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Foraging the forest

Group helps you shop for free in the woods

Setting up for Seattle Tilth’s March Edible Plant Sale at Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands, Seattle, March 11, 2016. Photo credit: Sheryl Wiser

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There's food all around us in the many forests in western Washington. It's free for the picking, and it is tasty and nutritional, organic, all-natural, and with no harmful hormones or chemicals. But you need to know what you're picking and eating, because while much of it is healthier than the food you buy off the supermarket shelves, some of it can be poisonous. That's where Puget Sound Fresh comes in.

Puget Sound Fresh provides consumers with resources and tools to help them identify and make informed choices on how to find and purchase seasonal and locally grown, raised or harvested foods. Our state's woodlands provide an abundance of everyday goods such as locally milled lumber and wood products, edible wild mushrooms and berries, floral greens, decorative items, crafting materials and medicinal plants.

On the Puget Sound Fresh website you can find information on a host of classes and workshops on foraging for natural foods and such other nature items as natural medicines. Many of the programs are located north and northeast of Seattle, so travel is required. Following are a few examples:

Cedar Mountain Herb School in Mount Vernon has classes on wild harvesting, crafting and native plant medicines.

Earthwalk Northwest offers workshops on foraging wild edibles, native plant basketry and crafting, hunting, fishing, and more in many different locations in western Washington. Programs focus on Earth awareness and ancestral living skills, including primitive bow-making and fire by friction. They even offer a year-long primitive living apprenticeship. Programs are offered in Shelton, Seattle, Issaquah, Bainbridge Island and North Bend, also in eastern Washingon and Portland.

Heidi Bohan, an educator in Carnation can teach you all about Pacific Northwest native plants and ethnobotany, indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge, wild harvesting, wild crafting, and native plant foods and medicines.

Nature Vision in Woodinville holds classes for school groups and summer youth camps. In their camps, youth can learn about native plants and animal habitats, forest ecology and ecosystem services.

The Puget Sound Mycological Society hosts classes and field trips on mushroom identification and harvesting, safety tips, and information about permits, and state laws pertaining to foraging. The Mycological Society also offers classes on microscopy (using microscopes to study objects that are not within the resolution range of the normal eye), natural dyes, photography, crafts, and mycophagy (the science of cooking and eating mushrooms).

Washington Native Plant Society has classes, resources, teaching gardens and activities related to conservation, restoration and education about Washington's native species.

Washington Outdoor Women in North Bend has outdoor skills courses and retreats for women with classes on foraging, cooking with wild edibles, native medicinal plants, birding, hunting and fishing, and more.

The Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall has classes for youth and adults covering wild edibles, wildlife tracking, native plant medicines, and primitive wilderness skills.

Wolf Camp and Wolf College have classes throughout western Washington, including at Clark's Creek Park in Puyallup, with extended care and transportation from all around the Tacoma area, including Lakewood, University Place, Federal Way, Fife, Auburn, Lake Tapps, Sumner and South Hill. They also hold day camps at Millersylvania State Park near Olympia, with extended care options and transportation from Olympia and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Details on all of these programs plus many more can be found on the Puget Sound Fresh website at

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