Look how big this leaf is. You can literally wrap, make little wraps in this. One thing I like to do, I call it gorilla wraps. No, just kidding. You take a banana and you wrap it in a green leaf. It could be a collard leaf. It could be a kale leaf. It could be a wild mustard leaf. And what you’ll find is that the greens will complement the fruit, and the fruit will complement the greens. You could also make a nice dolma out of this. You could opt, if you, say you like low calorie diets. Here’s a perfect little tortilla. Also has these beautiful flowers. All mustards have four petals. They can be different colors, yellow, white, purple, pink. And come over here and grab one of these. All mustards also have six stamins, stamin are those tiny little antennae that are in the flower. So they have four petals, six stamin. Four of those are gonna be long and two will be short. And then this one in particular has its own version of the seed pod, which is kind of like a little pea almost. And you can eat those too. They kind of have a spicy, peppery taste. So, if I was picking this plant for food, I’d be like look big leaves. I’m gonna do something with those. Maybe I’ll cut them into a salad. But since they’re big, I’d probably make a wrap out of this. This I’d probably throw on top of the salad, because they’re nice, peppery. They would enrich it, make it look beautiful. And then the seed pods would just add a little bit of crunch. They’d be like a wild sweet pea. John Kallas who has a book called Wild Edibles, From Dirt to Plate. He says that wild mustards through his research are the most nutritious green on the planet. And so, it’s a really good one to know about. Now, let’s go this way, ’cause I wanna find, I wanna actually demonstrate how different two mustards can look, and yet, they still smell like mustard. Check out this plant. If you touch it, it starts shooting seeds. – [Woman In Group] I know. – [Woman In Group] I thought they were mad at me– – Come on you guys. This is a bittercress which is a mustard yeah. One of the things I’ve been criticized for in my book is that I don’t have regions for where the plants grow. And the reason I did that is because plants, just like humans and animals, they love to travel. (dog barks) And they have different mechanisms for doing this. (dog barks) Hello. This plant, it propagates when you touch it. It literally shoots out feet away. That’s the plant saying I’m gonna produce a lot of offspring. Maybe let’s go over there, so the dog settles down. So plants love to travel. And in the natural world they get pretty far. And I think the regional thing that, that’s just something we humans have made up for convenience. But nature isn’t here for our convenience. Let’s take one of this and we’re gonna crush it up and see if it smells like mustard. Yep, smells like mustard. You get it. (faintly speaking) Who gets mustard? Raise your hand if you get mustard. – [Woman In Group] You get a musty smell. – Yeah. But it’s a very distinct. Like so, not like the yellow mustard that comes in a can, but like arugula mustard. Think that. You get it? So this is called bittercress. And it’s a mustard relative. Who knows what kind of tree this is? – [Woman In Group] Alder. – It looks very similar to an alder. In fact, if you just look at the leaves, they kinda look like alder leaves. This is actually a beech tree. And one of the tale tales of a beech is that it has elephant like skin. So that’s a great identifying characteristic. The other thing is right beneath your feet. Let’s see if we can figure it out. So give yourself a little squat, and see if you can’t find some nuts. – [Woman In Group] Beech nuts. – [Sergei] Beech nuts. So this is how this works. So, hey, I think that’s an alder. And then you kinda look at your surroundings and you start engaging your other senses, and you find beech nuts. And right now there’s no nuts in it. Why is that? – [Woman In Group] I got one. – Yeah, there you go. We found some nuts. So this is a beech nut right here. So in nature, we also compete with other critters. And squirrels are much better at harvesting nuts than we are, ’cause they’ve had lots more practice. And it’s also not nut season, so. Right now would be, if we lived seasonally, right now would be our time to eat mustards and kale and dandelions and grass. And then later on in the season, we would be eating more nuts, things like beech nuts. So these are essentially similar to acorns. The native tribes used to make meal out of them and make breads and cookies and all kinds of little biscuits out of them. Like I said, there’s not a whole lot to talk about, ’cause these are last years nuts, and there’s, it’s not great. But it is a good food source. They’re edible. Require a little bit more food prep than some of the greens again, ’cause they have tannins in them and tannins come off as extremely