Foraging Herbalist Mentorship – 2014 Slideshow

Heres a look at pics from the Foraging Herbalist Mentorship of 2014. See next years program @

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Seeking the Medicine – Colombia, Nov. 2014 – Itinerary, Packing List, Plants List

The Itinerary: We leave From JFK Airport Thursday am to Cali, Colombia. We will stay for several days at a friends ashram, then take a bus to Pasto, Colombia. From there we will meet a guide Sebastian who speaks very good English and will translate for us. From there we will stock up, have a meal, and travel to a small village of Valle de Sibundoy in Putomayo called San Francisco. From there we will meet and work with Taita Domingo Cuatindiyo; an artist, activist, and ayahuasquero who our good friend has studied and stayed with. We will drink and do ceremony with him as many days as is called. If we are able within the time there we will ask Sebastian to take us hiking into the rainforest, he knows the area well. While with these teachers I will ask to film with them and go on plant walks to learn whatever I can of plants. I have also been given botanical lists of plants (See Below) , and it is apparently also the rainy season so mushrooms should be in abundance that I will document and photograph as well as ask any locals of their knowledge about them.

Health Care:  It seems malaria and yellow fever are low in putomayo area, but govt websites say to be careful. For these issues, prevention and application during earliest stages detectable, I have 16 oz (enough for 2 people) of a formula that I made. It is a good general antiviral, and antibacterial, but also specific toward malaria or yellow fever. It consists of Sida acuta, olive leaf, Artemesia annua, burdock root, and redroot. I also have a small medical kit containing some band-aids, gauze, cotton swabs, and salve, with essential oils of lavender and peppermint, as well as lots of my home made bug spray – this will be a good test. I also have foraging know how which will be interesting to see how it expands during my time there – Examples such as any evergreen sap for cuts or fungal infections, wild papaya leaves as a tea for intestinal issues (plus the seeds of the fruits), as well I will be seeking teachers while there to broaden any level of foraging and herbalism applications of wild plants. I hope to be able to film this and provide clips on my website, facebook, and Instagram.

The other concern while traveling to Colombia is the FARC – this is a militant guerilla group in certain areas. As I have been told they don’t kidnap westerners and are much more interested in drug trade issues with the government. There are no known issues with tourists and the FARC in the last few years, and supposedly they live on the coast.

Gear: I will be bringing a hammock with mosquito net, water filter and 32 oz stainless steel water bottle (can be used to boil water), firestarter, clothes for 70 degree days, rain pants and rain jacket, and get rain boots there if it decides to be a rainy week when we are in the forest. Otherwise I have simple hiking shoes. I will try to film and take photos on my smartphone, with a solar charger as well as extra rechargeable batteries; hopefully this can make some quality filming with very special medicine teachers, as the time is right.

If you are interested to help these journeys become better documented, better preserved, and more interactive, please consider helping the mission of return to nature by making any donation through paypal to

Here is a video of Taita Domingo speaking for the forest

And his art work:

Plants List (Huge thanks to Timothy Lane):

“I made a general list, mostly of species utilized for fruit. These species I encountered in northern Ecuador, and around Bogota Colombia. Many were planted by humans, but several are also found wild (or feral).”

Various types of citrus

Manihot esculenta (Tapioca)

Babaco (Vasconcella × heilbornii)

Guava (Psidium guajava)

Persea americana (Avocado)

Selenicereus megalanthus (vining cactus with yellow ‘dragonfruits’)

Carludovica palmata (Panama Hat Palm)

Monstera deliciosa (“Ceriman”)

Coffea arabica (Coffee)

Eugenia stipitata (Araza)

Syzygium paniculatum

Annona cherimola (Cherimoya)

Musa velutina (bright magenta self-peeling banana full of seeds)

Musa / Bananas of all sorts.

Quararibea coddata / Matisia cordata (“Sapote del Monte” / “Chupa Chupa”)

Syzygium samarangense (Pera roja)

Bunchosia argentea

Phyllanthus acidus

Carica papaya

Theobroma cacao

Annona muricata

Annona squamosa

Annona reticulata

Annona glabra

Spondias purpurea (“Ciruela” or hog-plums)

Spondias dulcis

Pouteria sapota (“Mamey Sapote”)

Pouteria sp.

