The Plan to Eat Podcast

#27: Interview with Orion Aon, an Introduction to Foraging

August 10, 2022 Plan to Eat Season 1 Episode 27
The Plan to Eat Podcast
#27: Interview with Orion Aon, an Introduction to Foraging
Show Notes Transcript

We had the pleasure of interviewing Orion Aon of Forage Colorado. Orion is an avid outdoorsman with a passion for all things wild food! In 2015, Orion started Forage Colorado where he shares his passion for edible wild plants and mushrooms, writes educational content, and offers private foraging classes.

We chatted with Orion about being a self-taught forager, how he became interested in foraging, and some common misconceptions about wild food. We end the conversation with some common "weeds" that are actually edible plants! We learned so much from Orion and we hope to have him back on the podcast again in the future!

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I'm Riley and I'm Roni. And this is the plan to eat podcast, where we have conversations about meal planning, food, and wellness. To help you answer the question what's for dinner. 

Roni: Hello, thank you for joining us for another episode of the Plan to Eat podcast. Today, we have a super interesting interview with Orion Aon, who is the founder of forage, Colorado, which is a foraging and educational website.

Riley: Orion is an avid outdoorsman with a passion for all things, wild food. Uh, in 2015, he started forge Colorado where he shares his passion for edible wild plants and mushrooms, uh, writes educational content and offers private foraging classes. So today in our conversation with Orion, we just talked about the basics of foraging, what it is, how we got into it and how you can get into it.

Also, I know for me, it really removed a lot of barriers to entry and I hope that you feel the same way.

Roni: He gave us a few, plants towards the end of the podcast that are, uh, easily [00:01:00] recognizable. Some things that you're probably able to find in your backyard that are actually edible plants that you might have been picking because you consider them a weed. So whether you're interested in forging or not, this conversation was incredibly fascinating and, uh, we hope you enjoy.

Well, Orion, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. Welcome.

Orion: Thank you. Yeah, I'm glad to be.

Roni: Yeah, we would love to get started. Uh, just getting to know a little bit about your personal story. What do you do? Um, tell us a little about.

Orion: Sure. So, uh, I do a lot of things, but the reason you have me here is because I am a wild food and foraging educa educator. I've been teaching people and growing an educational platform online, uh, around foraging for about seven or eight years now. But I've been doing it. Myself for, uh, at least in some capacity for, um, over 20 years.

Um, I got my start mushroom hunting in New Mexico where I grew up, went out with a family [00:02:00] friend as a 10 year old. Didn't know what we were getting into and just was sort of hooked into this amazing, fascinating world of wild edible fungi. And that became an annual tradition for us. And it was sort of something that I only did occasionally growing up until I got into college.

And started studying natural resource management and getting that scientific background of plants and, and the environment. And then with that combined with my interest in wild foods, I started adding in the plants and the mycological study, as opposed to just focusing on a handful of edible species.

And that quickly grew into, um, me helping others learn about. I,

Riley: So basically what you're telling us is that you are an expert yeah.

Orion: I never try to, uh, pose myself as an expert, but, um, many people will say that. Um, I think that [00:03:00] the funny thing about most sort of in depth topics is the more, you know, the less you really know, you're like, oh, there's so much that I don't know. Now that I know a little bit about this. So.

Roni: Yeah, absolutely.

Orion: I help a lot of people with plant and mushroom identifications, and definitely the, a, uh, a go-to resource and people would consider me an expert.


Riley: The other day I was thinking, um, That I don't think I ever expected that I would be an expert in meal planning. Um, at this point , I don't even know what, like prompted the thought, just like you don't expect sometimes where your life is gonna go. And so I was just thinking, like, I feel like I know a lot about meal planning.

This is just something I never expected to know so much about. I think it was after I was listening to the like edited version of one of our podcasts that Roni had put out, um, And so I'm sure that maybe you feel that way too. Like you never anticipated that this is what you would be doing with your life.

Orion: um, [00:04:00] You know, I growing up, I sort of, wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I kind of. Considered going into tech for a while and ended up studying natural resource management because of my love of the outdoors. Um, and I always kind of thought that I might end up in some sort of education or writing. Um, that was something that had always sort of tugged at my interest.

Um, I wouldn't have guessed that I would've been writing and educating about wild foods though. so, but that's how it goes. You know, you find something you're passionate about and you share and, and grow in it. And. If you put enough effort in, it becomes a, a thing.

Riley: It's fun. I

think. Yeah.

Roni: So how have you continued to get this knowledge about wild plants and foraging? Uh, was it something that was taught in the natural resource department? Um, or is that something that you've like had a mentor who's taught you.

Orion: yeah. You know, a combination of things. Um, A lot of people say, use the phrase [00:05:00] self-taught myself included. And that's kind of the easy way to phrase it is being mostly self-taught meaning that I'm seeking information. But the truth of that is, you know, I have a ton of connections that are way more knowledgeable and experienced than I've been doing it longer than I have.

Um, including many of the, like very popular authors out there about foraging. And it's one of those skills and interest that you can always be better at. There's something like an estimated three to 400,000 edible plants in the world. That's just plants. So you could never learn them all. Um, and we probably don't even know all of them because a lot of that, you know, past knowledge has been lost.

So to answer your question in, in college, There was a little bit, you know, in like dendrology, which is the study of trees, you know, my instructor would be like, oh yeah, this part is like used for food or it's fun fact about this tree, but there was never like a true [00:06:00] class about wild food. And that's a, that's a whole other topic in itself that the, the field lacks education.

