Friday, December 28, 2012

On the Value of Foraging

Two days ago I had the rare pleasure of meeting noted Florida forager Green Deane in person. His website (to which I also link on my sidebar) is a treasury of information on Florida's wild edibles.

How did I meet him? I took one of his classes. In it, Green Deane conducted a foraging tour through the Jervey Gannt Recreational Park in Ocala. It was a small group, consisting of myself, two of my children, and three other weed-eaters.

As I pulled up to the dead monoculture of the park... seeing grass, tennis walls, playgrounds, oaks, magnolias, pines and concrete I thought, "No way is there much to eat here. No way."

I was wrong. Green Deane introduced us to sow thistle, chickweed, oxalis, wild lettuce, smilax and wild mustard... as well as explaining how to find sweet acorns that require less processing, medicinal plants for asthma and memory, how to use hawthorn berries and a host of other interesting tidbits. By the time our four hours or so was up, I was seeing food everywhere. Though I'd known some of the plants were edible, I didn't realize how many there were - or in what places they might be found. He even found a paw-paw seedling growing near the sidewalk. I have looked for those trees for years without spotting one.

Seriously - I thought I was good at plant ID. This man is phenomenal.

In the case of societal collapse, these skills will be vital. Get an idea of what plants grow near you - and if your garden gets ransacked or you have to bug out, you'll still have sources of calories and nutrition.

There's a lot of overlap between what I'm doing and what Green Deane does - many of the plants he finds in the wild would be notable additions to edible food forests and other Florida polycultures. I added a few new species to my yard after Green Deane revealed their palatability.

After seeing the incredibly bounty of food available in a rather boring recreational park, I feel a bit like someone that's been told there's oil beneath their doublewide. I'm used to gardening and getting plenty that way - but the back up that's available is amazing.

Do your research now. Take a class. It's worth it - and it's delicious.

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