June 17, 2009 – By Mary Doucette
On the pleasant evening of June 17, 2019, around 30 individuals came together at the Museum of Natural History in Brewster to follow edible plant expert Russ Cohen (otherwise known as the Johnny Appleseed for native edible plants) for an educational walk on Wing Island. They listened intently as Russ introduced himself and his work, all while gnawing on his home made autumn olive fruit leather.
As we trekked along the sandy trail, Russ would stop us when he encountered a species he wanted to make us aware of. Examples included sweet fern, beach plum, daisies, native hazelnut, cat briar, and many more! Our guide was diligent about educating us on what parts of the plant were edible and which, if any, parts to avoid. In addition, as we nibbled on our leafy hor d’oeuvres, Russ treated us to a plethora of interesting facts, tips for foraging, and recipes to use our bounty in.
Among all of Russ’s tips for foraging, a few repeating messages were clear. The most significant one was to only forage in a sustainable fashion, meaning that you should be aware of the ecology of your surroundings before beginning. Is the species on protected land? Is the species abundant here? Is picking the plant going to harm the food supply of the animals here? Russ bases his work around these questions, and encourages others to do the same so that we may live off the land while ensuring balance at the same time.
Russ Cohen’s enthusiasm and knowledge led to a wonderfully informative yet hilarious and captivating walk that was anything but dull or dragging! The Brewster Conservation Trust and the Dennis Conservation Land Trust thank Russ Cohen and the members of the community that came out for yet another unforgettable edible plant walk, and make sure to check out Russ Cohen’s book, Wild Plants I Have Known… And Eaten! (scroll down for more photos!)
To learn more about Russ go to his website HERE.