Tropaeolum tuberosum (Mashua / Anu)

Oxalis tuberosus (“Oca”)

Sechium edule (Chayote)

Passiflora resticulata

Passiflora quadrulangaris

Passiflora tarminiana / P. mollissima (banana passionfruit)

Passiflora edulis

Passiflora foetida

Passiflora capsularis (bright pink fruit, splits open naturally)

Inga edulis (long thin beans)

Inga vera (small, blocky, fuzzy brown beans)

Inga spectibilis (very wide beans)

Prunus salicifolia (Capulin cherry — much like wild black cherry)

Juglans neotropica (tropical black walnut — looks almost identical to our Juglans nigra)

Sambucus peruvianus (Elderberry Tree)

Clavija sp. (“Mongon”) – more of a mid-elevation rainforest species.

Solanum muricatum (pepino melon)

Solanum betaceum (tree tomato) – “Tamarillo”

Solanum quitoense  – “Naranjilla”

Rubus rosifolius (rose-leaf raspberry)

Rubus niveus (“mora” / blackberry)

Rubus urticifolius (nettle-leaved raspberry)

Margaritaria nobilis (riversides, near water — very sour when green/underripe)

Bixa orellana (“Achiote” / Annato)

Physalis peruvianus

Physalis angulata

several other Physalis not ID’d but edible

Many of the common weedy species are familiar:

Phytolacca rivinoides (longer berry raceme, smaller leaves)

Portulaca oleracea  / Purslande (“Verdolaga”)



Plantago species

Erechtites (burnweeds)

Sonchus (Sow Thistles)

Bidens (Beggar’s Ticks)



Wild mustard/brassica types.

You may see a few wild tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

Various other Solanums.

+ Alibizia saman (Raintree) – (edible pod pulp).

Yaje: Baniseriopsis capii

Tetrapterys methystica

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Black Nightshade (A mystic fruit)

Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum/americanum) is a little known, yet edible and delicious fruit. In some foraging guides it is seen as poisonous, but this is likely due to confusion with other Solanum species such as Solanum dulcamara. Here’s a video showing the characteristics of this plant, and a comparison with others that may look similar to some seekers. And of course, always verify all wild foods with a trusted expert.

Much more videos on my Youtube channel and Facebook Page

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Pics From Foraging @ Mountainside Park, Montclair, NJ

Heres a look at some pics from the foraging class in Montclair, NJ – Oct 25, 2014

Happy Foraging!


Further Suggested Reading: Foraging Articles

Foraging Videos: Click Here

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Upcoming Classes – Nov 21-23 @ Brooklyn, NY

Next weekend – Brooklyn Classes with The Herb Shoppe

*Friday Evening Lecture – Alchemy, Tantra, and the Herbal Traditions –

*Saturday Afternoon – Foraging Prospect Park @ Brooklyn, NY –

*Sunday – The Alchemy of Fermentation –

montclair foraging aronia

All details can also be seen on my calender here – Please help spread the word in any way you would! Hope to see my lovely brooklyn peeps!!!


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Seeking the Medicine – Colombia – November 28 – Dec 7

In 2 weeks (nov 28) I’ll be traveling to Colombia to seek the wild foods, medicines, culture, and shamanic practices within these sacred lands.

It will be my first time to explore a jungle habitat, and I’m very excited to meet new plant valle del sibundoyfriends. For the last few months I have been compiling a list of potential edible wild foods and medicines in the area. I will soon post up a working list of some of the plants I hope to visit with.

As I seek many forms of medicine in the jungle, market place, and with traditions, I’ll be blogging and filming along the way – Stay tuned for more of that!

We are headed from Cali to Pasto, with the goal towards into Valle Del Sibundoy in the Putomayo region to hopefully forage a connection and work with a very special shaman that has been recommended by a friend. Sibundoy still retains its traditions and language and is known as the cultural capital of Putumayo. Around the area there are apparently several sculptures of the plant mixture ayahuasca (yagé).


Do you have any resources or connections in these areas? Be in touch!

If you are interested to help these journeys become better documented, better preserved, and more interactive, please consider helping the mission of return to nature by making any donation through paypal to

Heres a Blog on an Elaborated Itinerary, Packing List, and Working Plants List


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Foraging the Autumn Olive

Autumn Olives - 2015 harvestHeres a look at one of my favorite wild berries – Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata).

Autumn olive, or elaegnus is a delicious and tart berry which, before the first winter frost is very astringent due to being full of tannic acid. The great thing about tannic acid is that it is water soluable, this means that it can either be leeched out, or in some case with fruits it can be “ bletted” out. Bletting is basically using your freezer to mock the frost period in nature. The reason this is important is because after the first frost the berries will be mostly eaten by wildlife. Therefore to render autumn olives less tannic you can freeze them for a few weeks.


