Robin and I just came back from one of the coolest classes we’ve ever taken together: a foraging & wild edible plants class here in San Francisco!
Twelve of us students all gathered in the Presidio on a sunny winter afternoon where our teacher from ForageSF, a San Francisco Foraging Class group, led us through trails pointing out all the edible wild plants in the park. We didn’t get very far, pretty much every other step there was miners lettuce, Doc, mugwort and countless other plants unassumingly growing. Just waiting for someone to bend down, pick it and nibble…
Our Afternoon Foraging In The Presidio Of San Francisco
I had no idea what to expect for this class. Would we be hauling home armfuls of wild plants to eat that night? Would the class be small or big? Would we walk miles and miles in the Presidio?
Robin and I definitely over-prepared a bit as we both brought backpacks full of containers and scissors for cutting plants, in case we were given free time to harvest. That didn’t really happen, as there are just so many cool plants to learn about, the 3-hour class quickly flew by as our group meandered around the Presidio Trails soaking up every bit of knowledge nuggets our teacher, Alexandra, gave us.
We learned all about what we could eat in the park, along with plants that are good for medicinal purposes, like bee stings or bruises, along with some plants to avoid, like Hemlock. She also taught us the basics of foraging ethics and in between nibbling on the plants we identified on the walk, I was furiously taking notes.
I recommend arriving with a fully charged phone and using your Notes App to take notes and photos as your teacher is explaining. We learned about over 30 different plants and there’s no way I could remember them all without notes and reference photos.
Here are just some of the plants we learned about on our wild plant walk:
- Wild Raddish
- Red Clover
- Wild Chervil
- Miners Lettuce
- Broadleaf plantain
- Water crests
- Wild Cucumber
- Soap Root
- Wild Oak
- California Lilac
- Sage Brush
- Snake Root
And more!! I left the class honestly feeling a little silly for not realizing our parks here in San Francisco are home to such a variety of plants. I brag to people all the time about how amazingly wild and nature-forward this city is. The fact that on any given stroll in a park you can pass by over 30 different edible or medicinal plants made me have an even deeper appreciation for my city.
After the class, we bought ourselves the Bay Area Forager Book which has been a helpful resource after the class as a reference. It will take practice to be able to identify plants and we’re still mastering this new skill. Plus this book has tons of recipes using wild plants which I know Robin is eager to cook up.
Why We Wanted To Learn Urban Foraging San Francisco Skills
So, why over 7 years after moving to San Francisco and countless urban hikes in San Francisco parks did we suddenly decide to take a foraging class?
Well, this past fall I attended the annual Crab Derby on Baker Beach since a friend hosts it each year. While I was sitting in the sand cracking freshly caught then cooked Dungeness crabs, and slathering them in butter (yes, it was the best crab I’ve ever had in my life) I got thinking all about if there were other ways to hunt or forage food in the Bay Area to further our urban homesteading goals.
Simultaneously, Robin was on a similar thought train, even though we never talked about it. Over the past year or so, he has been really into growing mushrooms in our apartment (the kind of eating, not for recreation. I get that questions all the time – ha!) Our favorites of late are lions mane and pink oysters.
He loves growing mushrooms but has been super curious about wild mushrooms in California. After some Googling we learned that while you can probably find mushrooms growing year-round, mushroom season is in January and February. And it’s especially fruitful after a very wet winter like we’ve had here in Nothern California lately.
San Francisco Foraging Class By Forage SF
We also stumbled upon Forage SF, a local company that hosts wild food walks and foraging classes on plants, mushrooms and seaweed! BINGO.
We felt that getting an education on wild plants and mushrooms is imperative before we attempted an outing ourselves, as it’s so easy to misidentify a plant or fungi, so these classes were exactly what we needed to get started. I don’t think I pulled out my credit card for anything so fast in a long time.
They have dates for events running year-round but I did feel that classes can be a little hard to secure spots in since they’re so popular and do have limited slots. We had to book about a month out for our tours but did score ourselves spots in the Wild Edible Plants of San Francisco class AND a Sonoma County mushroom forage class (coming up in a few weeks!)
Foraging Courses Available At Forage SF
- Wild Plants Class: Learn all about medicinal and edible plants with classes in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Oakland!
- Seaweed Foraging: I can’t wait to take this class next! Hosted in Half Moon Bay, Sonoma Coast and Mendocino, this class is all about how to harvest seaweed from the ocean.
- Mushroom Foraging Class: Learn how to identify edible mushrooms with hands-on classes in Santa Cruz, Mendocino, Sonoma Coast, East Bay and more spots! We’re taking the one in Sonoma Coast in a few weeks.
You can also grab gift cards if you want to gift this class to someone!
So, if you are interested in foraging or just learning more about local plants in the San Francisco bay area, I highly recommend you also take this class. Since the class, I’m not able to take a walk in the park the same way. Now I’m so much more engaged with the nature around me as I practice identifying (and sometimes nibbling) on greens.