Nicholas Copley, of Lionheart Medicinal Gardens, shows viewers how to forage and what to look for when foraging in the woods. 

Mansfield resident Nicholas Copley loves being in the woods.

As a certified herbalist, he relishes studying all the different types of flowers, plants and foliage you can find outdoors. A big part of being an herbalist involves foraging and eating wild plants, and sharing that knowledge with others.

I’ve known Nic for a long time. He’s an artist and a talented chef. And very knowledgeable. 

I like being in the woods, too. So as friends, he and I take hikes. He points out nearly every plant. He tells me about its qualities. The health benefits. The flavor profile.

“This one would be good in a tea. It helps reduce anxiety. This one helps heal the skin. This one tastes like oregano. Don’t eat that one, it’ll make you vomit immediately.”

It’s fascinating, really.

What we think are weeds are actually wonderful, healing beings that contribute to a vast ecosystem that we, as a modern society, mostly ignore.

I know. That sentence reads like a line from The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.”

Think what you will — but these insightful hikes are what inspired “Foraged Feasts” in 2016. At the time, foraging was really starting to pick up steam in popularity. But really, it was a great excuse to get out in nature for an hour or so to see what we could find to bring back to the kitchen.

That first season we pumped out 13 videos. He foraged plants like watercress, wild mint, sumac and day lilies — and then made them into feasts. In one of the videos, he even climbed a cherry tree to pick some of the fruits in order to make a cordial.

That year was also the year of the cicadas. So we made a video about foraging the insects and I made my boss and co-workers eat one.

It was fun.

So we thought we’d bring it back, for a limited time. We have two videos made so far. Check them out. Also, tell us what you’d like to see. Have a recipe in mind? Let us know.

Since the first season of Foraged Feasts, foraging, as you may have noticed, has grown in popularity. Since the pandemic, interest in the hobby has skyrocketed as more people connected with nature during long walks or became fearful the grocery supply chain would be forever crippled.

Interest on social media has boomed, with more and more TikTok users posting videos about their finds and recipes.

An annual Waitrose Food and Drink report published in 2021 predicted that foraging will continue to grow, noting an 89% increase in social media interest. Books have recently published, too.

There’s Liz Knight’s “Forage: Wild Plants to Gather, Cook and Eat” and Wross Lawrence’s “The Urban Forager: How to find and cook wild food in the city.” Both books came out within the last two years, but there are dozens of others dating back to around 2016.

The reasons for foraging are many. Maybe you’re wanting to incorporate some wild foods in your diet for health reasons. Maybe you just like being outside and learning about plants. Maybe you’re sick of society and want to learn how to survive from the land as you move out to the woods.

Whatever the reason, we hope these videos provide you with some information and that it inspires you to get outside.

Oh, and if you do decide to head out to the woods to find a meal — we encourage you to read up. Take a friend with you who knows a little more about this. Some plants are poisonous, and some could even contain contaminants left behind by industry.

But don’t let that keep you inside. There are studies that suggest most green spaces haven’t been contaminated by toxins, even in relatively polluted urban environments.

The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.

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