bitter. So, traditionally, you would either soak them or boil them in water. Native Americans would actually take a wicker basket, put a bunch of nuts in there, like acorns and just stick that basket in the stream. And it was really ingenious, ’cause it didn’t, there wasn’t any extra work for them, but the water that was perpetually changing would wash the tannins out, and then they would take those nuts after 24 or 48 hours, grind them, make a flour, and then make food out of it. So, looks like an alder, has elephant like skin. And then when you get close and personal, you see that it has little nuts. And now we just identified beech. This is something that all gardeners should know. The little white stuff. – [Woman In Group] Is that meadow balm? – That might be one common name for it. I know this as chickweed. So everybody grab yourself a chickweed. This is the macro part of the wild edible walk. Chickweed is like a wild lettuce. It’s a very common herb. It’s a very common weed in gardens. So when you go and you plant a garden a lot of weeds start growing there. And if you weed them out before they really get big, before you can identify what they are, you miss out on a bunch of free food. One of my friends in Missoula runs a garden. He just runs a big farm. A lot of the stuff that grows in between the rows of corn or onion or whatever’s things like chickweed. And they’re actually more nutritious than the fruit, food that’s being grown. And we just forget to look for them. So, Kylie, my girlfriend, can attest to this. We’re planting our garden right now. And she really desperately wants to weed. And I’m like save that, it’s really good food. This is a vitamin C powerhouse. So this is like nature’s Emergen-C. I believe a cup of this has over 90 milligrams of vitamin C. So that’s antioxidant rich. It’s got properties that will help fight off cancer. You’re gonna be less likely to ever develop cancer if you eat the stuff. And it tastes awesome. It’s like a really mild lettuce. Let’s examine the flowers first. Tell me what they look like. How many petals does it have? Can any, is anybody’s vision good enough to count the petals? – [Group In Unison] 10. – [Sergei] So very good. It looks like 10 petals, but it’s actually only five. But the petals are very deeply cleft. – [Woman In Group] I see what you’re saying. Yeah, they’re like double (faintly speaking). – See what I mean, so it’s like a double petal. The other thing that chickweed has, this is very hard to explain, but you can see it, is it has a mohawk hairline on one side of the stem that alternates in between leafs. So like if this is a section and that’s a section and below that leaf is another section, there’s a hairline and it’ll jump to opposite sides of the stem. And it’s a plant that likes shade. Look, it’s growing under a tree. That’s telling us, it’s communicating more information to us. It likes shade. So this beech is doing that for it. And it likes to spread on grass. This is like a wild sprout, super good raw, in sandwiches, wraps. If you ever go to the deli and get a sandwich, if that’s your guilty pleasure, just make sure you throw some chickweed on it. There’s a lot of crispus like trees in this world, right. It can be very difficult to tell them apart. I’m gonna give you a little trick right here and now. Pine needles are long, generally long. Spruce needles kinda almost look like mid stems that have four corners. So you can spin them in between your fingers, right. If you can spin it, it’s probably a spruce. If you can’t spin it, it’ll be flat, it’s a fir. So, now you just learned all about conifers. Long needles pine. Short needles that kind of look like pipe cleaners at first glance could either be spruce or fir. And then you do the test. It spins, it’s a spruce. It doesn’t spin, it’s a fir. So, this is your test over here. Come over here. We’re gonna do this at least three times while we’re in the park. Grab a needle. I know it’s kinda cheating, because that branch probably fell off this tree. But what kind of tree is this? – [Woman In Group] That is a spruce. – This is a party trick right here. Next time you’re hiking with your friends, just say guess what, this is a spruce. All evergreens have edible properties. They actually also concentrate vitamin C. They’re really good for respiratory stuff. So, if you have any sort of cough or phlegm going on, the best thing to do for that is to make a tea from the needles. So you basically get a pot, throw a bunch of needles in there, and then heat it up. You boil it for like two minutes. Then let it cool so that it’s drinkable. And pour yourself a nice little glass of pine needle tea. It kinda has the Christmasy vibe to it. But it has a really nice lemony characteristic. And it’s a great thing to do when you’re camping. If you wanna engage your kids or your friends or your partners, next time