SOUTH MILWAUKEE — On any given day, you can find Nicole Kintop foraging for ingredients in her South Milwaukee backyard. What I called weeds, she called nutrition.
"So I see plant life, that I mean we make salads from the plantain leaves and the dandelion weeds when they are young enough and not super bitter," she said.
While she admits she couldn't keep you alive forever if you were lost in a forest with her, Nicole said she could help you survive for a few days. Her foraging career is still in its infancy, but she knows her plants.
As she bends down to examine small flowers, she said, "We use these for salads and stuff as well. This is called ground ivy. It is highly nutritious."
However, foraging to put food on the dinner table isn't her main goal. She recently started an organic skincare product line. It's all-natural and some of the products she uses are found while foraging.
"It's just better I think to use as little chemicals as possible. I mean we're surrounded by chemicals every single day," she said.
We foraged in her backyard since she said her foraging spots are top secret. A foraging spot can be depleted quickly if many people know about it.
Innocuous weeds like dandelions can in fact be used as ingredients to help remedy "sunburn, bruises, cuts poison ivy, poison oak," she said.
She prepares it all inside her South Milwaukee home kitchen. Some of her products include balms, face washes, and exfoliating scrubs. You can buy them on her Facebook page, Naturally Made By Nicole. The cost ranges from $15 to $45, but the products last a long time, she said.
However, Nicole wasn’t always a forager. She is a recovering addict.
“Six years ago, I was living on the streets. I mean sleeping in bus stops in the winter.”
She went in and out of rehab multiple times.
“I honestly never knew if I was going to live, or if I was going to survive the life that I was living.”
Now, a happily married mother of two, she is almost six years sober and uses her past experience as motivation.
"The lives of my children, I would never wish them to see me in that type of state or position.”
Today, she lives a more natural lifestyle, which is part of the reason why she started her skincare company.
“I didn’t plant any of this besides what’s growing in my garden and these flowers over here.“
She isn’t picking weeds. Nicole is foraging for opportunities.