But it was mostly just me. Searching out information and asking questions and being involved in the community that I could find or creating my own community. I learn new stuff weekly, and it's, it's really just about like, Hey, I've never seen this plant before I'm gonna learn it. Um, and that process when you're first getting started can take months to, to become familiar with the plant, but because I've been doing it for so long, I have.

Sort of a system in a way that works for me, that I research and look up new things. So yeah, it's, it's a, uh, a lifelong mission of asking questions and researching.

Roni: so we have the privilege of having already chatted with you briefly before this podcast. Um, so we are a little up to speed on foraging and wild food, but can you give us a little bit of an [00:07:00] intro of like, what is foraging? How do you define wild food? 

Orion: Yeah, definitely. So most people, when you, when you talk about wild food, you know, they might, there might go back to like hunters and gatherers and forging. Really the definition of it does encompass both hunting and fishing. It's it's simply, seeking provisions or food in a wide area. But the, the sort of standard when people are referring to foraging is the gathering side.

You know, they're, they're talking about plants and berries and mushrooms and nuts. Um, even though it does include that hunting and fishing side, I sort of use the term wild food to encompass all of those because I'm also a hunter and fisherman. Um, but yeah, I think, I think it, it helps people. Not get overwhelmed by keeping foraging to just the sort of plants of mushrooms. Because there's already a lot of overwhelming information in that.

Riley: I personally love the connection to the past [00:08:00] that like foraging and hunting kinda like brings up. Um, I think. I think you mentioned this a little bit ago, but it's something we've really lost. Like you said, like there's like three to 4,000 edible plants in the world and we don't know all of them because we don't like, we've lost that information over time.

I think that's what you said. Um, and that to me is really sad.

Orion: Yeah.

Riley: um, but I think that, you know, foraging and hunting, uh, and knowing where your food came from, I think is really important, but I think that doing it yourself really connects us to. Past and our ancestors in the way that like, I mean, you know, has evolved to be in a grocery store, but that's not where it , that's not where our ancestors were getting their groceries from.

Orion: Yeah, there's a, a ton of interesting points that you bring up, um, that just kind of zipped through my mind when you were, when you were saying that. Um, so I'll try to touch on all of them. The, the estimate that I mentioned three, three to 400,000 edible plants comes from an older book. Um, and I forget the title of it, but,[00:09:00] it's, it's kind of an estimate because cultures that did things, you know, that had information that people either didn't care about or didn't ask about have been lost.

Both here in north America and in other parts of the world. And, you know, that's just, there's a, like I said, there's a whole other topic in that sort of, sometimes purposeful, um, like pushing away of that information or, or trying to hide that information for control reasons and, and other reasons.

Um, and another, forging ed educator, one of the most popular Alexis who goes by black Forager kind of touches on this subject a little bit. If, uh, your listeners are curious to learn more, um, definitely check out her. Work and, and stuff. She's super fun, but she also has some of that, like, you know, the history of foraging, which is really interesting.

Um, and then the, the sort of connection to the [00:10:00] past is I find that, that it's pretty rare that when you start getting into foraging or wild foods, when, you know, I've taught a lot of people that have never done it before and. The very first time you sort of start teaching them wild foods that are maybe right outside their front door or down the street from their house.

There's just, just like a veil that lifts and your surroundings go from a sea of green and trees to. Individuals. So instead of that's all plant, it's like, oh, that's an edible plant. And that tree has an edible part. And I know this plant really well. And I think maybe a mushroom can grow there in the right conditions.

And it's sort of this, this sort of beautiful connection that you gain with your surroundings that, um, you don't really get anywhere else. You know, if you study kind of botany, you, you connect with plants in a different way, but food is.[00:11:00] Essential to life. And so making that connection is sort of, it's a, it's a whole other level past just studying these things.

Um, and I think that's really cool. It's sort of, it's really fun to see people get excited when that veil is lifted. And then it also is, um, it feels more, it it's sort of hard to explain how it feels, but, um, you gain a lot more appreciation and respect. For where food comes from and how it's, you know, gets from the ground into the grocery store.

You know, it's not just produced at a factory, at least for the most part. We do have a little bit of that nowadays, but it's mostly not produced at a factory and put in plastic wrap right there. That's grown from seed or grown from cuttings. Um, if it comes to vegetables, at least. So, yeah, it's pretty, uh, Yeah, it's hard.

It's hard for me to, to describe almost it's, it's something that people should experience. I think.

Riley: Well, even your, um, [00:12:00] your inability to like put your, like words to that feeling, I think is pretty powerful. Just because. Like even the way you described it, like the veil being lifted, like that's gotta be a really powerful thing. As an educator, as a teacher, to like experience with a student, because you're giving them, you're giving them this insight that they didn't have before, and you've gotta see this like light up in their eyes and the veil lifted and I feel like that's gotta be pretty powerful.

Orion: Yeah. And I've been doing a little bit of that, especially online recently with some of my social media posts, like focusing on species that people know because they. Dealt with them as weeds in their yard. And so I get, I've gotten a ton of comments of like, oh, so you're saying that I didn't need to weed this for the last eight years.

I could have been eating it. Um, some, you know, something along those lines. So even just, you know, one plant that people are familiar with that's can sort of be eyeopening, but when you do it to your entire surroundings, it's, it's, it's a, yeah, it's a really beautiful [00:13:00] way to, to view the world. I think.

