Not everything growing in our Bay Area backyard is A-OK to mix into your next dinner salad—but actually, much of it is.
And with spring in full swing, our hillsides and coastline are teeming with edible plants and fungi ripe for the plucking. To take advantage of the seasonal bounty and up your future hiking game, try a foraging class with Bay Area pros who will teach you where to look and how to steer clear of the poison stuff.
ForageSF: Mushrooms, Wild Plants, Medicinals + Seaweed
Marin and Sonoma counties are home to some of the richest mushroom-hunting grounds in North America. ForageSF guide Patrick Hamilton has more than 40 years experience foraging for fungi, and will teach you everything you want to know during his four-hour class ($90). You'll hunt morels, black trumpets, hedgehogs, and more, but most important, you'll learn how to distinguish a savory chanterelle from poisonous varieties. // Renowned Bay Area naturalist and author Kevin Feinstein, also known as Feral Kevin, has been leading wild food walks ($50-$60) for ForageSF for over five years now, sharing his decades-deep well of knowledge with rookie foragers who learn how to both identify and harvest the more common wild edibles that are seasonally abundant in the spring and summer months. And since classes are held at local San Francisco parks, you'll be able practice your newfound prowess without ever leaving town. // Love you some seaweed? Follow expert Heidi Herrmann for a three-hour tour ($90, April through July) of the harvestable seaweed beds blanketing much of the Sonoma coast; she'll even teach you how to prepare it, whether cooked, raw, or air-dried. // foragesf.com
Trackers Bay: Wild Plants
In Marin County and the East Bay, Trackers Bay offers afternoon classes ($75) in sustainable, seasonal foraging. The specifics of each foraging class depend upon the weather (which obviously affects nature's bounty), but given recent rains, you might expect the mushroom hauls to be especially hefty. All courses will cover safe identification of common species, local regulations on foraging, and include a few nibbles to try on the trail. // trackersbay.com
Verlocal: Forage with a Lifelong Survival Expert
Leda Meredith, who's penned more than a few books on the hobby, is like the Ellen Degeneres of Northern California foraging: humorous, bright, and brimming with charisma. During her two-hour class, foragers will learn how to sustainably harvest hidden gastronomic gems—blackberries and pineapple weed, oh my!—and then how to prepare these wild, seasonal ingredients. Feeling a bit under the weather? Leda will also cover some of the healing properties of our native medicinal herbs. // Class price and availability are subject to demand; message Meredith for details at verlocal.com
Wild Edible Plants ForayRemember Feral Kevin from ForageSF? Well, this dude gets around.You can also join him on a guided tour of edible wild plants—think plump blueberries and aromatic fennel—in the hills east of the Caldecott Tunnel ($40, April 29). BYO clippers, bags, and water. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.