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In our series Shopping Buddy, we ask our favorite in-the-know authors, actors, musicians, and tastemakers to share their most coveted home purchases, from kitchen essentials to entertaining must-haves, so that you can shop along with confidence. 

It’s hard for most of us to imagine walking through the woods to pick our next meal, but Alexis Nikole Nelson, aka Black Forager, has been collecting edible flora with her mom since she was 5 years old. “Bonding over plants was one of the first ways we really had fun sharing a hobby, so I 100 percent credit my wonderful mom with my brain’s weird affinity for memorizing edible plants!” says Nelson.

And now, with her highly watchable Instagram account and James Beard Award, she’s leading a new generation—even the skeptics—toward finding free food close to home. “So many folks think all foraged foods will taste overly vegetal or even, dare I say it, just plain bad, when in reality there are so many amazing flavors hiding in the woods—and your backyard,” she says.

Courtesy of Alexis Nikole Nelson

Still, after years of walking in the woods in hunt of bites, she can’t choose a favorite dish that she makes from her gatherings. “This is like choosing a favorite child!” she says. “As of right now, I think it’s a three-way tie between my Serviceberry Cattail Pollen Cobbler, Field Garlic Parathas, and Beach Rose Panna Cotta.”

Here, we asked Nelson to name a few more of her favorite things for foraging and gardening

My Favorite Soil (When I Don’t Have Compost Handy)

Bag of FoxFarm Happy Frog soil
FoxFarm Happy Frog Potting Soil, Amazon ($19)

I love FoxFarm’s Happy Frog soil! It’s loaded with the microbes plants love and need and also has bat guano, which is bat poop. It’s both silly and extremely useful for your soil!

My Go-To Gardening Shears

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Fiskars PowerGear UltraBlade Softgrip Pruner, Amazon ($29)

I’m obsessed with my Fiskars PowerGear Softgrip Pruner. It’s the perfect size for backyard veggie harvests and deep-woods foraging, and the way the handle swivels with the movement of my hand! No hand fatigue in this house.

Gloves I Wear When I Go Foraging

I am a goober, and I usually don’t garden with gloves—and I have all the little pokeys during nettle and berry season to prove it!

Gardening Tool I Can’t Live Without

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Fiskars Seed Planting Garden Trowel, Amazon ($6)

The Fiskars Hand Seed Sower is great for planting seed samplings from sustainable newspaper cups into the ground for all my native veggie plantings in the yard.

Best Books for Foraging Beginners

Any and all of Sam Thayer’s books! He’s the authority on North American foraging. And the books are filled with fun stories and great photos, so you can be confident in what you’re learning.

Bowl I Use to Gather My Harvest

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Fiskars Garden Harvest Basket, Amazon ($28)

This Garden Harvest Basket is perfect for collecting, transporting, and cleaning foraged finds, and you can wash the goodies in the basket, so there’s no dragging dirt and critters into the house!

My Favorite Plant to Gift to Friends

Fishbone cactus
Fishbone Cactus, Rooted ($32)

I try to take people’s locale into consideration when gifting plants for the outside, but as for indoor plants, I love a Fishbone cactus. Native to Mexico and Central America, they’re a fun cousin of the dragonfruit, with exciting foliage and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see their breathtaking flowers and eat their tasty fruit.

The Eyeglasses That Help Me Spot Plants to Forage 

Octave glasses with gold frame
Octave Glasses, Eye Buy Direct ($39)

The Octave Glasses from Eye Buy Direct, both because the geometric frame is so fun and because I’m blind as a bat and was sick of paying hundreds of dollars for my glasses—I love an inexpensive pair!

The Best Pot for Outdoor Planting

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12-Inch Terracotta Plant Pot, Amazon ($85)

This is going to seem like a cop-out, but you really can’t go wrong with a basic terracotta pot with a drainage hole at the bottom. They’re great for maintaining temperature and helping keep moisture levels where they should be.