you go camping, this is Sergei’s homework number two, just harvest some either spruce or pine or fir and make some trail side tea for yourself. (faintly speaking) You can eat the spruce tips. And you actually beat me to the punch. There’s a tree that has them. But that’s, I’m glad that you pointed that out. The only caution on evergreens is if you’re pregnant or nursing you wanna avoid them, because there’s something that small kids and fetuses don’t like. So if you’re pregnant, avoid that. Otherwise, they’re completely edible and beneficial. We have a nice little birch here. And again, this is kinda like a survival food in my opinion. So all of the little, if I was starving to death, I would come over here, and I would eat some of the tender leaves. These buds are really good food source. This is a little bit past its prime, but these little guys when they’re green like baby corn. You can boil it. And so, you can imagine if you’ve got maybe a gallon of these that would be a pretty substantial food source. Again, the inner cambium layer, the bark of the tree is edible. But if you don’t do it right you can kill the tree. So, I generally avoid that. But birches are edible. This is probably the most pathetic miners lettuce specimen I’ve ever seen. But because it’s in the park, I figured we’d talk about it. I’ll let you take a picture. Look at how unique that looks. So it’s a, this is called a basil rosette. This growth pattern where mustards do this too. They kinda spread out. It’s not just one stalk and leaves. So everybody grab one of these. Take one, pass it around. Miners lettuce is one of the tastiest wild edibles. This tastes like butter head lettuce. And it also has lots of vitamin C in it. We used to do trade shows, like health fairs and book conventions. And so at one of these fairs our neighbor in the booth next to us he got on his high horse where he’s like I’m gonna make Sergei eat some supplements. And I have nothing against supplements other than that they try and sell them to people through fear based tactics. So this guy would not let me alone. He’s like you need to try my supplement. You’re just not getting enough nutrition in your diet. And he had some device that somehow could calculate how many antioxidants were in your system. And so, he, finally he made me a deal. He’s like, I’ll leave you alone, if you take my test. And if I find that you’re lacking in antioxidants, you have to try my supplement. Okay, whatever. So he puts me through the test. And his scale was zero to 10,000. And 10,000, I forget his unit of measurement, but it’s not really important. So, as close to 10,000 as ideal as possible, right. When he measure me I had 50,000. So I was literally off his chart. So then he’s like okay, well that’s gotta be, something went wrong. So he tested me again. Same result. He tested my mom. She had 45,000. My dad had the most. He had 70. And he was like, okay, wait, what do you guys do again. So then he was like, I’m prepared to listen. So miner’s lettuce is really rich in antioxidants. It’s good to get as much as we can in our diet. And this will do it as well all of the greens that we’ve been talking about. And so, we’ve already identified that it grows in a basil rosette. The key tell of miners lettuce is the disc shaped leaves and then the stem goes directly through the middle of the leaf. – [Woman In Group] Satellite dish. – [Sergei] It’s a satellite dish, yeah, it’s like. (Sergei makes beeping noises) Pop quiz, how do you identify a true dandelion? – [Woman In Group] Smooth veins. – Smooth vein. How do I, how do you identify a miners lettuce leaf? (faintly speaking) Looks like a satellite dish. That’s the right answer. It has a disc leaf and then the stem goes directly through the leaf. How would I eat this? This is a great plant to eat raw. It, it’s kinda like spinach. If you try and cook it, you need to get pounds of it. And then when you cook it down, it’s gonna go. So more often than not, I would just eat it raw in a salad. It’s really delicious. You don’t, almost don’t need to anything do anything to it. It tastes great. And the reason they look so puny and pathetic here is because this plant likes shade. So it usually grows under trees, on hillsides. If you go out to Chambers Bay, where you never wanna harvest, ’cause you don’t wanna harvest from golf courses. But if you do the loop, you’ll see that along the hillside there’s tons of miners lettuce. And there’s another variety called Siberian miners lettuce which is a little bit different. On we go. Everybody grab one. In fact, actually, let’s take this moment to kinda just chill for a second. I know we’re gettin’ close, but we have maybe three or four more plants to look at. So these are wild daisies. And daisies are in the sunflower family. And a lot of sunflowers we already discerned are edible. There’s over, almost 24,000 