Foraging with a Pro

Exploring the Natural World with Alissa Allen

Have you ever wanted to feel more connected to the natural world around you? Have you ever found yourself on a hike wondering what tree you were looking at or whether or not a berry was edible? We are so blessed here in the Pacific Northwest to be surrounded by the wonders of nature. Most of which we know little to nothing about. Alissa Allen is aiming to change all that. 

Connecting With Nature

I had the opportunity to go for a walk in the woods with Alissa over the weekend. Her energy is welcoming and calm and there is a sense of wonder that fills the space. As we begin our short hike through Flaming Geyser State Park she immediately starts pointing out all the wonders that lay at our feet. Fields of Nettles, the first of the season’s Salmonberries, and patches of ground filled with Cottonwood. In the two hours we spent exploring Alissa was able to point out about a dozen varieties of plants and trees and their healing, or medicinal properties. 

Alissa shared with me that she grew up knowing this stuff. Her Mom taught her as a little girl and she’s never stopped discovering in the woods. In fact, she’s made a career out of it. Her love of the great outdoors guided her toward teaching about regional mushrooms and lichen dye palettes. She founded the group Mycopigments and teaches the skill of mushroom and lichen dyeing to fiber arts and mushroom enthusiasts all over the world.

Alissa’s has been featured in publications for both fiber artists and mushroom lovers alike. She discovered this passion in her 20’s and she continues to offer information workshops today. Her foraging has brought her all around the world, including Yosemite where she discovered a new mushroom species. The fungus is named after her: Pouzarella alissae. How totally cool is that.

Alissa is on a mission to inspire people to engage more deeply with nature. This is why I have chosen her to be the opening guest in this season’s Breathe in Nature Series. A series of outdoor adventures geared towards connecting with our breath and nature. Alissa will be joining me on Sunday, April 10th at 9am for the first of 6 adventures. 

Here’s what Alissa has to say about it… 

Wild harvest for a happy heart

Come take a peaceful stroll through the riverside woodland as we slowly take in the natural beauty that surrounds us. Engage all of your senses with the sights, sounds, and fragrances of the forest.

We will talk about forest ecology, healthy habitats, ethical harvest, foraging safety, identification, and processing our finds for use.

You’ll take home recipes for nettle soup, dandelion pickles, balm of Gilead, and more!

Nettles Unmistakable by their leaf shape, prickly appearance, and ability to elicit a painful sting, nettles are one of the most nutritious plant foods found in the spring. Their fiery mechanism is quickly neutralized with bruising and or cooking, which renders them a harmless, luscious green vegetable. Nettles make a comforting emerald soup, a distinctive pesto, and they can be used as a delightful substitute in any recipe that calls for spinach. They are high in iron and other minerals and nutritive when used as tea. 

Balm of Gilead Cottonwood resin is the fragrance of spring. We will be on the lookout for dropped catkins to make our own oil infusion. This oil can be made into a salve, used as a soothing massage oil, or worn as a subtle yet intoxicating natural perfume.

Dandelion with their cheerful yellow glow and friendly association with bees, dandelion flowers are harbingers of warmer days to come. In April, their tightly packed buds are just starting to unfurl. We will look for these hidden gold nuggets for making lacto-fermented pickles. Each chewy bud is a little flavor bomb, packed with vitamins and probiotics – a delectable pickley treat! 

We hope to fill our bags with other tasty nibbles such as spicy watercress, fiddlehead ferns, Japanese knotweed shoots, chickweed, minors lettuce, and more. There are so many wonderful morsels to be collected in the spring months!

Join the Fun

After Alissa, we will be joined by Jill Matterns for a Lunar Eclipse Gong Bath on the full moon of Sunday, May 15th. 

Head over the Breathe in Nature to hear about all the awesome upcoming adventures and to join before it’s too late. 

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