In Person of Interest, we talk to the people catching our eye right now about what they’re doing, eating, reading, and loving. Next up is Alexis Nikole, a TikTok forager teaching her audience how to make the most of free and abundant plants.

Alexis Nikole considers her TikTok fame a fortuitous accident. She knew nothing about the platform until she started an account for her day job as a social media manager. But when the 28-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, began experimenting on her personal page during the pandemic, she got more than she bargained for. Specifically: over 600,000 enthusiastic followers and 10.3 million likes.

Since April of last year, Nikole’s now viral account has been showcasing her immeasurable knowledge of foraging and cooking with wild plants: a sorbet made out of Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) turned into lush salads, and common dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) battered and fried like fritters. She studied environmental science and theater at Ohio State University, and often combines her two passions on the platform—where you’ll find her singing original songs about cattails and sassafras.

Related: The Forager’s Dilemma With Alexis Nikole Nelson

By sharing excellent foraging tips laced with undiluted humor, Nikole’s intentions were for people to take agency over their meals and make the most of foods that were free and readily available all around; especially after COVID-19 hit American shores and shopping was anxiety inducing. During the early months of the pandemic, Nikole’s TikToks focused on how foraged goods could extend groceries and increase access to fresh ingredients, especially for those living in food deserts. This is precisely why Nikole’s videos are so grounding; in these times, it’s crucial to feel some sense of self-sufficiency and stability.

Amid global adversity, Nikole forages because it reminds her that she’s human—and humans, at their very core, are part of the ecosystem, no matter how much we distance ourselves from that truth. I called up Nikole to learn more about her foraging background, how she practices gratitude for what is all around, and why the world needs more hyper-localized food systems.

Foraging makes me feel I am a part of something bigger… and that feeling is really good at chasing the depression away. Typically I go out between two to five times a week on average. In the dead of winter, I might only go once, and during the dog days of summer, I’m in the woods and nearby parks every single day. I’ll jam to ’80s funk the entire walk to the creek, but the earbuds go away when I get there. I want to hear everything—the crunching leaves under my feet, the babbling brook, and people conversing and laughing in the distance.

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