different varieties. So these little ground daisies are really good to eat raw. In fact, actually if you find some leaves, and they’re pretty hard to get to under the grass, but the leaves kinda remind me of arugula almost. They kind of have this slightly skunky smell to them. And so, I would throw the leaves in a salad. I would throw the flowers in a salad, ’cause they’re beautiful, they’re edible. I would again take the petals and throw them in an ice cube trays and make petal infused ice. Maybe while I was harvesting dandelion greens and flowers, I would take some of these daisies and mix them with the flowers and throw them in honey or maple syrup, and that way when it gets cold, cloudy, and dreary in Tacoma, I’d go to make a piece of toast, and I would just spread some of that jam on my toast and get a little boost of vitamin D. I mean, it’s literally that simple. And the other thing I wanna talk about since we’re here is clover. So most lawns in the world, at this point I’ve been to 66 countries, and I can say with confidence that in every country that I’ve been to have been able to find clover on a lawn. So most lawns have clover on them. Grab a clover leaf. Clovers are in the pea family. So they’re kinda like wild peas, which is the first thing that we talked about. And peas have a lot of protein in them. And they also have B vitamins, B one, B two, B three, B six, B 12. They also have phosphorus, I believe magnesium, manganese, and zinc. So they’re very, very nutritious and delicious. You can just take this little leaf and throw it in your soup salad, cook it, eat it raw. I like smoothies personally, ’cause I feel like that’s the easiest way to get greens in our diet. It’s funny, one of my comments on my book on Amazon. Some guy went through my book and counted how many times I say smoothy. And I think I say it 250 times. And he’s like, I didn’t realize how much this guy liked smoothies. But the only reason I do is because it’s just an easy way to get greens in our diet. You just wake up, make a smoothie for yourself, and that ensures that you’re gonna get at least two salads in smoothie form in your diet. So this is a great thing to do in smoothies. Let’s talk about how to identify this thing. So all peas have three leaves. Unless you’re lucky, then they have four. Clover has four sometimes. And we call that a four leaf clover. Did you know that a four leaf clover is actually more nutritious than a three leaf clover? It’s 25% more nutritious. Another identifying characteristic of clover is that the leaf has a crescent shaped little white part on it. – [Woman In Group] Yes, it’s beautiful. – [Sergei] It’s beautiful right. Okay, now take the leaf really close and personal and look at the edges and tell me what you see. – [Woman In Group] Like jagged all around. – [Sergei] It’s jagged. It almost looks like it has tiny little spines on it. Those are great identifying characteristics. It’s literally that easy. You just right now what you’re doing is you’re building your search image of clover. We’re spending time with these plants intimately, and you don’t even realize maybe fully right now what you’re doing. But later on you go home or in a month in a year, you’re gonna be sitting in a park with your friends having a picnic, and your hand is gonna wander, ’cause you get a little bored. And you’re gonna pick up a clover, and you’re gonna be like three leaves, oval, clover. And that means I did my job somewhat correctly. Okay, on we go. A few more, and then we’re gonna head home, answer some questions, and anybody that needs to go can go. What kind of tree is this? – [Woman In Group] Pine. – How do we know? – [Woman In Group] Long needles. – Long needles. A fun fact about pines. This is, this ruined my surprise. So another way to identify pines is they always either have two or five needles. So they’re gonna be long. And then they’re either gonna have two or five needles. And again, you can make tea from these needles. Just boil these down. But what I’m here to look at today is this. – [Woman In Group] Wow. – That’s pine pollen. So if you’re allergic to pollen, probably not the best edible for you. But if you’re not allergic to pollen, this is pure protein. This is amino acids. So how you would harvest this is you put a plastic bag over this and you just shake or you can literally just take these and just eat them or throw them in a smoothy or a soup. If you’re making some pizza, you can put some of that in the dough. Get creative. And that stuff’s really nutritious. The other thing I wanna show you while you’re here is this plant that grows underneath it. Let’s all grab one of these. Get some more. – Are you kidding? – Grab one, pass it around. – [Woman In Group] Thank you. – [Sergei] Okay, this is another one of those plants that we can identify much easier by smell than sight. So crush this up and tell me