Tuesday, March 6, 2018

First Spring Walks of 2018 Scheduled!

Spring is in the air! No, the violets are not out yet (photo above is a picture from another year), BUT...

Frick Park's Earth Day Celebration is coming up, and this year we'll be offering SIX walks!!! Yes, this year Dave is taking over the wild edibles walks, and I am going to be leading Medicinal Plants Walks, and we'll be offering three walks each: at 12 noon, 1:30 pm, and 3 pm.

Earth Day Nature Walks and Hikes at Frick Park!!

When: Saturday, April 21, 2018. 11:30 am - 4 pm.
Where: Frick Park Environmental Center, 2005 Beechwood  Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15217
Cost: FREE!

This is a free family friendly event! A whole day of nature walks. The schedule isn't up yet, but in addition to our wild edibles and medicinal plant walks, there are usually mushroom walks, birding walks, snake and spider walks, and many many more!

Arrive 1/2 hour early to sign up for your hike, there are limited spaces and they tend to fill.

More information on the Frick Park Website.

See you there!

~ Melissa

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Delicious Prickly Pear Fruit Smoothie in Sedona Arizona

Food Under Food headed west last week, and found ourselves hiking in Sedona, AZ where prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) was fruiting everywhere!

Knowing that though the fruit looks void of prickers it actually contains thousands of tiny hair-like glochids, which are barbed shots of pure pain, we carefully harvested them using a plastic bag, and washed the glochids off before handling.
See how the fruit looks fuzzy? Those are barbed glochids! Beware!

prickly pear fruit AFTER washing glochids off

After much trial and error, I found the best way to process them was as follows: hand-peel the skin off the fruit, and then cut the hard top and bottom off, slit it open and scrape out the hard seeds. From here they can be eaten raw or used in recipes.

We were staying in a rented condo, so we simply put them into a blender with a banana, ice and a little water. The result was delicious, especially in the 90+ degree weather!

What an incredible color! And so delicious. It is sweet and tastes a bit like watermelon. Hope you get a chance to enjoy this wild edible delight!

~ Melissa

Monday, May 8, 2017

Love The Dandelions: Please Don't Use Commercial Weed Killers

Please please please do not use commercial week killers like Roundup on your lawns, parks, playground, restaurant patios, etc.

Here are just a couple peer reviewed, scientifically researched, articles discussing the horrible dangers of this product. Not only is it's active ingredient, Glyphosate, a known carcinogen and neurotoxin, the so-called inactive ingredients have been found to exacerbate the toxicity of the Glyphosate.

Plus, dandelions and other weeds are beautiful, food for birds like finches and people, and incredible medicine. They are good for body, mind, and spirit, and don't let billions of dollars in advertising convince you otherwise.

Let's follow Ontaio, Canada's lead and BAN the use of weed killers on dandelions! (In 2009 they banned the cosmetic use of commercial weed killers on yards, parks, and playgrounds.)

Love the dandelions. They are an amazing source of beauty, nourishment, and medicine.

East and West, Dandelion is Best

Love and Dandelion Wishes,


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Recipe: Dandelion Tea Cake

Dandelions! Dandelion flowers aren't as bitter as the green leaves, and they are easier to harvest and use than the root. I like to put dandelion flower petals (I remove the green collar, see below) in all kinds of batter: pancake, scone, cookie, you name it! 

Last year my daughter and I made this delicious Dandelion Tea Cake: it's a sweet bread, like zucchini bread but with dandelion flowers. We made ours gluten-free and dairy-free...and it was delicious! 

Perfect served with honey and tea.

The first step is to gather lots of dandelion flowers.
Next, remove and compost the green collar, saving the yellow flower petals, until you have 1 1/2 cups.

Then, gather your ingredients and put it all together.



  • 2 cups buckwheat flour (I ground buckwheat grouts in a coffee grinder)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dandelion petals
  • 1 mashed banana with drizzle olive oil (I used in place of 1/4 c veg oil)
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup cashew milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

  1. preheat oven to 400 F
  2.  mix dry and wet ingredients separately (dandelion petals with dry ingredients) then mix together
  3. Pour into oiled loaf pan. bake 25 minutes on 400 F
  4. turn down to 350 F and bake 20 more minutes.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wild Dinner: Garlic Mustard and Cleavers Pesto with Dryad's Saddle

Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)
Sometimes when I'm out looking for morels, I don't find any morels. If I'm lucky, I will find Dryad's Saddle (aka Pheasant Back, aka Polyporus squamosus.) If it's early enough in the season they will be tender and juicy and delicious. I'm happy to report that was the case today.

Also while out looking for morels, I passed piles of (weeded) garlic mustard, but I also passed fields of it where the volunteers hadn't yet reached.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

So I thought, "You know what would make a nice dinner...."