This very common plant gets a lot of negative press” in the invasive management world due to its prolific nature. 

I have heard a story of an invasive plant task force killing them, and then the bird people complaining because the specific birds were starving, having become accustomed to the autumn olive during migration.

Imagine with me for a moment, what if we realized that the best way of performing “invasive plant management” is to eat them; to actually be part of the wild food chain as nature intended. These plants (like all fruiting plants) produce seed through their berries and if you eat them, then you will naturally reduce the populations. Perhaps this is a lost part of our place in the chain on the earth; the conscientious caretaker. To me, it definitely makes more sense than spraying even more chemicals into the ecosystem.

Amazingly, one autumn olive bush can yield several gallons of fruit, and to one estimation you can get 12000 lbs of fruit per acre with no pesticides or fertilizers. This is almost unheard of, especially as a forager. To pick autumn olive gives alot of fruit for very little effort.

This summer I harvested over 20 cups with just a few hours a day, casually walking to autumn olive groves.

IMG_5736Identifying and harvesting this wild fruit is relatively easy as it only has a few plants that it looks similar to. One of them being honeysuckle (left). The reason these look may look alike to the novice is because they are both bushes. However if you notice a large bush, and go close enough to observe it, you can easily notice that honeysuckle berries have none of the mottling or speckles that are very characteristic of Autumn olive. If you look at berries alone, then you can also realize that the berries of false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) are also mottled. However, these are not shrubs, and it’s always important to see a whole plant, and never just focus on a berry.

You wont find these trees in the middle of forests, but look for them on the edges of the forest where the meadow begins. They are often crowding roadsides which can be a significant place to first identify them, but I don’t recommend to harvest there due to run off and pollutants of tar and car exhausts.

DSC02042Medicinally, Autumn olive, is one powerful antioxidant berry. It contains more lycopene than is in tomatoes; about 18 times more in some estimates. lycopene has also been clinically shown to be directly linked with prostate health, and anticancer benefits – notice in the link, autumn olive isnt even mentioned. Lycopene, being an antioxidant is helpful against cancer because cancer is cellular mutation due to cellular oxidization, and the reverse, anti-oxidants, being able to save cells from mutating, and further recreating themselves.

Click here for an article: How Cancer Starts

 Often, foragers eat the berries and spit out the seeds, because they are very chewy and fibrous, however the seeds are full of omega fatty 3 acid. With these kind of dietary reservations we lose yet another rich source of oil and brain food. And, as you may know, omega fatty 3 acid is hugely helpful to reducing systemic inflammation. Research shows that the proper ratio of omega fatty acids in the body is directly linked to how inflamed we are. All of the diagnosed diseases seen in our modern world that end in “itis” are all inflammatory issues. Generally, Omega fatty 3 reduces inflammation, and omega fatty 9 causes inflammation – necessary when there is a sprain or break to help send pain response so that we don’t go for a jog with a broken leg. Due to the modern diet high in sugar, GMO wheat, and other processed foods we are all walking around blowing our bodies up from the inside and suffering alot of issues. The modern day ratio is said to be roughly 20 to 1 ratio of omega fatty 9 to 3. That means we are 20 times more likely to have inflammatory diseases.

An easy way to consume the autumn olive seeds is to collect them and freeze them, this blet them, then after some time you can add a few handfuls into a smoothie and blend them into an easily swallow-able size.

Heres a great recipe for an autumn olive smoothie:

1 banana

4 tsp of maca

1 tbsp of raw honey

2 tbsp of black strap molasses

Raw ginger to taste

1-2 cups autumn olive berries.

Add water to top it off, blend, and enjoy the anti-inflammatory blessing of this plant.

I hope that this article can transform our cultures negative perception about this sometimes perceived as negative “invasive” plant. And remember, Foraging your own food is self reliance.

Always check with an expert before consuming wild foods.

And check out my youtube video “Harvesting Autumn Olives” to see more tips for harvesting autumn olive.

Happy Foraging!


Further Suggested Reading: Foraging Articles

Foraging Videos: Click Here

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Nov 08 – Fall farm + Forage Fest – With Co-op 518 and Return to Nature!

