Shagbark Hickory Nut 640 x 400
Shagbark Hickory Nut Shagbark Hickory Nut © Wikimedia Commons

Stories in Pennsylvania

Giving Thanks to Nature

With careful planning, celebrating Thanksgiving in Central Pennsylvania can be a woods-to-table experience.

Fall, it’s a time of harvest, thanks and sharing the abundance nature has provided. Life is a blessing and my wife and I love sharing every moment with our two young girls, Anna and Evelyn at our family forest on the Kittatinny Ridge in western Perry County. 

The fall harvest is dependent on many factors throughout the year—ample rainfall, no late spring frosts, heat waves and forest pests and pathogens to name a few. This year proved to be the year of frequent rains. It helped provide excess amounts of forage from mushrooms, teaberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. The frequent rains had a negative impact on chestnut oak and some red oak species. The trees exhibited stress and leaf loss due to anthracnose fungus. As a result, acorn abundance was mixed and nowhere near the intensity of last year. 

Two young girls in hats sit on the forest floor.
Girls in the Forest TNC's Working Woodlands Director, Josh Parrish, takes his daughters to a forest property located in Pennsylvania's Kittatinny Ridge. © Josh Parrish

Every weekend, Anna and Evelyn are constantly exploring and foraging all the berries and mushrooms growing this time of year. They pick and eat teaberries, their favorite fruit. Throughout the year, they also picked umbrella polypore, morels, chanterelles, black trumpets, oysters and maitake mushrooms. They enjoy them when picked and we dry the excess mushrooms for enjoyment later in the year.

Thanksgiving is truly a woods-to-table event for our family. The meal we will prepare this year will include vegetables from our garden, frozen berries from the woods, mushrooms from the woods and our mushroom garden, and a main course of wild turkey and venison. 

A morel mushroom hidden in green vegetation.
Morel Morels can be found in the forests located along Pennsylvania's Kittatinny Ridge. © Creative Commons/George P. Macklin

For those wondering how to start a journey of foraging in the woods, I recommend spending time there. There are even local foraging clubs. Most are focused on wild edibles.

We feel fortunate to live so close to nature. We are thankful for the forest's bounty, a gift that comes with an understanding about and appreciation for its cycles and the stewardship required to keep our natural world healthy. My wife and I hope that someday our girls will look back on their experiences we had in the woods and at Thanksgiving with love, hope and a desire to conserve nature’s great gifts.

Nature Conservancy Magazine

  • Josh Parrish's wife, Amanda and their children Anna, 4, and Evelyn, 2 years old, in their family forest, Pennsylvania.

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