Roni: yeah, I loved the way you described that. That was, it was like really poetic to be like, you walk out your front door and like, everything has a name. And I like, I love that. It's really, uh, it makes me very interested.

Orion: Yeah, you, you, you know, some, some authors I'm, I'm reading, um, braiding sweetgrass right now, which is a great book if you've never read it. And, um, Robin is very good at sort of describing the plant community as sort of our, our relatives, instead of just these things. They're, you know, not necessarily like humanizing them.

There's there's more than just a plant there.

Roni: Mm-hmm

Orion: And I, I, I feel that as well.

Roni: Yeah. I have a friend who read that book who said that? It's amazing. So

It's on my list. 

Orion: Yeah, definitely recommended.

Roni: Yeah. So I, I feel like there's a, a big. For me, there's like this barrier to entry. That's like fear of eating the wrong [00:14:00] thing or eating something. That's gonna make you sick. Uh, like how do you recommend people get started?

If they're interested in getting started forging and like learning about wild plants and stuff.

Orion: Yeah, I, I get that a lot. Um, people say something like, uh, I've always wanted to get into foraging, but I'm afraid to eat the wrong thing or. I just feel like I can never get the confidence to eat this. And so my number one rule that I tell everyone, um, whether they're seasoned or not is never eat anything until you're 100% confident and 100% comfortable and most forging instructors will include that.

100% confidence part. I sort of add in the, the comfort, the comfort part too. And I'll, I'll touch on both. confidence is you are certain, you're so familiar with the plant or mushroom or whatever it is that you're going to eat, that you, you couldn't [00:15:00] be told otherwise, you know, so if you go into a grocery store and you.

Buy an apple. There's nobody. That's going to be able to tell you that that's not an apple, right? So you need to become that familiar with the wild foods. And then the comfortable part is you might have studied a plant or mushroom for months or a year. And you're very confident, 100% confident in your identification ability of it, but you're not comfortable with the idea of eating a new thing.

And there's a few reasons that this might occur. Um, one is, there are really weird, especially when it comes to mushrooms, but sometimes plants two, there are really weird, very kind of rare allergic reactions to some wild foods. Um, there are like, Some people that are allergic to one type of mushroom that is commonly eaten all over the world.

I have a friend who can eat normal morels, but [00:16:00] can't eat morels picked in a burn scar, just, yeah, very strange. Um, sensitivities or allergies to the compounds in these. And so you might be uncomfortable with the idea because of the chance of that. And that's okay. Just wait. Um, Do more research, maybe once you're comfortable try a very small amount and make sure you're not gonna react.

Um, in that same vein. It's also important to note that when you're getting into this or trying new species to only try one at a time, because if you do have a reaction, then you know which one did it. So if you eat a whole plate of wild foods, you and you get sick, you won't know which one did it. Um, And if you stick to those two rules or that one kind of compound rule, you will never have any issues.

Um, I've never been sick myself and I've been doing it for, like I said, over 20 years and I, I follow those rules pretty strictly. So I, I [00:17:00] have mushrooms that I've studied for two years before I ate them. So it, it can take time and, and that's okay. It's, it's part of the learning and growing experience and everyone.

Goes through the process differently. Um, I know people that have eaten 25 different mushroom species, their first year of mushroom hunting. And I know people who have eaten none. So it's, uh, yeah, it's sort of a, a personal choice, but as long as you're 100% confident and comfortable, it, you won't get sick.

Riley: A couple of thoughts, but one of them is that we've interviewed a couple of, um, people recently who help, um, with picky eating in, in kids. And the thing that has come up a couple of times is that. Um, for any person, like when they're learning to eat, there's like a whole set of steps that you're, uh, like subconsciously doing to be comfortable with a food.

One of the ladies we talked to she's like seeing it, you buy it [00:18:00] at the grocery store, your mom, you saw your mom buy it there, and then it's on your mom. Your mom cooks it. Maybe you helped stir. Okay. And then if it's on your plate and then maybe the next time you're like, it's on my plate. Maybe it's gonna be on my fork.

You know, like it's like all these little steps, um, And so it's like this connection, that I'm making between, like, basically we do this as it toddlers to learn to eat. It's just something we're having to relearn with something like foraging, being comfortable with like IDing it in the forest and then being like, okay, I, I'm pretty sure this is the one I'm gonna pick it.

Maybe I'll clean it this time. You know, like all the, you know, maybe I'll take it home this time. Um, this whole process that you walk through before you actually consume it is actually a very natural process. Um, it's just, when you're doing it later in life, it's like maybe like learning a new language later in life.

It's like, it's just, um, when you do it, when you're young, it's very easy and you don't really know it's happening. And when you do it as an adult, you have to kind of convince yourself to go through those steps and become comfortable with it, to eat it.

Orion: definitely. Yeah. And there's. [00:19:00] There's so many, um, interesting connections there. Um, the first one that sort of popped in was this a lot of people that are getting into foraging, um, myself included have trouble taking something from nature and then turning it into food. Once you're, once you're comfortable with eating it and confident in your ability to identify it.

There's. There's this sort of disconnect of like, okay, I've never worked with this ingredient before. I don't know how to use it. There's no recipes online for it there. I'm just like, how, how do I put this and make it into food aside from just like having it in a salad. Right. And so there, there are more recipes available nowadays.

