Local woman cultivates foraging renaissance Lifestyle emphasized at Holistic Health Fair
PLYMOUTH » Don’t assume the weeds in your backyard are … well, weeds. According to local foragers, they could actually be lunch or dinner.
In fact, hunting and gathering food and herbs that grow in the wild — foraging — are ageless and productive pursuits. Ask Marie Cooney.
“Foraging for greens is so rewarding and tasty and, of course, healthy … I wish more people did it,” says Cooney, fresh from a trek through her Plymouth Meeting backyard “to see what I could find to add to my salad or, maybe, use to make some tea.”
“I first found purple dead nettle … not a good name for such a pretty flowering plant,” she says. “It’s in the mint family and grows all over the place. I’ll use a little in my salad and the rest in a nice, nutritious tea since it’s supposed to be good for seasonal allergies.
“Next, I picked chickweed. I love the
flavor, so I’ll use a good bit of it. A tea made from chickweed can be used as a diuretic, and it’s said to help with weight loss. Sometimes, I make a pesto with it. I just love it.
“Then, on to the most well-known — the dandelion. I picked a lot of the leaves to use as the base of my salad. The young leaves are not that bitter, so this is a good time of year to give them a try. You can use all parts of this plant — the roots, leaves, flowers. It’s just so good for you and has so many healthy attributes.
“I like to put wild violet flowers in my salad … or [use them] for a tea. They’re so pretty … and good for you. But it’s just a little early for them in my yard. It’s also too early for purslane, which is one of the more tasty wild plants you’ll find. In fact, they sell it in the grocery store along with dandelion leaves. I munch on purslane when I’m out working and weeding in the garden. Since I have to pull them out, I might as well enjoy them. Plus, there’s a whole host of vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants in them, as in most foraged plants. There’s really a million more out there … plus lots more ways of using them than just fresh for salads. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Cooney’s perception of backyard as buffet is rooted in childhood memories of her mother, a registered nurse, sending her and her eight siblings to the yard of their Chestnut Hill home to pluck dandelion greens for salads.
“There’s so much out there, too …if you know what to look for,” she says. “For example, mushrooms, which are great in the spring. There’s a delicious mushroom called chicken of the woods that’s pretty common
Plymouth Meeting’s Marie Cooney supplements her family’s grocery purchases with food she forages in her backyard and beyond.
Marie Cooney’s son, Sean, offers visitors to her Holistic Health Fair a Shamanic Reiki treatment believed to impart “healing energy” to the recipient. The drum used is believed to create a spiritual vibration as well as a relaxing beat. According to...
Chris Mattingly exhibits the work of his company, Backyard Eats, at the recent Holistic Health Fair at Valley Green Inn. Backyard Eats installs and maintains clients’ home vegetable gardens.