what this smells like. – [Woman In Group] Winter green or something like that. – So this is called yarrow. And yarrow develops a very big umbrella like flower in late summer. Sometimes it’s white. Sometimes it’s yellow. Sometimes it’s pink. And yarrow is another sleep aid. So, if you have problems with insomnia, if you just have trouble falling asleep at night, you can take some of that wild chamomile that we learned about, you could take some of those daisies, and you could take some yarrow which smells very sweet, almost makes you salivate. You could dry it, put it in a tea, and now you have a foraged sleep aid. Pretty cool. The other thing that’s nice about yarrow is if you ever cut yourself and you’re in the woods, you can literally press this into your wound, ’cause it has antiseptic antibacterial properties. In fact, Vikings used to use this. They would actually fill their wounds with it when they got battle wounds. Native Americans did similar stuff. One time when I was on the trail I cut through my palm while trying to cut piece of fruit that we had in our backpack. And obviously I was 50 miles away from a hospital. So there was no way I, that I could stitch it up. But what I actually took is rose petals, ’cause they’re natural bandages. And then I’d alternate that with yarrow. And, you can look at my palm later, but there’s almost no scar. It sealed up really nicely. Wild edibles can literally save your life sometimes. And this is another one of those. What kind of tree is this? – [Woman In Group] Fir. (faintly speaking) – [Sergei] What kind of tree is this? – [Woman In Group] Fir. – [Sergei] How do we know? – [Woman In Group] Roll around in your (faintly speaking). – Flat needles, it’s a fir. Okay, on we go. Boys and girls, what kind of tree is this? – [Woman In Group] Fir. – [Sergei] How do we know? – [Woman In Group] Flat. – [Woman In Group] There’s no rolleys. – [Sergei] Okay who thinks spruce, raise your hand? Who thinks fir? Okay, you’re right. It’s a fir. Okay, on this one, let’s also point out the bright little green tips. Who was talking about those earlier? You were. So these are awesome eaten. These are like the spring time green tips. And they taste like lemon, yeah. So these parts you throw straight into salads. They concentrate vitamin C. They’re good for your respiratory. They get phlegm out of your system. – [Woman In Group] You can pickle ’em. – You can pickle ’em. So in the spring time now I’d come through here with a little bowl. And I’d just start taking them. And before long I’d have enough to really make a meal of. You can also use these in tea, but they’re not quite. These are the meristematic bits of the fir. So they’re not gonna be as fragrant. I think for tea you use the more mature ones. And then for eating, for salads you use the more nutritious, more delicious bits which is the meristematic bits. Okay, what kind of tree is this? – Spruce. – Pine. – Who said spruce? I’m gonna pick on you. Come over here. Grab a needle. And this is actually a good example. So the last pine had two needles. This pine has five needles. Count ’em up. This’ll be the last one right here. – I don’t know. – Yeah, right. – [Woman In Group] Don’t believe it. Oh, sweet. – Okay, take a leaf. Pass it around. Here we’ll do this. Take one, pass it around. Take one, pass it around. First we’re gonna do the test. You flip it over. Is this a dandelion? – [Woman In Group] Probably not. Not that smooth, but slightly. – It looks like it. – [Sergei] It looks like it, yeah so. – [Woman In Group] I thought it was a dandelion. – [Sergei] How do we know that it’s not a dandelion? – [Woman In Group] It’s hairy. – It’s hairy, good job. So this in fact is not a dandelion. It’s a dandelion relative. And this is called cat’s ears probably because it kinda looks like a little cat ear. It’s perfectly edible. It has similar properties to a dandelion which is that it’s good for your inner organs, your gallbladder, pancreas, liver, kidneys. Because it’s fuzzy, this one is a better green to eat cooked. It’s much more pleasant. So again, you throw it in soups and pastas, stir fry. This is a great green for stir fries. How else? You could bake it. You could put it in lasagna. You could do whatever the heck you want with it. But this is a great green. And it’s literally everywhere in Tacoma. And the other identifying characteristic is it will develop yellow flowers, kinda like a dandelion. But a dandelion has one flower per stem and cat’s ears will have multiple yellow flowers per stem. Okay, so, I promised this will be the last one. This’ll be the last one. Let’s head back to Expand. If anybody wants to buy a book, I have a couple of those. Otherwise, I’ll answer questions. And if people need to go, they can go or we kinda linger for a little bit and talk more about plants.

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