'Foraging Walk' heads down Sand Creek Trail

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Amanda Mayfield, (in green) Wichita, led a "Forage Walk" on the Sand Creek Trail at Bethel College, pointing out medicinal and edible plants on the trail. The walk was sponsored by Healthy Harvey.

Amanda Mayfield of Wichita went for a hike on the Sand Creek Trail at Bethel College July 27, looking for food and medicine as she went. 

She did not find much of what she was looking for — much of the edible plants were past the point of useful harvest, and the medicinals were in much the same boat. 

But make no mistake, she did find a few things she — or the about a dozen people who accompanied her — could come back for next spring to add to the dinner table. 

July 27 Mayflower led what she, and event organizers including Healthy Harvey, Newton Farm and Art Market, Peace Connections and Newton Public Library, called a "Forage Walk" 

"I am a foodie, and I believe we should all grow just a little bit more of our own food and we should shop local," said Norm Oeding, founder of the Newton Farm and Art Market before the walk began. "A year ago in the middle of the pandemic with the grocery stores running out of food, the food is out here and we have to go out and get it."

At the trailhead Newton Public Library showed a collection of books they have on the topic of edible and medicinal plants — all encouraging the readers to look to new places for food outside of the grocery store. 

"In order to have access to food that is on the land we live on, we have to rethink the way we do food," Mayflower said. "...When you eat the food that is on the land you walk, it is better for your body. ... It knows you are eating food from the place that you live."

Before she even left the parking lot, Mayflower had pointed out medincinal and edilble plants. There were dandelions, whose young leaves can be used in salads, and plantains, a medicinal plant brought to Kansas by pioneers, in the parking lot. 

She pointed out juniper berries and lambsquarter, both edible. The latter is often overlooked as a weed and destroyed, rather than harvested. 

"A lot of things that are considered weeds are medicinal," Mayflower said. 

The walk, which went about a half of a mile, lasted a little more than an hour. About a dozen people listened as Mayflower identified plants. They took photos of some thing things found — like crabapples, sumac bushes, redbud trees, hackberries, walnut trees and wood violets early on. 

Mayflower offered some tips — like the obvious don't eat what you don't know for certain is edible. And, when picking, make sure the plant is healthy. 

Nathan Carr (Center) showed forage walk participants books from the Newton Public Library collection that help with edible and medicinal plant identification.

"Unless you re really desperate, you don't want to harvest the leaves that are yellow or brown. It is not well," Mayflower said. "Don't take more than a third of what is there. If you take it all, it won't come back next year."

Mayflower began studying medicinal plants serveral years ago, and is working to convert her current homestead into an edible and medicinal forrest — planting beneficial plants while learning about the uses for cottonwood trees, mulberries, wild lettuce and wild grapes. 

She will be planting sand plums and native plants on her property that is, at this time, mostly hackberry and cottonwood. 

The next forrage walk has not yet been set up, but Oeding expressed the desire for there to more walks at different locations in the area, at different times of day. 

"I want to do tis in the spring, because there are so many herbs then," Mayflower said. ... 

Amanda Mayfield identities a wild lettuce on the Sand Creek Trail that can be used for medicinal purposes.