Marissa Alfiero, right, led a foraging workshop at Lareau Farm on May 18. Photo: Erika Nichols-Frazer

On a beautiful spring evening on May 18, about 20 people gathered at the ShareMRV community garden at Lareau Farm and Forest for a spring foraging workshop led by new garden manager Marissa Alfiero (they/them), Fayston. The free workshop was the first in a series the organization will hold this spring/summer, that will focus on food systems, gardening and preparing foods.



ShareMRV is an organization “focused on food justice through nourishing resilient food systems in the Mad River Valley,” according to its website. Alfiero and volunteers maintain the Victory Garden, which provides fresh food to the community on a pay-as-you-can, take-what-you-need basis at the Mad Stand at Lareau Farm.

“Part of hiring me was to be able to do more education and outreach,” Alfiero said. “I love foraging this time of year. Everything is alive and growing. I feel the greens that come out this time of year are the things your body needs after the winter, these bitter things that are detoxifying and invigorating. There’s so much we can eat, and I want to make sure people know all the things we can eat and how to have a relationship with those plants, so I thought, what better way to kick off our workshop with spring foraging, at the peak, almost tail end of a lot of these things? I wanted to get it in while we could.

“There’s a lot more that we can eat than we know and we don’t have to be so afraid. We’re conditioned to, ‘the food you eat has to come from a store.’ You miss so much of the beauty that you can see if you go out in the woods and see a patch of ramps glistening in the sun with all these other gorgeous things growing around them. You lose that. Building that relationship is part of the joy of it. Also, these are free things that are just out there. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to eat really nourishing things.”


At the workshop, Alfiero gave an overview of popular local vegetables and herbs that can be foraged and how to do so in a sustainable way. Alfiero led a tour of the gardens, pointing out wild edible herbs and encouraged people to think of these not as weeds but as valuable plants.

They then shared a sample of foods they had made using foraged local vegetables and herbs. The menu included roasted burdock roots, sunchokes and wild parsnips (which they said have a bad reputation and are not poisonous, though it is possible to get a rash from handling the top flowers, particularly in the sun). There were also dandelion greens, which they advised boiling in salt before sauteeing to remove the bitterness. They also recommended dandelion fritters, tincture, and tea, and, of course, dandelion wine, though they said the process of making dandelion wine is very labor-intensive. They shared a ramp-garlic mustard pesto, stinging nettle tea (which did give one person a reaction and made their tongue tingle) and knotweed jam.

Alfiero advises foragers to be conscientious about where they are harvesting from, be respectful of the plant and others by not overharvesting and be sure to know what one is eating and whether it’s safe. They recommended resources such as the books “Nature’s Garden” by Sam Thayer and “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. They also suggested using the iNaturalist app to help identify plants.

Other workshops led by ShareMRV this summer will include an intro to herbal medicine, pickling and fermenting, jam and elderberry syrup, seed saving, cider pressing, making hot sauces as well as culinary instruction. See for more information.