Um, but that connection from field to actually making it into food was something. I struggled with definitely in my, my early years. Um, and I still occasionally find myself like, okay, I've got this new thing to [00:20:00] try, what am I going to do with it? And so the way that I, some ways that I break through that, the main one is I'll equate to the wild food, to something that is conventional, like, and we can talk more about some species recommendations, but, lambs quarters is a common.

And yard and yard and garden weed. Um, and it's actually related to spinach. And so equating that to spinach and then using it like spinach is a nice way to approach becoming familiar with cooking it. And then the other way, and the more scientific way would be, uh, and I sort of hinted at this is to study.

The taxonomy and the sort of family tree of a plant. So to get a little bit nerdy in the taxonomy, uh, the plant that I just mentioned, lambs quarters is in the amaranth family. And it's in the Keno podium, genus that genus contains quinoa. And [00:21:00] so, um, the seeds and seed grains that come from those are very similar to quinoa.

They're a lot smaller and harder to use. And then I mentioned spinach spinaches in the same subfamily and so they're greens are very similar to spinach. And so sort of, you know, making those connections, it's like, okay, now I know I can use the greens as a spinach. And if I wanted to go through the process of harvesting and, and.

Prepping the grains. I could use those like a quinoa and so sort of getting into the, the family history and then finding a cultivated species that's closely related. You can sort of get ideas on how to use those foods,

Riley: Yeah, that makes so much sense. And probably like that. Yeah. That level of comfortability changes when you're thinking like this is just like spinach, which is very comfortable for most people. , um, it, that changes the game when it like when you can kind of level the playing field, I guess.

Orion: Yeah, there's still, there's still a little bit of a wall to get through. It's like, okay. It it's [00:22:00] like spinach, but it's not. So, but I still find that like, okay. Just, just, just throw that out, try it like spinach and then you'll, you'll see. It's it's okay. so, yeah, we've, you know, we've grown up getting food from shelves and wrapped in plastic and so picking things and. Bringing them in from outside can be, um, yeah, it can be a little weird for our brains and, and, you know, just acceptance and, and understanding how to work with them. So,

Roni: Yeah. Do you find that people who, um, Well, I guess there's a little bit like two questions here. So it's like, do you find that people who gravitate towards foraging are people who maybe are already like gardeners and stuff or people who are already gardeners, maybe like overcome these barriers of comfortability a little faster, because they're used to going out into their garden and like cutting off their lettuce and then turning it into a salad right away.

Orion: think people who are more connected with growing food or, um, being [00:23:00] outside, have a little bit of an easier time. I've never met someone. Who's like, oh, you teach foraging. That's like, lame. Everyone's always like, oh, that's interesting. Or I know a little bit about that. Or tell me more. It's it's, there's like this little piece in the back of our mind that, you know, from our ancestry, that's just like, oh, Wild food.

That's interesting. Tell me more, you know, so especially with, um, some of the food scarcity and food pricing nowadays, you know, people are more, more interested for sure. There's a, there's been a little bit of a, a nudge into the mainstream for foraging in the last few years.

Roni: Do you do any of your own gardening or do you just, uh, go out and pick things in the

Orion: I do both. Um, yeah, we're in the process of, of getting new garden beds built. So our garden this year is lacking, but plenty of wild food, uh, supplement there.

Roni: I was a little, I was interested in you talking about people having, uh, allergic [00:24:00] reactions, rarely to wild foods. And I'm curious if, particularly in the case of your friend who can have conventionally grown mushrooms, but not necessarily wild or this certain morale, um, is that because like nutrient, like there are certain nutrient or like, uh, toxic, uh, I don't know, toxicity levels that are higher because.

Um, like CLO, like when you pick it, it's closer to when you eat it. Like the time for like nutrients to dissipate from the food is less.

Orion: I think, um, I think the, the answer is we're not entirely sure. Um, but to speculate, uh, I think it's a combination of, of many things. So, um, there are compounds that are in these, especially it it's most often occurs in mushrooms. Um, and they're com because fungi are such a novel kingdom of life, right. To also be a little bit taxonomically nerdy, fungi are in their [00:25:00] own kingdom of life, separate from animals and plants.

And that that's not something we knew right away. So we thought mushrooms were just a weird plant initially.

Roni: mm-hmm

Orion: Um, and so there, they have a lot of unique compounds, um, You know, things that are used and synthesized for medicine, like penicillin is a fungus or synthesized from a fungus. So there's just things that some people's bodies don't like, and it can be toxic compounds that, that maybe just affect, you know, whatever they've got going on.

Genetically it could maybe be, Growing conditions. It could be that, you know, I bet some in instances of it are contaminants because they, uh, either picked a, a mushroom that maybe was a little bit older or, you know, wasn't growing in the, the most ideal place to harvest from. And, and that's something else to kind of touch on [00:26:00] people.

For some reason when they're foraging, especially when it comes to mushrooms, they're sort of just like, oh, I'm gonna take like anything I find. And sometimes they might not be, you know, the best quality because they're out in nature. Right? So the bugs can eat them. They can get too old, they can be contaminated by animals.

So. The idea that I sort of try to get across is if you wouldn't buy that, you know, grocery store, then maybe don't take it home to eat it. Um, some people are a little bit more, uh, free with that, but yeah, I generally try to only bring the best, when I can, some of the, like the marginal ones I'll use I'll dry and, and, you know, use them as dehydrated ones.

But if, if they're really bad, I sort of leave them. So I think that. Some instances of people getting sickness from generally edible species can be equated to that. Um, and then the others would be just specific compounds that [00:27:00] for whatever reason, don't agree with your genetics.

