I had the privilege of joining Susan of Learning and Yearning (local master gardener and author of The Art of Gardening) on a real-life foraging expedition last week. I got to learn about some new area plants and their uses during the hour and a half expedition. How fun!
One of the things I love about foraging is that it really makes you look at things. You notice little details about a plant: the shape of the leaves and the pattern of their veins. Are they compound or simple? How do they come out from the stem or plant?
You begin to see the differences in how the fruits are arranged- are they scattered throughout the bush, or do they hang in clusters?
You get to know flowers- petal shapes and patterns, the way the stamen lie, when they are opening and when they are dying.
Once you begin to confidently identify a plant, you start to notice it everywhere. That mullein you just saw on the trail? It’s now repeating everywhere along the highway sides. It pops up during your family evening walks. (You might even start seeing it in your dreams.) You can’t get rid of it!
You begin to take note of the changing of the seasons more. You know when it’s too late to harvest nettle, but also when it’s the perfect time to keep your eyes out for wild grapes. Violet harvesting time is only around for a week or two in the spring, but you have to wait til late fall to dig up sunchoke roots. (Which I’ve never yet had success with, by the way.) And you begin to notice the habits of other plants too- besides just the edibles!
Foraging is great for food. It’s wonderful to obtain fresh, varied nutrition through local plants free for the taking. But more than that, it opens your eyes to the beauty in the world around you. There is a rhythm to nature’s cycles, and foraging helps you to take part in it. You get to partake of God’s good gifts- and you get to see how many there really are!
Open your eyes. Look around you. What do you see today?