The social media star is inspiring millions to learn how to forage – and cook – in the wild

A social media star shows her followers how to get groceries for free – by foraging for food in the wild. Alexis Nicole Nelson took CBS News reporter Jimmy Yukas into the woods near her home in Columbus, Ohio, to fake edible plants.

“There’s something that brings a smile to my face, and makes my heart rush,” Nelson said of her adventures. “I feel a great connection to my surroundings.”

She said she turned her passion into a career by sharing edible plants and recipes with millions on social media. Most of the passages conclude with a warning reminding people to be 100% sure that the plant is safe before consuming it.

“I say, ‘Happy snack, don’t die,’” Nelson said, “at the end of most of my videos, mostly banter, but also love — seriously, don’t die.”

Foraging expert Samuel Thayer, Nelson’s mentor and author of several guidebooks, said he’s seen significant foraging interest since the pandemic has emptied store shelves and driven people outside.

“If you’re a foodie, there are flavors you can’t buy, and that’s really fun,” Thayer said. “I can’t imagine why it took so long for it to spread.”

Thayer hosts botanical picnics all over the country.

“It doesn’t take long for me to really surprise someone because they might be afraid it won’t taste good,” he replied when asked what it feels like to walk with someone new looking for food. “I give them something and they’re like, ‘Stop! this is good! “Their eyes are wide open and their ears are refreshed and they follow me, they are anxious for the next plant.”

For Nelson, foraging takes on a deeper meaning. She said it was a way to connect with her father’s original ancestors and confront a history of systemic racism in the US national parks, which were separated until the mid-1940s.

To avoid trouble in natural spaces, Nelson said she dresses to look as friendly as possible.

No one would look and be like, ‘Ah, yeah, the girl in the cotton candy dress,’ she said. I feel like she means trouble.” “I also love an oversized hoodie, but that definitely wouldn’t be what you find here.”

Nelson also said it’s easy to climb a tree in a dress.

Back home in her kitchen, Nelson and Yukas prepare an all-vegetarian feast.

“You can’t look up a recipe online and say ‘Okay, I’ll get everything to make that,'” Nelson said. You go out and you get what you get and then you think about what you’re going to make with it once you get home.”

“I just hope we bring up a generation of people, no matter what they look like or their background, that everyone feels worth getting outdoors if that’s where you want to be,” she added.

Nelson received the James Beard Award in June for her social media account. The James Beard Foundation, a non-profit organization, said its mission is to “celebrate, support, and uplift the people behind America’s food culture and advocate a standard of good food grounded in talent, fairness, and sustainability.”

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