I started out from Sebastian at 6:15am, south on 75 watching the mist over the trees. Then turned west on 70 and BAM- one lunar eclipse, right in front of me. I watched that lunar eclipse until the brightening sky faded the moon from view. Not long after, I spotted a caracara on the side of the road and damn near wrecked the car craning my neck around to watch it. Then I spotted my first redwinged blackbird, and then I saw otters on one of the canals! It was a lovely drive to Arcadia and I arrived on site in great spirits.
The first half of ForageFest started with a great lecture on local medicinal plants and bioregional herbalism from Emily Ruff, which was a great way to kick everything off. She’s a good speaker, very engaging, and makes herbalism seem super approachable. Then everyone chose between three leaders for weed walks. I chose to follow Andy Firk’s plant walk. I was proud that I already knew more than half of the plants he selected to talk about and he introduced me to a couple non-edibles I’ve never seen before- meadow beauty (Rhexia mariana) and a rare terrestrial orchid that I believe was Spiranthes vernalis. I snacked on tender smilax tips the whole way and managed to avoid the prolific poison ivy. Then everyone headed into the community center for a potluck lunch. Everyone was encouraged to bring dishes including foraged foods and I did see a few. I brought a crockpot of palak paneer made with spinach, kale, and spanish needle, which must’ve been as good as I thought it was because that pot was empty in five minutes. I will definitely make that recipe again, photograph it, and post it here.
After the next workshop everyone moved down the road to Bamboo Gardens for the second half of ForageFest. Bamboo Gardens is hard to describe- it’s a combination of medicinal and edible subtropicals nursery, teaching garden, food forest, and homestead. I found his property profoundly inspiring- his live oak overstory and the way the space was laid out was so close to what I had envisioned for my own farm that I spent a long time wandering around and soaking it all in, and then spent much of the following workshop on edible mushrooms either mentally editing farm layouts or frantically scribbling notes and ideas in my notebook. Then came time to do what I drove down there to do- buy and trade plants! I brought an Alpinia katsumadai cutting, a few Vitex negundo, and some Scrophularia ningpoensis for Andy’s forest garden. I went there for Curcuma zedoaria but he only had one pot left, so I bought a few other plants and he shared several cuttings with me, including a lovely new Alpinia galanga. I left soon before dark and drove back to Sebastian.
I’m glad I went. I met some really great people, soaked up more edible wild plants information and identification experience, but would definitely like to visit Bamboo Gardens again when there are fewer people.