Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Foraging: Feeding the Soul

Foraged Goodness: Nettle Tea
I cannot tell you the Joy I felt foraging this fall.  It gave me a feeling of connection to the earth, to our ancestral past that was, well, deep.   It took me further into some of the most beautiful local areas around.  
I witnessed the changing of seasons and learned to ameliorate myself to my surroundings and make friends with the weather.  It gave me an appreciation for the intrinsic wisdom of nature and to the people of the past who survived this way in part or completely for a millennia…It felt like an epic adventure from our childhood… It is, I believe, Romantic and Sensual to be in the woods this way - the colors, the textures, the sights, the scents, and the sounds enlivening the heart. Stirring our creative juices and the primal DNA stored in our soul. 

I learned a lot too, about the way we eat, about the accessibility of food and even a little bit about survival….

Foraged food doesn't come in pretty boxes on store shelves.  You get a healthy bit of exercise foraging for food. You've got to find it, get there, harvest it, and carry it home.  Of course it helps to know where it is, which may seem obvious, but it wasn't so much.  It turned out to be more challenging than I could have imagined…Some of the plants and especially the mushrooms, I never did find…..

It was a couple of weeks of hiking through different areas before I found a huge patch of Stinging Nettles and with them I made tea and frittatas…The nettles were nourishing and delicious, somewhat like spinach….Although I’m known by my children and husband to have “good ideas” like these, my family was a bit skeptical.  I mean they don’t call them stinging nettles for nothing.  You’ll need gloves, thick ones.  The nettles I picked stung quite a bit actually before they were cooked, but my enthusiasm buoyed me somehow from the full extent of the pain.   (Although, my fingers did tingle for a good 24 hours afterwards...OUCH!)

The wild apples and black walnuts were easier….There is an old orchard I know of with several varieties … We were helped by a neighbor who also enjoys such things and has much knowledge about them too…He was the one to actually climb the ladder and shake the tree…It rained apples and we were all delighted …  There are precautions; however, no noticeable stingers like the nettles, but deer like apples too, so sweet and delicious….So, it’s necessary to carefully wash the apples if you haven’t placed a protective covering like tarps on the ground first….Otherwise there is probably some deer scat around and one needs to be conscience of this….As far as the black walnuts go, the hulls made my hand all shades of black, brown and yellow….and boy are they one tough nut to crack (hee hee hee ;) Seriously though, you need a vice or a hammer……But they have a unique and delicious flavor once you get to the “meat’ inside….

There are things to consider carefully before going into the woods looking for wild edible food. The three words that come to mind are safety, precaution and respect. 

Respect for the earth, respect for the areas you are hiking through and if it’s someone else’s property, permission and respect for them.  This means you want to leave no trace.  And you want to leave some of what you’re foraging behind…so that it continues to grow, thrive and propagate.

Take precautions - careful of your surroundings, know that these are wild places.  Weather can change. There may be insects or animals to contend with…..protect yourself…… Don’t take chances.  What seems like a good idea may seem foolish if you find yourself in a jam. That goes double if you’re alone. 

Safety!  There are many poisonous species around that are look a-likes to edible plants. So, do your homework.  That goes double for the mushrooms….there are deadly varieties …so double check or even ask an expert before eating anything that you are unsure of.

Have fun foraging and if you have info or more helpful hints to share, please do and comment below.......

Much Joy,

1 comment:

  1. You made such a delicious pie with those wild apples! And, it was fun family time, sitting around the table, peeling the apples and telling stories. It's enough to make you forget about TV or the internet for about an hour or two.