Herb Walks in Ojai
celebrates 40 years

Were you aware of the multitude of salad greens that grow on hillsides in Ventura County?

If you’ve ever taken an Herb Walk with Lanny Kaufer, you’d know. Now in its 40th year, Herb Walks has introduced many VC natives to the native (and some not-so-native) herbs and other edibles growing in their own backyards.

Kaufer took an interest in native herbs after an unscheduled visit in 1967 to a Native American reserve where he was given a tea that, he says, cured his cold. In the early 1970s, Kaufer began studying with renowned herbalist William LeSassier and, in 1976, began leading herb walks using a phrase coined by LeSassier.

Kaufer says that all manner of edible plants can be found along hiking trails in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, but around this time of year, wild greens and thistles are prominent.

“This is the main and only time you can find fresh, juicy wild greens, like salad greens,” said Kaufer, noting that one of those would be a plant known as miner’s lettuce, which has been described as having a taste similar to spinach. Kaufer says that several varieties of thistles are sprouting at this time of year, too, such as the milk thistle and Italian thistle, of which the artichoke is a domesticated variety.

“People don’t think of eating a thistle, sounds hard on the tongue, but when they’re first sprouting and tender greens are coming up, they’re delicious.”

For the 40th year of the Herb Walks, Kaufer says that special guests will come along on certain hikes, and special walks through Santa Barbara and Ventura are scheduled. On 40 years of Herb Walks, Kaufer says he’s happy to still be leading the tours.

“I never imagined stopping doing it. I can’t believe it’s been 40 years, but I’ve never thought about not being interested in this,” said Kaufer. “The joy of sharing this information with people who are eager to learn about it is so rewarding that I just keep doing it.”

For more information and a schedule of upcoming walks, visit www.herbwalks.com.

Moorpark College’s lion celebrates birthday

Ira, a voracious soon-to-be-two-year-old Lion, will be celebrating his birthday in style this Saturday at America’s Teaching Zoo of Moorpark College.

Festivities for Ira’s Super Bowl-themed party will include a behind-the-scenes look at Ira receiving gifts made by student trainers, cake for all visitors and crowns for children to color as keepsakes of the event.

“Since celebrating Ira’s first birthday, he has transformed from lion cub to lion king. His mane is quite the attraction and his roar is near completion,” said Moorpark College President Luis Sanchez. “We celebrate Ira with pride, and we commend our student trainers whose lives are also being transformed through this program.”

If you’re curious, Ira does have an Amazon wish list, which can be found here: http://amzn.to/1OT1iWw.

The celebration will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6, at Moorpark College’s Teaching Zoo, 7075 Campus Road, Moorpark. For more information, visit www.zoo.moorparkcollege.edu.

— Chris O’Neal