Foraging North America: The Botany, Taxonomy, and Ecology of Edible Wild Plants


Foraging North America: The Botany, Taxonomy, and Ecology of Edible Wild Plants

47.00 67.00

Foraging North America is a 12-week course designed to arm you with a functional working knowledge of botany and taxonomy that you can take with you out onto the land to fast-track the ID process and boost your confidence when identifying a new specimen for the first time.

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First we review the basics of the science of plants; then we move on to explore some of the more common plant families around the world; and last but not least, we devote the final half of the course to a deep-dive on a dozen common edible wild plants found all across North America.

My mission in presenting this information to you, among other things, is to promote ecological literacy alongside an ethos of “conservation through use” — the (surprisingly) radical notion that humans can, in fact, have a positive impact on the environments that we move through. 

I have been workshopping this material with almost two dozen students spread all around the continent since last fall, and the feedback has been so awesome!

Nothing makes me happier than introducing people to the edible wild plant allies who surround us at all times.

Food is everywhere — you just need to know how to look! That’s where I come in.

I am so excited for you to dig into this course! I sincerely hope that it will encourage you to pursue a deeper and more meaningful connection with the land around you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is running this program?

A: Me, of course — your friend Sam Sycamore! 

When I’m not busy with the Good Life Revival Podcast, I’m currently getting to know my new bioregion of northernCalifornia, following years of being intimately acquainted with the Ohio River Valley of Kentucky and Indiana. 

I was formally trained in plant ecology and botany at the University of Louisville (B.S. in biology - ecology, graduated 2012), and I have many years of experience as a forager, farmer, and steward of land. I am also the author of a book, Introduction to Foraging, self-published in early 2018.

Through most of the year, I personally grow and gather the majority of the produce I consume on a daily basis, and I would love to empower YOU to be able to do the same!

Q: Is this program a good fit for me?

A: If you’re new to foraging and you’re not sure where to begin — yes! 

This program is primarily designed for individuals with little or no experience gathering wild foods, with the objective of building up your confidence and skill level to the point where you can confidently identify, harvest, process, cook, and preserve some of the most common and abundant wild foods on your local landscape.

More important than the actual species, though, is the foundational framework in botany that you will learn, which will allow you to place each new species you encounter in its proper ecolgocical and taxonomical context. Beyond boosting your confidence in your identification skills, this framework will make it much easier for you to retain new info you pick up about wild plants.

Q: How is the program structured?

A: Every week for the next 12 weeks, you’ll have at least one but usually two PDF lessons to read through. These are arranged in a sequence meant to gradually build up your understanding of botanical terms and ecological concepts along the way. All of these lessons are accompanied by quiz questions to help you test your knowledge, and occasionally I will also assign “homework” to encourage you to do some further research on your own. At a few different points throughout the course, I will pop in with a brief video lecture to explain some big-picture concepts to be mindful of as you’re studying.

Q: How many plants will I learn about?

A: Well, that largely depends on your perspective.

The course includes 12 plant profiles, but it would be incorrect to say that it covers 12 species. In many cases we are actually more concerned with the genus than the species, and there could potentially be tens or hundreds of species within that genus that would fit the basic description. For example: is oak “a” plant, or is it actually 600+ unique species all tied together by many common traits?

Furthermore, each profile makes references to lots of other plants, both related and unrelated, that may be good to know, like potential lookalikes. So while the profile on Dandelions technically only covers one species, along the way you’ll learn all about the Cichorieae tribe in general, which includes many closely related species who all look remarkably similar and can be used in similar ways.

And through our study of plant families alone, you will learn about the common traits shared by literally thousands of plants found all around the world, so even if you aren’t able to identify any given species right away, there’s a good chance you’ll at least be able to narrow it down to a family pretty quickly — which will vastly improve your ability to pin down a positive ID.

Q: What is the time commitment like?

A: Expect to invest a few hours per week in studying over the next three months, and try to get outside identifying plants at least once a week if you can.

Because this is largely a self-directed course of study, it’s your call how much time and energy you want to invest in it. 

If you wanted to, you could theoretically read through all of the lessons in a day or two. But I would urge you to take piece by piece, a little at a time, so you can really focus on retaining each new piece of the puzzle as it’s presented.

We can only really skim the surface of many topics that we will briefly review, such as basic botany and plant taxonomy, but if you wish to go deeper with any topic along the way, I can probably point you towards some great primary resources.

In any case, you’ll never learn plant identification if you just read books for a few months and listen to me ramble about plants — you have to get out outside and practice, as often as you possibly can! Consider once a week for a few hours to be the bare minimum if you hope to retain the information you’ll be studying.

Q: Will the program also cover wild mushrooms?

A: Short answer— no.

Mushroom hunting requires a specific skill set that is somewhat similar to foraging for edible plants, but positively identifying wild mushrooms can be much more complicated — and misidentifying mushrooms can lead to deadly consequences much more easily than with plants! 

For that reason, this program will not include wild mushrooms. If you’re interested in learning the art of mushroom hunting, I can refer you to some good books, but I would highly recommend seeking out someone in your local area who can guide you in person. 

Q: Are you available for consultations?

A: Absolutely!

I love, love, love getting to work with folks one-on-one to talk about foraging opportunites in their neck of the woods. If at any point during the program you’d like to book a call with me, please send me an email and we can arrange a time to connect.

Q: I really want to take the course but money is tight for me right now. Can you help me out?

A: For sure!

The most important thing to me is for you to have access to this information. If you can’t afford to pay the full price up front, please contact me and we can arrange and monthly payment plan.

Q: What if the program sucks and you suck and I just want my money back?

A: I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that! 

But if you’re unsatisfied with the services I provide and wish to bow out of the program, I will happily refund your money. I am proud to report that this has never happened. :)