Roni: Sure.

Riley: Yeah, the thing I was thinking while you were talking about this, um, with your friend is I, I have a friend who can't have citrus of any kind, highly allergic to that. Um, Most people aren't I would, I would guess I'm guessing it's a very small part of the population. So I I'm just thinking that it's probably a bit of a one to one it's like, well, you might be allergic to this mushroom, but most people aren't.

Um, cuz I mean, you know this, I mean I have some pet allergies, you know, like that I'm, that are pretty severe, but most people don't have them. And so everybody's bodies are just so unique. So. How do you overcome this level of trial and error to know if you're you're the chosen one, that's gonna be a bit allergic to something that most people aren't.

Is there a way to overcome that?

Orion: allergies are weird. Um, the, the, the best way to approach it is kind of what I mentioned earlier when you're trying something new for the first time, do a very small amount and wait 24 to 48 hours before you eat more. There are. [00:28:00] Some techniques that people use with plants, where they'll like rub part of the plant on their skin to see if they have like a, topical reaction, um, or they'll like touch it to their tongue or their lips, a sensitive part of their skin to see if they have some sort of reaction.

Um, if you're really worried or maybe have like a lot of allergies that could be something that's worth maybe considering, or, um, You know, just talk to your, your allergy doctor and see what they think. Um, maybe go a little bit further into the family research, um, and see if, you know, if this wild plant is connected to maybe, uh, another plant that you're allergic to, you know, you might be in the case of, like you mentioned someone allergic to all citrus, you might be allergic to a whole.

Family of plants or you might just be allergic to that one. So it's, it, it is unfortunately trial and error, but it's pretty rare, you know, I've, I've never found anything that I'm allergic to. And I have, you know, a number of mild allergies to [00:29:00] the, the usual suspects. Um, so I've never been allergic to a wild food.

Riley: I don't wanna go too far down this road, but while we're talking about, you know, like the allergies or illnesses related to that, are there other misconceptions . Related to foraging, um, that you wanna like debunk for us.

Orion: Um, sure. There's, there's quite a few. Um, I think the, the biggest one that I see getting passed around is it's sort of it's, it probably wouldn't come about for. Beginning people, but, um, once you get a little bit further into mushroom hunting, you'll see a debate about cutting versus picking. And I think this is one of the hugest misconceptions. Um, I'm gonna get a little bit nerdy in mycology for a second.

Um, but it's, it's interesting. I think so because of that historical thought that mushrooms were plants. There's this sort of carryover that if you. Cut a [00:30:00] mushroom. Then you get a new mushroom growing from the stem. Like you can from a plant, right? If you cut a plant stem, it'll just produce more growth to continue growing.

But, mushrooms being their own kingdom of life. Don't. Reproduce or act the same ways as plants or animals. And so the mushroom is actually the fruit of the fungus and the, the actual fungal body is the mycelium , which is in the ground or the wood that the mushroom would be growing from. So mushrooms are a method of reproduction for the fungus. And because of that, You can pick it and you won't harm the, the fungal body and you won't do any damage to, you know, The actual future production of that same mushroom, um, to put it in simple terms. So if you see people, once, once you start getting into mushroom hunting, if you see people, you know, getting mad at you for picking mushrooms, you can, uh, you can tell them that they're [00:31:00] incorrect.

And there are several scientific studies that have gone on for decades that have proof this. So. yeah, it's, it's a weird carryover that some people hold very, uh, strongly too, for whatever reason and refuse to, uh, believe the science. So , um, that's what I always like to mention. And then, you know, as, as far as, um, more general misconceptions. Foraging. Isn't something that you need any special place for. You don't need to be in the remote mountains of Colorado, where we are, or in the backwards of the Midwest. You can step out your front door and find edible plants. I, I guarantee unless you live. In concrete jungle, middle of the city, an apartment with no plants.

I guarantee that you can step out of your door and find something edible. Now, is it in a place or a condition where you want to eat it? Maybe not, but you can at least find an, an example of an edible species. And I think that, that once people start to realize that it's, [00:32:00] that's when the veil starts lifting and things kind of become eye-opening, it's like. Oh, man, I've got, you know, a dozen edible plants in my backyard that I've sort of just been mowing or, or

Roni: So, uh, piggybacking off of that, can you give us a few examples of like common weeds? Uh, obviously people might have to Google them after you say their name so that they know what they look like, but common weeds that are actually edible.

Orion: Definitely. So, um, the term I'm, I'm gonna talk about this briefly, the term weed is just a, an undesired plant. So, um, in the case of gardening, you know, if you have a tomato that drops some tomatoes and, and sends up some volunteers the next year, and you don't want them there, that's a weed just to, uh, sort of remove the, the negativity that can be surrounded in the term weed.

so. Common species. Um, probably the most common and often people's first sort of [00:33:00] introduction to foraging is dandelion. Um, they're if not the most common, one of the most common plants in the world, um, they're not native to north America, but they're everywhere from. The lowest elevations to the highest elevations, you can find dandelions all over the place.

Um, and that kind of speaks to their, uh, very effective seed dispersal method. Um, You probably have dandelions in your yard. Everyone knows what a dandelion looks like at least in flower. Um, so it's a very easy plant to sort of step into the world of foraging. With that said it's not the easiest plant to step into the world of eating wild plants with because, while all parts of the dandelion are edible, they can be a little bit bitter.

