Newburyport and adjacent communities are home to over 100 species of edible wild plants. Many of these species are more nutritious and/or flavorful than their cultivated counterparts. These include native species like Black Raspberry and Shagbark Hickory, to non-native weeds like Burdock and Chicory, to exotic invasive species like Dame’s Rocket and Japanese Knotweed. The region is also home to dozens of species of edible mushrooms. Join Russ Cohen, wild edibles enthusiast and author of the book Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten, for a 90-minute slide show covering at least three dozen of the tastiest species the region has to offer. These include plant species everyone knows well, like Daisies and Dandelions, to species they may never have even heard of, like Calamus and Carrion Flower.
Russ’ talk will also cover about a dozen of the easiest-to-recognize edible mushroom species, ranging from morels in the spring, Black Trumpet Chanterelles in the summer and Hen of the Woods in the fall. Keys to the identification of reach species will be provided, along with info on edible portion, season(s) of availability and preparation methods, as well as guidelines for safe and environmentally-responsible foraging. Russ will also include a few details regarding some native edible plants he has grown successfully from seed and added to North Shore landscapes in partnership with groups like Greenbelt and Essex Heritage. Last but not least, Russ will accompany his talk with handouts and several foraged goodies made with wild ingredients.
Until his retirement in June of 2015, Russ Cohen’s “day job” was serving as the Rivers Advocate for the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration, where one of his areas of expertise was in riparian vegetation. Now Russ has more time to pursue his passionate avocation, which is connecting to nature via his taste buds. In addition to leading over three dozen foraging walks and talks each year at a wide variety of venues throughout the Northeast, Russ has now taken on a role as a “Johnny Appleseed” of sorts for edible native species. He has set up a small nursery in Weston, where he grows/keeps plants that he propagates from seed (some of which he collected himself), as well as obtain from other sources, such as the New England Wild Flower Society. He is then partnering with land trusts, cities and towns, schools and colleges, state and federal agencies, and others to plant plants from his nursery in appropriate places on their properties. Russ has initiated over two dozen such projects in the past four years.