Meet The TikToker Who Just Might Convince You To Try Foraging

In the days before social media, the idea of foraging for one's dinner may have seemed to many city and suburb dwellers like an activity reserved for people who lived in the most verdant corners of New England or the Pacific Northwest. There will always be a Nicolas Cage look-alike who spends his days plucking fungi from the forest floor with his fancy mushroom knife, but these days, foraging is becoming a common practice for resourceful home cooks everywhere. Bookstores have whole sections dedicated to the practice, and, for some, chanterelle mushroom season (which varies from region to region) brings the same level of giddiness as the first sign of spring flowers. 

No one is more excited about spreading the joy of foraging than Alexis Nikole Nelson, the enchantingly enthusiastic TikTok and Instagram virtuoso who makes a point of highlighting the cultural context of food in her videos. She's been profiled everywhere, from The New York Times to NPR to Rolling Stone, and last month, the Ohio native was nominated for a James Beard Media Award in the Social Media Account category, per Eater

In a TikTok video released this week, the social media star walks viewers through the process of making jam out of an oft-overlooked woodland fruit.

Unripe pinecones make for a sticky and delicious condiment

Before you go gathering woody pinecones from your local park, note that the kind Alexis Nicole Nelson uses in her TikTok tutorial are the green, unripe variety, which are found in the fragrant and sticky fronds of pine trees. After the fruits have soaked in water for a couple of days, the host opens a jar and takes a whiff. "It smells so good, like Christmas and lemons had a beautiful baby," she proclaims. She drains the water, adds the now-softened cones to equal parts water and sugar, and brings everything to a boil, following a traditional Eastern European recipe from Georgia (the country, not the state).

Once things get bubbly, Nelson turns off the heat. "You have to candy pinecones slowly so the sugar syrup has enough time to impregnate the cones before the syrup becomes too thick," she explains. Then comes a cooling period, following by a second 20-minute simmer, followed by an overnight cooling period, followed by a final 30-minute simmer. Then, all that's left to do is pour the jam into jars and taste it. Nelson spoons out a syrupy cone — which now looks more like a berry — and marvels at its sweetness and softness. "It tastes the way I feel like elven royalty smells," she says, adding that the syrup around it "gets thick like honey." With Nelson as a teacher, foraging doesn't have to be a daunting task.