And so you need to actually forge them. At the right time or treat them in the right way. Um, and this brings up another topic that I'll touch on after we talk about some other species. So dandelions, the entire plants are edible. The leaves, the flowers, [00:34:00] the roots can be dried and used, uh, roasted and used as a coffee.

Like drink doesn't have any caffeine, but it tastes very similar to coffee. Another very common. One is the one I mentioned earlier, lambs quarters. It's also known as white goose foot because its leaves are shaped like the foot of a goose. Um, that one is, is essentially wild spinach and super common in yards and gardens and areas of human disturbance, a lot of these weedy species like human disturbance, that's where they thrive in.

And a lot of them were actually brought to. North America during colonization as food and medicine has sort of escaped and naturalized, you know, during, um, during that time period, another, very common one that is in most sort of urban landscapes would be curly dock. You'll just have to look this one up, but once you, once you look up some pictures of it, you will say, oh yeah, I've seen that everywhere.

Uh, it's super common. [00:35:00] It has, uh, large edible leaves, um, both curly dock and, uh, lambs quarters. Their, their family of plants are high in oxalic acid though. So I always, you know, sort of include this plant slate, but. Most of our common vegetables have oxalates as well, but, um, they can accumulate, uh, in the kidneys and cause kidney stones.

So just be careful about over consuming some of these species, um, especially if you're sensitive to or predisposed for kidney stones. 

Roni: I have a question about curly dock. So because like we have that all over the place here. Uh can you, can you also eat the seeds that grow off of it into the, in the little like cone 

Orion: yeah. So, so the seeds, um, if you look up close they're they have a structure called a valve. They sort of look like a, like a three-sided it's like a pyramid, but reversed. So yeah, it's, it's hard to describe, but, um, the seeds. [00:36:00] um, most people will grind. It's, it's kind of like a seed and a husk. Most people will grind that into a flour.

Roni: mm-hmm

Orion: I find that it can be a little bit bitter, but, yeah, that's the best use for those? The seeds are actually very small. It's, it's the husk that are bitter, but, um, they're impossible to separate. So generally people will just grind into the whole thing and. Use it as a, a flour like substitute, um, or in additions, you know, like 20% doc flour and then 80% all-purpose flour or something like that.

You can also, uh, something that's. We don't get a ton of in our, in our general, you know, cultivated plant diet is the flowering stock. So when a plant is going to flower, it sends up a stock. And if you harvest that before the flowers are produced, you can have a nice tender vegetable. Um, and dock has a great edible stock.

Dock has a nice sort of. Like acidic kind of tangy [00:37:00] flavor because of those oxalates. So those, um, yeah. Generally are associated with kind of a, a sour or tangy flavor. Um, another really great common edible plant would be purslane. This is one that's also cultivated around the world as an edible plant.

Um, it's sort of a succulent low growing, uh, very common in yards. There is one lookalike. That's also very common called, uh, prostrate spurge. So just be aware of those two, purslane doesn't have Milky SAP and the spurge does the spurge is toxic. So avoid that one. And then let's see, let's do one more. Um, common Malo is the one that's also very common in most people's yards.

Uh, it has really pretty flowers and then sort of large. Ruffled circular leaves. This one is the whole plant is edible. Um, the leaves can be a little bit tough, but the fun use for [00:38:00] them is to dry them and use them in soups and stews as like a thickener, because they have a mu mucilaginous quality. And so they actually thicken, any sorts of, you know, those sorts of recipes they're, uh, often used in, in gumbos.

Roni: So like instead of like a corn starch or something, you could use that.

Orion: Yeah. And I forget the term. It's like, uh, like gumbo file, I think is the term. Yeah. So you can use it that.

Riley: Fascinating.

Roni: That is fascinating. Yeah.

Orion: There's five there's, there's obviously many, many more. Um, and I have a lot of them on my website and, and a lot of them, on my social media. So.

Riley: Roni. And I have the benefit of sitting here and Googling immediately as you say it to like, see, so if you're listening, write 'em all down and if you're driving in your car, don't Google 'em, but , um, yeah, it's pretty amazing. Like all of these are recognizable to me, so.

Orion: Yeah. Tho those ones are super common. Um, I just thought of one more that I think is also very common that I wanna include, uh, goes by the name salsify or [00:39:00] SIFY S a L S I F Y it's related to dandelions. It gets a very similar sort of seed head that like big fluffy, dandelion, like head. But this one isn't bitter at all, like the dandelion, and it has like a very nice kind of mild.

Green flavor. The roots are actually cultivated in some parts of Europe as an edible root, what they call it oyster root, because it has some sort of seafoody flavors. Um, but yeah, super common in yards.

Riley: When I Googled that one, a lot of recipes came up,

Roni: I was gonna say, I actually just pulled out a ton of Salsify yesterday from a friend's garden or from friends like field, cuz she hates it. So I probably should have saved it.

Orion: Yeah. Yeah. It's so back to, um, that's a great segue into when to harvest things. So back to, to dandelion and we'll talk about salify too, or SIFY um, so [00:40:00] dandelion can be really bitter and a lot of people will be like, okay, I'm gonna get into foraging. I know how to identify dandelion. I've been seeing them and weeding them out of my lawn for my entire life.

So I'm just gonna go grab some and eat them. And often those people stop foraging after that because they're like, okay, everything I find is gonna be bitter and bad tasting. I dunno how to prepare it. And so if you decide that dandelion is gonna be your first wild food, uh, I have some tips for you. Uh, the first would be maybe start with the flowers because they have some sweetness in the petals.

