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Eat Your Backyard—Foraging and Cultivating Unusual Edibles

Join Phipps Conservatory, Penn State extension and featured speaker Ellen Zachos, a Harvard graduate and the author of eight books including Backyard Foraging, Down & Dirty Gardening, and The Wildcrafted Cocktail for a full day exploration of foraging and edible landscaping at Summer Short Course: Eat Your Backyard — Foraging and Cultivating Unusual Edibles. Zachos will be joined by fruit and nut growing experts from Penn State, and will also be offering a limited enrollment wildcrafted cocktail class on Mon., Aug. 22.

The Summer Short Course will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 23 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Phipps Conservatory. The course will include:

  • Backyard Foraging | Ellen Zachos When you think about hostas and day lilies, you probably focus on their appealing foliage and vibrant blooms. But these perennials are delicious as well as lovely; a surprising number of our favorite garden plants can feed both body and soul. Learn how to recognize, harvest, and prepare tasty treats such as wintergreen sorbet, rose hip soup and dahlia tuber bread from plants you already have around your home.

  • Grow Nuts! | Emelie Swackhamer This session will cover which edible tree nuts grow well in Pennsylvania and the northeast, and tips for starting your own nut orchard. Visit the demonstration table outside over lunch for a chance to see the different kinds of nuts, crack them and taste them.

  • Small Fruit | Kathy Demchak Berry crops are really tasty and good for you! How many other foods can you think of that are both? We're all familiar with the common favorites like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, but there are also less common berries that may have a place in your garden. In this presentation we'll talk about gooseberries and currants, hardy kiwi, elderberries, aronia, and gogi berries, and what you need to know to grow them successfully. We'll also touch on some of the newer varieties of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries suitable for containerized production, and the pros and cons of growing them this way.

  • The Blended Garden: Good Looks and Terrific Taste! | Ellen Zachos Did you know many ornamental plants are also edible? Maybe you’ve grown wild ginger for its beautiful leaves or Juneberry for its early spring flowers and didn’t realize these plants could feed your body as well as the gardener’s soul. This lecture suggests ornamental garden plants that do double duty, by being both beautiful AND delicious! Many also grow well in containers.

Guests are also invited to sign up for The Wildcrafted Cocktail, a limited-enrollment workshop hosted in Botany Hall Teaching Kitchen at Phipps Conservatory on Mon., Aug. 22 from 5:30–6:30 p.m. Learn how to combine foraged, local, seasonal flavors with your favorite spirits, to create wildcrafted cocktails. Participants will make two cocktails and take home their own homemade bitters. Summer Short Course registration is $95. The Wild Crafted Cocktail Workshop registration costs $55. Reservations are required in advance, so sign up today online at

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