Did you know you can pick sage at a public park - for free? If you know where to find it and what it looks like, of course! But most of us think of foraging as a stone-age activity, except for the highly specialized art of wild mushroom foraging. I know of people who have foraged for nettles, but I never did nor knew how. Under the radar, the duo Urban Outdoor Skills and Transitional Gastronomy have taught small groups of people how and what to forage nearby and how to prepare not just edible, but gourmet dishes from the pickings.
The class meets at Hahamongna Park, just east of the 210 Freeway in La Cañada Flintridge. When you enter the park, keep driving until you see the restroom building. The class meets at a picnic bench next to that building. Pascal Baudar of Urban Outdoor Skills then takes the students around to forage while Mia Wasilevich of Transitional Gastronomy stays behind to prepare lunch.
Until our foraging class, I had never heard of chickweed. The edible chickweed looks similar to purge, which isn't. The difference is that chickweed has pointy leaves, lighter green color, and fine hair and buds that look like bells. Its flowers are white with what looks like 10 petals but actually 5 split unto 2. To make distinguishing them easier, if you snap the stem, purge will release sap.
He showed us how to pick stinging nettles without getting pricked (thorn prick can cause skin irritation). They're edible after being blanched and can supposedly lower cholesterol. They make a nice sauce too, Rustic Canyon has a pasta dish with nettle pesto.