When I first started learning about wild food I had no idea of the huge mental shift it would provide. It is seldom talked about, but the feeling of connection with the earth is perhaps now my favorite aspect of foraging. Today I’m looking at seven thoughts that foraging for food teaches you, and their revolutionary implications.
1. Food is Everywhere
And I mean everywhere. Ther are greens in the footpath, sweet treats in the garden between my house and the neighbors, there is fruit in the park, and emergency foods stored in the swamps. Everywhere nature is left alone (and even when she is not) she is producing and giving food. The only limit is the forager’s knowledge of what they see, or know how to prepare.
2. Food is Free
It’s not about the money you save (which you do), it’s about the different feeling of something being given rather than traded. Don’t get me wrong, I love supporting local farmers producing some of my favorite things to eat, but the feeling of abundance when you find a tree full of fruit is quite special.
It also encourages generosity, passing on the fruits or other things because you can feel that there is enough for everyone. The opposite of stress and scarcity which can cause competition or an imagined need for selfishness, the free food of foraging makes for a more generous world.
3. Nature Continuously Provides
It doesn’t stop. The seasons change, and there is something new to eat.
I’m still learning the rhythms of my area: native raspberries are followed by Grevillia robusta nectar, which overlaps with peanut tree, which stops before the apples start, and the figs go crazy, then the mangos ripen and I can see the ice cream bean is just around the corner. And that’s just a few months.
There is variety as everything has its time. The need to store or transport things is minimised (except of course when things are so yummy you want horde them in your freezer). Generally things taste better fresh and if you eat your fill in the season you’re usually ready for something new to begin.
4. The Health of the Environment Directly Affects My Health
You can’t trash the planet when you can see it is your pantry. This big picture is so obvious to foragers because we see the smaller scale implications of people’s actions. If council sprays poisons for weed control, we lose not just a lot of edible weeds in most cases, but also surrounding trees and shrubs.
Knowing about plants means you know that they like such particular circumstances, and if we don’t look after our planet we (and future generations) are going to miss out on some really yummy and healthy food.
5. I am Made For This
Trust your instincts. You were made for this.
I don’t want this to be misconstrued. You need knowledge. Either from a teacher, a book, or both. Traditional communities who gather spend years educating children about plants, those they can eat, those that are medicine, and those that are dangerous. Do not try and rely on your senses without proper education of what you can and can’t eat, it could kill you.
Once you have this knowledge you also need to trust your senses. They were designed to let you know if something isn’t quite right. When push comes to shove it is your body so always trust your taste buds. These brilliant pleasure giving things are also the first line of defense against something that has gone bad, or that you’ve had too much of, or for whatever other reason: your body doesn’t want. If it tastes bad, spit it out.
Little children are attracted to sweet things because they are less likely to be poisonous. As we get older we grow to like more bitter tastes, which is perfect because although they often require more knowledge to process safely, they often contain medicinal properties.
Smell is another good indication if something isn’t right (or is… I smell ripe mangos a fair way off). Bright colours that attract your eye are also another adaptation of plants wanting to spread their seeds. After awhile you get to literally see the difference between a ‘friendly colour’ and a warning colour.
6. I am Part of the Ecosystem and Belong Here
So often we see ourselves as consumers and imagine we are removed from the ecosystem. You can not live that illusion when you forage. You see the changes in nature through the seasons – the abundance of different plants, the movements of different animals, and you see your direct impact.
You can choose to eat weeds to help give space to the natives. You can make sure to spit seeds near their parent plant where the conditions are likely to be favorable for generating new plants. You are part of this system, and what you do matters – whether you see it or not.
7. I am Connected to this Land
This exact part of the planet; I know it, eat from it, care for it, and give back to it. It provides me with food and nourishment. I do what I can to give back. I have a mental map of different plants and where they are in relation to me so I know when I can go and gather from them. The more I learn from and eat from my local area the stronger the bond is between me and the land. If you only know how to recognise one plant, you will start to feel this effect. And for me, it is reason enough to forage.
My relationship with the earth is forever changed by foraging. The knowledge of what you can and can not eat is world changing. The book I use most to help me learn is Wild Food Plants of Australia by Tim Low. You can get a copy from the shop so you can learn to forage too. I’d love to hear about how it changes your world.