The assignment came from Katrina Blair of Durango's Turtle Lake Refuge during the San Juan Field School's first Talks and Walks Series seminar of the season on Tuesday, titled "Taste of our Mountains."
To prove her solemnity in this matter, Blair resolutely chopped up a handful of weeds (but don't let Blair hear you calling them "weeds." To her they are nutritious dandelion and lamb's quarter greens), placed them in the blender with some wild apricots, and voila! Wild greens juice.
Seminar attendees tried not to appear startled by the glass of pale green liquid placed in their hands soon thereafter. Hesitant, miniscule sips were soon followed by larger drinks and murmurs of surprise at the taste. We came to the agreement that weeds and apricots make a pretty good drink, and, according to wild plants specialist Blair, a nutritious one to boot. During the talk, Blair instructed attendees on how to identify several local edible plant and fungus species, as well as how to cook (or blend) them for tantalizing treats.
The talk was the first of three in the 2nd Annual Talks and Walks Summer Seminar Series, hosted by the San Juan Field School, a local non-profit dedicated to providing locals with field-based education in order to learn more about their natural environment.
"The focus of the Talks and Walks Series is getting to know the San Juan Mountains through engaging the senses, and in so doing foster a deeper sense of commitment to environmental stewardship and our local community," explains Heather Rice, coordinator of the series.
At Tuesday's seminar, which also featured local fungus guru John Sir Jesse, attendees' senses were indeed engaged as they were treated to the very best of the summer's bounty - like fresh hawthorn berries and perfectly sautéed King Bolete and Chanterelle mushrooms. The night talk was followed up with a Wednesday morning walk, led by Sir Jesse and Blair, which gave guests the opportunity to discover these wild and delicious edibles growing along the Bear Creek trail.
The Talks and Walks Series will resume next week with "Language of Our Forests." Visitors to this session will have the opportunity to explore the mysteries of the spruce-fir and aspen forests native to the San Juan Mountains. Naturalist Chris Lance leads the session beginning Tuesday, Sept. 6, 6 p.m., with a talk at the Nature Center at the top of the Gondola. The walk will follow on Wednesday with attendees meeting at Elks Park at 9 a.m.
The third and final seminar of the series will be hosted by Dr. James Reveal, Professor Emeritus of the University of Maryland, Monday, Sept. 12, 6 p.m. at the library. Reveal will share insight into the new plant species, Physaria pulvinata , which he recently discovered in western San Miguel County.
"Dr. Reveal's talk will look at what it is like to discover a new plant species, especially ones that have been overlooked for a very long time," says Rice. There will be no walk accompanying Reveal's talk.