In this day and age of modern implementations that allow us the convenience to buy food simply anytime we want, I'm often asked; why forage for food in the first place?
There are a lot of reasons, in my opinion, why most people SHOULD forage. In the next few posts we'll cover several good reasons for anybody to forage. Throughout this I hope you gain a better understanding of how important foraging still is to us. I also hope you are inspired to spend more time learning about the plants around you. The first part will focus on personal reasons to forage.
Pictures like the one above remind me of how important things around us are to our existence. Flowers which produce food and medicine, and bees which allow this process to continue. The pollen that flies from them that causes and treats allergies and other ailments. These are some of the small details that are often overlooked by people when outside. Ask yourself; How often do I stop to notice the small things that allow life to exist? Things like; the pollen inside a flower? an ant carrying food to the nest? the fragrance of a new plant? Why this plant grows here? Why do the animals take the paths they do? The white hair of mycelium under the leaves in the woods? Originally these were all an important part of life for everyone, they were something to know and understand, something to believe in. Still today these things are just as important to us, whether we realize it or not.
My biggest and most memorable times foraging have all been with small things such as these. Yeah sure the excitement of a 20lb. Maitake, or a few pounds of morels is nice. They are just, to me, an added bonus of foraging. Something greatly overshadowing the true benefits like lessons to be learned, peace of mind, comfort, and a feeling of serenity. In nature we can find true peace and purpose, we can find ourselves. We can look back upon things past in our lives and reflect how we came to be who we are. We can feel the care Nature tries to provide us with, and at times we feel her turn her back. This is part of the grand scheme of things, something bigger and better, something paradoxical. Within this paradox lies a source from which we are mostly removed today. A source of life, a source of purpose, a source of pride and this source is within everything; we just have to stop and see it for ourselves. The old saying, " To see the world in a grain of sand, and infinity in an hour." definitely comes to mind here.
I cannot explain what is waiting out there for you, I can explain some of the lessons I have learned while foraging that have affected me greatly. I remember one time I went on what I thought would be just a small scouting trip. I was only planning on going a couple miles and checking out what was in the area as far as plants were concerned. I had never been to that area before but I had studied it on Google maps on and off for a month or two, so I had a good idea of the layout of the land. When I decided I would go I took my usual foraging bag and supplies, which contained a knife, mesh bag, ferrocium rod, a couple plastic bags, and a bottle of water. Bokken in hand I set out to see what was there.
It was a nice walk in, lots of scrub and thicket with a narrow hard to see trail to follow. The day was hot, about 88 deg. After about a mile I entered hills and forest, which was a big relief for me as the forest is so much cooler in temps than thickets. However, that thicket is where I had drank around a quarter of my water bottle, and I was still sweating pretty bad so I was thirsty. Once I got to my destination, I sat down and drank a little more water. Feeling relaxed and rehydrated, I started browsing the forest slowly with my eyes as I sat on the downed log.
Carefully panning back and forth something caught my eye, I slowly approached to find one of the plants I had been trying to find for a year or so, Boneset. It was too early as it was middle of summer, and I had to wait until towards the fall to harvest it, but I knew where it was now. So I made a mental note and continued onwards. Not really seeing much in the way of new plants or abundant sources other than boneset, bee balm, and some oyster mushrooms I was getting discouraged. I looked to the east on top of a ridge and noticed a more matured forest, so I decided to head up and check it out. At this point I had left the trail and was following a small game trail up the side of the ridge. Losing track of time I traveled up the ridge and then followed it down into another gully.
I was oblivious to the fact I was getting myself miles past the depth I had originally planned on going. I entered the woods at about 10:30 a.m. that day and when I took a break in that gully and looked at my phone, it was approaching 4:30 p.m.! I was shocked I had been there so long I decided to check the pedometer on my phone, 8 miles it said! Gasp! Starting to get thirsty and hungry, running low on water, I knew how bad the trip would suck if I didn't have more water and something in my stomach. Most of what was around were bitter medicinal plants, acorn hulls, walnut hulls, etc. Not stuff you eat, however there were wild grape vines that I could reach. The grapes were small and green but the leaves were just fine to be eaten. So I munched on grape leaves and scoured the area for more things to eat. A little off in the distance, opposite of the way I needed to go to get out, I spotted red and black globules.
I munched more grape leaves and eyed those globules thinking, " No, I probably shouldn't.....Maybe I should??....I don't know." That continued for a few minutes and as I was thinking, I noticed a spider web that was supported by strands a good 6 to 7 feet long. The web was between to trees and the web itself was only about 10' in. diameter or so. I asked myself, why on earth a spider would make a web that long? There must be an easier way. I then noticed all of the little gnats and flies that were caught in this guy's web, and noticed the location between the two trees was an area where water tended to collect when it rained, so it attracted all of these little gnats. It was worth it for him to go through the extra effort of building a web there because of the amount of food, and the small likelihood of his web ever getting torn down made it worth the effort.
Dwelling on that for a minute or so, I glanced over at those globules of red and black and went for it thinking about that little spider and the effort he went through to feed himself. I made the trip over and discovered red and black raspberries just starting to ripen. Sweet! I thought to myself as I ate away on the berries and some leaves of them as well. This was a welcome find, and made me feel a lot better about taking the trip over, though I still hadn't found the greatest thing I would find that day. I ate about 2 - 3 cups of berries and pulled out a bag and picked some for the hike back. As I was picking I heard something rustle in the leaves behind me, curious to see wildlife any chance I get, I cautiously turn around as to not spook whatever it was. Just a chipmunk, but it was behind that chipmunk I noticed a little nook in the hillside that looked like it might be a spring. Sure enough, it certainly was, so I grabbed my bottle and filled it accordingly and drank from the spring until I felt again rehydrated. I then hiked out understanding things a little differently, and not feeling hungry and dehydrated. All thanks to a spider and a chipmunk.
To this day that still sticks out to me, and what I learned that day was, that it's important to stop and look around and mark small details in your mind, whether it be landmarks, food, medicine, plants, bugs, arachnids, birds, chipmunks, etc. Sometimes you have to put in extra effort and time for things to be better, or easier in the end. I learned that if we listen and observe closely there is something to be learned everywhere. When you are outside and you see something like a plant, insect, animal, bird, etc. stop and think about them, why they are doing what they're doing and how you can apply it to your life. You may be surprised!
Hey guys, I'm Josh. I'd Like to welcome you to the Trillium: WE blog. Here I'll share things with you like wild food meal ideas, harvesting tips, conservation of wild plants, wild plant book reviews, and more! I'll also be including pictures from scrapped videos for entertainment purposes as well. Stay tuned!
All photos and videos belong to Trillium: Wild Edibles; sources are given where otherwise. No use without permission; citation required.