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Residents of Chicago Beach learn about edible plants on foraging walk in the heart of the city.


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Professional researcher Dave Odd confidently declared that he could start a Sunday run at Wilson Skate Park by identifying five edible plants right under his feet. Taking it a step further, he pointed to the dandelion and called it “the most obvious of all edible plants.”

It grows in every temperate region, Odd said, a kind of dandelion that will always be nearby, and every part of the plant is edible.

One of Odd’s favorite parts is the flowers, which he said can be fried or made into vegetable honey. But the dandelion’s real prize, according to Odd, is the root. He said the root can be cooked and eaten “just like a potato”.

At his latest Eat the Parks event, Odd led a group of about 20 foragers around Montrose Beach and Montrose Point, outlining the names and uses of dozens of trees, flowers, herbs, and mushrooms. Participants were not fed any of the plants specified. Instead, Odd taught the participants what characteristics to look for when looking for edible plants in the future.

Odd said he’s held the event in various Chicago neighborhoods, Illinois state parks and towns across the greater Midwest during the growing season from April to October, but Sunday was the first time he’d led a group around Montrose Beach and Montrose Point.

He said he did not know what the group might see in the area before taking the tour.

“That’s the fun of it,” said Odd. “I pick new places all the time.”

Odd said that there are entire families of plants and mushrooms that do not contain poisonous members. Throughout the event, Odd taught participants to narrow down plants to specific families that are always edible.

Shane Alden, whom Odd described as his caretaker, would occasionally interject to point out a plant. Odd said he met Alden last year on one of his runs, and has been doing the rounds so he can lead his own foraging parties in the future.

As the tour made its way through the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Alden pointed out Queen Anne’s lace, also known as wild carrot plant. Some new researchers may confuse wild carrot with poison hemlock, he said, because they have similar flowers, but the key to identifying Queen Anne’s lace is the fuzzy stems.

“Queen Anne has hairy legs,” he joked with the group.

Christy Jackson, a first-time Eat the Parks participant, said she found Odd’s Facebook page after searching for mushroom research-related groups. She said she was surprised to see so many edible plants growing in such an urban area during the tour.

“I didn’t expect there were so many around that you could eat,” Jackson said. “That you can, as has been mentioned many times, just pick out the pancakes and toss them in the pancakes for some extra nutrition.”

And for those mushroom hunters like Jackson, a highlight of the tour was when Odd spotted a yellow hen of the woods growing on a hawthorn tree while the group was still near the skate park.

Odd said the mushroom was named for its taste — “it legit tastes like chicken” — and added that anyone could revolutionize meat alternatives if they could reliably grow the fungus. To the astonishment of the participants, Odd said he had never seen a chicken of the woods in Chicago before Sunday.

“I’m dumbfounded that this is here,” Odd said.

2023 Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

the quote: Foraging Trip Near Chicago Beach Teaches Residents About Edible Plants They Didn’t Know Grown in the City Heart (2023, June 8) Retrieved June 8, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-06- foraging-chicago-beach-residents-edible.html

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