So even though I didn't find morels, I returned home with a bag full of Dryad's Saddle, garlic mustard, and some cleavers, which is a delicious fresh spring green (yay!) with the texture of sandpaper (boo!), but blended into pesto it is quite nice.

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Demonstration of how cleavers use their sandpaper-like texture to stick to you.
I like to cut the pungent taste of garlic mustard with a less bold green: cleavers and chickweed (Stellaria media) are top on my list this time of year.


Garlic Mustard and Cleavers Pesto:


  • 2 cups greens (I used mostly garlic mustard with a bit of cleavers)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts: dry roasted then splashed with lemon juice and tamari at end of cooking
  • 2+ Tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • nutritional yeast (optional, but nice addition if not using Parmesan cheese)


  1. In a food processor, first process garlic into small pieces.
  2. Dry roast walnuts in iron pan until just start to smoke and turn brown. Turn off heat and add a splash of lemon juice and tamari, stir quickly to coat all the walnuts.
  3. Add walnuts to processor and pulse a little.
  4. Add greens in batches with oil and pulse until blended.
  5. Add lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast to taste, pulse until blended.

Mix in to favorite pasta and enjoy.

Side of Dryad's Saddle:

Cut the dryad's saddle thinly, then saute in butter or oil until browned (stir or flip so both sides cook.)

And serve:

Enjoy the wilds of spring!

Happy Foraging,


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Make Your Own Natural Tick Repellent

I am in the woods a lot. Looking for mushrooms, harvesting wild edibles, bird watching. If I have time to spare, I'm outside.

Ticks - and Lyme's disease - have become a real problem in Western PA, the United States in general, and in many areas of the world. Even though it has reached nearly epidemic levels, it is still underdiagnosed and not always treated immediately. The disease can become chronic, the flu-like symptoms of aches and fatigue morphing into chronic fatigue and debilitating pain in some cases.

I want to do everything I can to avoid getting Lyme's disease. So here is what I do:

I make a homemade tick repellent from vinegar (white or apple cider), water, and essential oils.

I buy a spray bottle from the dollar store, and fill it halfway with vinegar and half with water. To this I add essential oils. Currently I am using:
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Peppermint
  • Lemongrass (or Lemon, whichever I have on hand.)
I add at least 30 drops of each oil to the bottle, often more, I am very generous with the essential oils.

I keep the bottle in the car and before heading into the woods I spray myself like crazy. All over my clothes, my hair, my shoes, socks. I also spray every part of my skin which is exposed and I rub it all in. I stink of vinegar (oh!) and essential oils (not bad), which is an odd combination but it doesn't bother me. It smells kind of good and bad all at once.

And then I check for ticks obsessively during and after the walks. This year I've only found one (knock on wood!) crawling on me, and I got it off before it bit me.

I love being in the woods and I hate the thought of Lyme's disease.

Other tips: 
  • Tuck pants into socks and tuck your shirt into your pants.
  • Pull your hair back into a ponytail and/or wear a hat
  • Wear light colored clothing because it's easier to see the ticks on them
Don't panic if you find a tick. Pull it out with tweezers or a special tick remover. We have a "Zeckenkarte" which someone gave us from Germany, and it removes ticks incredibly well (I have found them on me in the past, before I concocted my tick repellent!) I keep the Zeckencarte on hand as well. Then wash the spot, I like to dab it with an essential oil like lavender. If you use homeopathy, Ledum is a good one to take after a tick bite.

Watch the spot and if you develop a rash - bull's eye or otherwise - go to the doctor as soon as you can. Also, if you develop flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and muscle pain, even without the rash, go to the doctor. Some people save the tick in a plastic bag so it can be tested for Lyme, but I've never met a doctor who wanted to see or test the tick (but maybe yours does!) Antibiotics - usually doxycyclene - is the common treatment for Lyme's disease.

Good luck and stay safe out there!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Finding Morels By Following A Trail of Tulip Poplar Petals

April 24 is my wedding anniversary! It has become a tradition for me and Dave to look for morels on our anniversary. This year was no exception and our search was not in vain.

I thought I'd share with you a tip on how we hone in on where to look for morels, so I made the little video (above). We love looking for morels around tulip poplar trees. Tulip poplars are great big trees that grow straight up for a long time before you see branches. Their leaves' shape always reminds me of pokeman. So when I'm walking around looking down (to find mushrooms) and I start seeing petals from the flowers way on top of the tulip poplar trees, I know I'm in a good area.

Photo by Bruce Marlin, Wikimedia Commons
Today we found a bunch of morels. I sauteed them with onions and spinach, then topped our pizza with them (only half the pizza, as my daughter doesn't like morels...!)

Hope you are able to get out into the woods and find some morels of your own!

~ Melissa