The green parts of the flower will still have a little bit of bitterness. Um, you can offset that by, cooking them in some sort of sweeter application. So a very common way to cook dandelion flowers is as a fritter. So it'll dip them in like a sweet batter and then lightly fry them and kind of have like a, a dessert sort of flower fritter.

Um, that's a nice way to approach them. That's not so shocking if you're sensitive to [00:41:00] bitter. And then if you would like to try the greens, the best way to do that is to look for greens that are growing in a very well shaded area with, um, kind of rich soil. And the reason for this is plants in general, want to get from.

Sprouting leaves to making flowers as quickly as possible because that's how they reproduce. Right? So a dandelion that's growing in full sun in your front yard is going to produce very small leaves, go to flower immediately, go to seed and. You know, then start reserving energy for the next year, doing the same thing to spread its genetics, but a plant, a dandelion or, or any plant growing in shade has to produce larger leaves faster to collect enough sunlight, to have the energy, to make flowers. So these, these shade growing dandelions will have much [00:42:00] taller leaves that were grown a lot faster. And so they'll be tender and. And that's true of, of most plants. If you see, you know, walking in, like in the under story of a forest, you could see new trees, like seedlings that have leaves that are like four times the size of their adult counterparts.

And that's just because they need to get whatever sunlight they can. And so they focus on big leaf production. So that's a, a very good, uh, thing to keep in mind, just with foraging in general, is. Kind of, instead of just like calling a plant edible and eating the whole thing, even though it might not be great, you know, sort of pick and choose which ones you're harvesting and where, um, and then that sort of leads into the idea of seasonality with foraging.

So an edible plant isn't edible year round. There are certain times where certain parts of the plant are edible. And this is also true of cultivated plants, right? So [00:43:00] if you've ever grown lettuce and it got hot and it started to flower, and then you ate some and you probably found it very bitter. Um, so lettuce is collected before it flowers, because once a plant starts flowering, it's not putting energy into leaf growth.

It's putting energy into flower production. And so. The leaves get tough and they get bitter. Um, and that's true of, of many plants. So. The seasonality part is if you're wanting to forage greens for, you know, to eat, um, you probably want to do that in the early spring, before the plants are focusing on flower production.

If you're interested in foraging flower stocks, you probably want to do that. Like later in spring or early summer, before the plants flower, if you wanna harvest fruits or seeds, you're gonna be looking at later in the season. And so you can sort of. Um, you know, pick and choose what parts to focus on and what parts to harvest based on kind of the seasonality.

But yeah, I see, [00:44:00] um, often people getting into it are like, oh, I went out and picked a bunch of, uh, salsify to eat and they've got like plants that are flowered with like the seed puff on them already. And it's like, none of that is gonna be good to eat. Um, so with S or SIFY specifically, the whole plant is edible.

The greens are great in early spring. my favorite part are the shoots and flower buds, and those can be got, um, collected sort of mid-spring through summer because, salsify is a biennial. So the first year it's doesn't flower, the second year, it flowers goes to seed and dies. And if you collect the flowers from that, it will produce more.

Because it's trying to go to seed before it dies. Um, and that's maybe sort of brings up feelings of like, oh, that's sort of sad. Like you're, you're stopping this plant from reproducing, but you have to remember that this plant is also something that's been [00:45:00] weeded and sprayed with pesticides for many years.

So, you know, it's, it's okay. You, the truth of it is if you want to eat, things have to die. That's, you know, that's just life. So. You can sort of approach that, however you will respectfully. Um, but yeah, if, you know, when it comes to that specific plant, you can harvest flowers from it, you know, over and over again, because it'll keep producing more until it runs out of energy. Um, and then it's, it's, it's sort of an interesting, uh, if you're into kind of like the. Physi physiology of plants. You can, you can see a plant that was collected or maybe browsed by an animal over and over again will produce smaller and smaller flowers because it is saving resources. And it's also trying to not be so obvious. So it's not getting, you know, predated on as regularly so that it can produce those, that next generation.

Riley: I keep thinking, and this is [00:46:00] the way I keep equating this in my mind. I live, um, up in, like up in the mountains and kind of close to, like national forest area. And, since I've lived here, um, I have just like grown in my ability to spot wildlife. Because you just start to expect it, like I'm on a walk.

I might see a bear I'm on a walk. I might see a Bobcat or a bald Eagle, or like a moose or elk or deer. Like these are like big , you know, like some of 'em are hard to miss, but some of 'em are very like, they're trying to be hidden. Um, so you, when you're on a walk, you just like learn to this awareness of trying to keep an eye open for all of these things, because it's really exciting to see, And so my daughter, she's two and we'll take her on a walk and she'll ask to see an animal.

And it's like, well, I can't just produce this for you. You have to keep your eyes open. And that's why always am telling her, like, you just gotta keep your eyes open. You gotta keep looking. And so it's funny, cuz you'll point at something and she'll look all over until she finally sees it. And when you see she [00:47:00] sees it, she gets its light in her eyes and she, and you can tell, it's not like, um, she's not making it up, that she sees it.

You can really just see in her that she sees it. And it's exciting. Um, and I feel like this really equates. To foraging because you have to just learn to see it. And then once you see it, you start to see it more because you're trained to like, look for them and where they'll be. And, what, they're not, you know, I, uh, there's, there's a lot of burned, stumps in our area and some of them look like bears.