IMG_2044Next Weekend! – Fall farm + Forage Fest – With Co-op 518 and Return to Nature! – A day full of local sustainable ideas and practices. Featuring Dan Farella of Return to Nature, Lauren Nagy and Alec Gioseffii of Cooperative 518 and filmmaker Costa Boutsikaris of Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective.

Come stay the whole day or pop in for a few events. Schedule as follows:

Full Day Admission – $50 Suggested Donation

Individual Class – Suggested Donations:
Yoga with Lauren – 10:30-11:45 -$15
Co-op 518 Farm Tasting Tour – 12-1 – 15$
Lunch (compliments of Co-op 518) – 1-2
Return to Nature Wild Plant Walk – 2-4 – 25$
Potluck – BYOBowls/utensils for eating (please no paper or styrofoam) – 4-5:30
Inhabit – film Excerpts and Discussion of an upcoming Permaculture Documentary- 6-7 – 5$

Click here for the info on Facebook:

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Foraging the “True” Turkey Tail Musroom

Trametes versicolor is a powerful antiviral, anticandida, as well as immunomodulator, Yet, there are a few mushrooms that look somewhat similar to the untrained eye.

Here’s a look at two pics showing the true turkey tail (trametes versicolor) on the left, and it’s look similar, the “false” turkey tail (stereum ostrea) to the right. Notice that trametes versicolor has a white underside shown in the second pic below, otherwise they look very similar and can easily be confused. Although it is not known that false turkey tail is toxic, there are still questions and concerns for working with it as a medicinal. With all of the research I’ve scoured and all the people I’ve asked I still haven’t been able to find any direct experience of consumption of stereum ostrea, although many claims exist. For a better look at the living discernment of these and a few other similar mushrooms check out my youtube video at Foraging for Turkey Tails – happy foraging.





Happy Foraging!


Further Suggested Reading: Foraging Articles

Foraging Videos: Click Here

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Foraging Herbalist Mentorship Training, 2015

Herbalism and Foraging Training, 2015

dan mentorship class

Monthly Group Mentorship Program in Somerset NJ

Beginning in spring of 2015, I’ll be taking another 10 personal students for a year-long training intensive program. I’ll be systematically teaching each student to work in depth with the diverse plant teachers of the land. Each student will be getting to know the plants inside and out, and work with care and attention to the subtleties of the plant world throughout the learning process; learning the seasonal harvesting times, and growing deeper awareness of what is surrounding us.

This course is designed to lead you into a deep intimate and instinctual knowing with plants and their medicine offerings. From observing and understanding the ecosystem intimately comes building your herbal apothecary and knowledge base of the plants and how to work with them.

This Course Includes:

  • 8 – In depth 3 hour classes with lessons including plant identification throughout the seasons, proper harvesting for food and medicinal preparations for building your home apothecary.
  • Access to our own Facebook group for digital hand-outs, asking questions, discussing material, and working with the collective insight of the group.
  • In-field training of deep and real-life experience connecting with local plants in Nature, and gaining allies with the plant world.
  • Working with sit spots, and intuitive perception to take our connection with the Earth to a deeper, and more tangible level.
  • Simple and engaging assignments to complete at home and take you deeper into the lessons.
  • Lots of medicine making throughout the seasons, and journaling your experience.
  • Suggested reading list including field guides to enhance the course.


We will meet once a month at 6 Mile Run, in Somerset, NJ on the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 2-5 pm. The course ranges from March to November, with a break in August for tentative summer travel. If the weather is unbearable we will discuss alternate dates through the Facebook group.

Scheduled meeting dates are 3/18, 4/15, 5/20, 6/17, 7/15, 9/16, 10/21 & 11/18

~ Please note ~

Once registered you must commit to the entire class schedule

Missed classes will not be refunded.

Payment Plans – 2 Options:

  1. Pay in Full – Tuition for the full course (8 classes) is $600, or $550 if paid in full in advance for a savings of $50. 
  2. Pay in Increments – A down payment of $150 is required upon registering to reserve your spot in the class. The remaining $450.00 [$600 in total] may be paid in increments of $100 per month for the first 4 months, with a final payment of $50 in the 5th month.  [Email me to discuss other Options]

Payment Options: you can mail cash or check, I can collect cash at the classes, or you can send through PayPal to my email address:


To register for the class or if you have any questions please email by Thursday, March 5th 2015. Spots are limited to 10 for this course and will be filled quickly. Register now to reserve your spot!

I look forward to working closely with this group and I’m looking forward to watching your discovery with the plant wonders unfold! Please email me with any questions!

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