I’ve been trying to go on one of his walks for years. I’m one of those people who, if left to my own devices in the wild, would surely die of starvation within one week. I assume that every berry is poisonous, every mushroom will make me vomit, and every three-leafed plant is poison ivy. DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING in the woods. You might die.
It’s nice to know that, armed with a little bit of knowledge, you might not die. For example, did you know that Queen Anne’s lace, before it flowers, has a wild carrot at its root? That just about blew my mind. A carrot!
Of course, without the telltale flower, there’s about a zero percent chance of me ever identifying that plant. I can’t even identify well-known cultivated plants that have their fruits in plain view, as evidenced by the fact that I had to practically beg the Farmer to put up signs near the PYO vegetables. Otherwise, in my quest for peas, I might find myself wandering around in a haze amongst the Swiss chard with the bobolinks mocking me.
Other edible things we (meaning Cohen and the other smart people on the walk) found were wild mustard, blueberries, huckleberries, Concord grapevines, wild husk tomatoes, lamb’s quarters, purslane, wood sorrel, autumn olive, sumac (the non-poisonous variety), an American chestnut tree, and wintergreen. Wow! I don’t know why the people at Blue Heron Farm bother to plant anything at all.
Everyone seemed most intrigued, however, by the mushrooms.
Cohen had to field a lot of questions related to the degrees of toxicity of the mushrooms we encountered. For example, after coming across the poisonous amanita, also known as the Death Cap, and discussing its toxic properties at length, Cohen was faced with queries like these:
Q: When you say deadly, what exactly do you mean?
Q: Like how deadly? On a scale of 1 to 10.
A: 100% deadly.
Q: So, like, a 10?
A: You will die.
Q: On the spot, or later on in the day?
A: I think you’re missing the big picture.
Despite potential death lurking around every corner, and the mosquitoes chewing up my ankles, it was great fun. It’ll be a while before I’m ready to fly on my own. In the meantime, Cohen’s book is shaping up to be an interesting read. For more information on his local foraging walks, go here.