Like they're little, it looks like the way they're burned. It looks like bare ears. And so sometimes I'll look at 'em and think, man, that looks it's a bear. And then it's not because it's just a Blackburn stump. Um, And that feels silly, but it feels like it really equates to foraging. Um, you just have to be like, you have to just train your eyes to see it for what it is.

Um, and then like the right time of year for when you might see these different things is the same with animals. They have patterns and things like that. So,

Orion: Yeah. And that, that's the key word. I'm I'm I was very excited that you brought this up, that that word pattern is [00:48:00] the key word to what you were just talking about. And that whole process that you just described is called pattern recognition. And it's something that our brains do literally every day, probably.

Uh, when, when any waking moment we're doing pattern recognition, it's any decision that you make is some sort of pattern that you have learned over your years of growing and observing. Um, and so, you know, for instance, a very sort of. Relatable, uh, example would be when you buy a new car, you see that same car all over the place.

It's like, well, everyone bought the same car as me now. And it's just because you've, you know, what it looks like. And so you start seeing it everywhere and that's your brain is like, oh, I know that that's familiar. And it does that with everything, not just foods and animals. Um, once, once it starts to.

Gain that pattern you'll start in orders, noticing it more. But until you become familiar [00:49:00] with it, you will completely ignore it because your brain has so much to do in a day. Right. And so it's like, I don't need, I don't need any of this stuff that I don't recognize. I don't care about it. I'm I'm gonna focus on what I know.

Let's look for the patterns that we're familiar with. And then once you start adding more in it's like, okay, I know that that's easy for me. It's not a lot of mental strain because it's familiar. And I think that the, the idea of pattern recognition and how important it is to our everyday lives is really interesting.

Um, and it specifically relates to foraging because the more you practice your pattern recognition and are actively acknowledging that it's, that it exists and is happening the quicker you can learn new things and. Quicker, you can learn many new things. And so obviously I've been doing this a long time.

I have, um, a, a vast library of patterns that my brain is built up. And so I'm able to. Find [00:50:00] when I'm, when I'm looking at new plants, I'm able to go into that library of patterns, sort of like sort through like, okay, it doesn't fit into this category of plants. It doesn't fit into this category. It's kind of close to this.

So maybe it's related to this plant. And then I can sort of start there versus someone who is brand new. You don't have that, like, Background of patterns that you can associate with. So you sort of have to slowly build that and it can be a little bit frustrating, I think for some people that wanna just like dive in and gain as much information as possible.

Um, and so, you know, I would say when you're getting started, go, go easy on yourself. It's okay to sort of take your time and maybe just pick three or four to start with and build that knowledge over time.

Roni: Well, I think that is a great place to end on. Uh, we don't wanna take up your whole day. We could talk. I could, I have so many more questions that I could ask um, but why don't you, uh, just tell us where people can find you online, how they can learn more about you and maybe learn from you.[00:51:00] 

Orion: Sure. Yeah. Um, first I'm I'm if people, uh, are hungry for more information, or if you just wanna chat more, I'm happy to set up another one. Maybe we can, uh, get more into the nitty gritty of mushrooms, cuz I think they're fascinating. Um, You can find me, um, either by my name, Orion, Aon, last name is a O N um, or forage Colorado, just, you know, they're spelled the same way that they sound.

Um, I am on Instagram and, and TikTok and all those fun social media platforms. Um, and then I have a website forage, Colorado, which is sort of my. page for the business. And I have some educational articles and, and those sorts of things on there. So yeah, my name or forage Colorado is pretty much, pretty much how to find me. 

Riley: Well, we like to end every episode, um, by asking our guests, if they've created a recipe or eaten something recently that they [00:52:00] just thought was amazing and they might wanna share, um, this doesn't have to include something you forged, but if it does just bonus points,

Roni: Yeah.

Orion: You know, I, I pretty much, um, I almost always get at least one wild thing into my meals. So, um, I'll just tell you the last thing that I ate, which was last night, uh, we needed a quick meal because we are getting ready to leave town tomorrow. I pulled out some ground deer and some dried Porcini mushrooms that I foraged and, some wild spices and made, uh, spaghetti.

Riley: Yeah, that's great. Um, do you, have you. For that, or if you could put one together for us, we'd love to share it with our audience, but no pressure.

Orion: I could, yeah, I, I definitely could.

Riley: awesome. Uh, well, thank you so much. This was fascinating. And I feel like, um, it removed a lot of barriers to entry for me. And so I'm hoping the same for our listeners.

And, um, well maybe have you on the show again.

Orion: Yeah, I'd love to, and, and I hope [00:53:00] that it, uh, also is sort of a, a gateway for people getting into it. And if they have questions, I. I, I love I do this to help people. So feel free to get in touch. I don't don't let my large, weirdly large social media following scare you away from getting in touch with me.

I'm easy to talk to and I'm just, just a guy. So

Roni: that's great. Thanks, Orion. Appreciate it.

Orion: thank you.

Roni: Thank you for listening to this episode. If you want to connect with all of the recipes that we have mentioned in this episode, previous episodes and any episodes in the future, we now have a plan to eat account and you can get access to all of the recipes that we've ever talked about on the podcast

Riley: Simply go to forward slash P T E pod. And you can automatically connect with that account and get all of our favorite recipes.

Roni: Thanks again, and we'll see you in the next episode.