We live in a unique time in human history, when most of us have absolutely no idea how we would feed ourselves if we didn't have grocery stores or restaurants to rely on. Sure, some of us know how to garden and some people know how to farm, but most of us would either starve or kill ourselves eating something poisonous if we were left to our own devices to find food in the wild.
Sad, but true.
The art of foraging is totally unfamiliar to most of us, but there's a lot we can learn from those who do it. Alexis Nikole Nelson has made her TikTok channel an educational—and entertaining—exploration of the abundance that's all around us, if we know what to look for.
Nelson has gained a following of millions, making and sharing videos in which she reveals various wild plants and fungi she forages and how she eats them. And it is wild.
Ever heard of curly dock crackers? Or curly dock at all? Maybe you have, but I'd venture to guess most of us haven't. But now we have, and now I want some.
WE LOVE A FREE SNACK #learnontiktok #tiktokpartner #curlydock
Nelson's knowledge is vast. She grew up with parents who were outdoorsy and started learning about wild, edible plants at a young age. She forages in her own yard, in parks and in the woods, where she finds all different kinds of mushrooms.
"It's like Disney World, but full of plants and much cheaper food," Nelson told NPR. "You walk in and you see this very vibrant ecosystem that we are a part of. And there's something so fulfilling about it, right? You're just like, I pulled this out of the ground, and now it's sustaining me! So I look into natural spaces and I just see wonder."
Each of her videos is fascinating, full of free food finds from the forest. And they're entertaining as heck.
🐔🌳!!! #LearnOnTikTok #TikTokPartner #foraging
"Don't die!" she always jokes at the end of her videos. It's a real warning, as eating wild plants and fungi can be a risky business if you don't know what you're doing.
My first time cooking the tender new growth of Resinous Polypore and it SMACKS!! #foraging #resinouspolypore
But there are plenty of books on wild edible plants that can help you distinguish between perfectly edible and deadly poisonous, and Nelson often explains the difference between certain lookalikes.
Nelson is a vegan, but she managed to make some "acorn bacon" that actually looks like bacon.
ACORN BACON 🥓 🐿 #foraging #acornbacon
Apparently it doesn't taste like bacon, though. C'est la vie.
Kelp is used in lots of cuisines around the world, but it's not super clear how it gets from beach to brunch. Nelson shares some insights as she makes kelp chips.
SEAWEED WEEK ep2: Kelp Chips! 🌊#LearnOnTikTok #TikTokPartner #Seaweedweek
Nelson's bio says she's a "Black forager" and she says that distinction matters.
"Any time you are moving through a space that is not yours, the color of your skin can very easily come into play," she told Kitchn. She said she gets a lot more questions like "Where are you gathering? Whose land are you on? Is that a park?" than her white, male foraging counterparts. "I also get my knowledge questioned a whole lot more," she said.
In one of her videos, she explained more about why it's important for her as a Black woman to be sharing her foraging experiences, from the history of trespass laws to the fear of lynching in outdoor spaces to the fact that she knows what it feels like to be the only person of color involved in an activity.
Reply to @morganw425 (please don’t go being mean to the commenter, sweet beans ❤️ I said my piece and I think the conversation can close with that)
Highly recommend following @AlexisNikole on TikTok. You'll definitely learn something new and have a lot of fun learning it.
Now is the best time for rose hips imo!! 🌹 They get sweeter and softer as winter goes on!
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