I have started having a recurring James Lovelockian nightmare in which the world is plunged into a dystopian chaos. In this world computers are down and all the infrastructures we rely on have failed. A zombie like population converges on the few remaining natural resources. As a consequence I have started to train my children much like Sarah Connor in The Terminator films trains her son. I don’t know about guns so I have decided this year, now she’s nine, the oldest should and could know how to grow food from seed. I realise this is against everything I have previously believed in – but this is a war situation. Growing food is a life skill.
I was recently invited to go on a foraging course and jumped at the chance. In the past I have been uninterested in foraging as I thought it was just slightly faddish nonsense. However, now with James Lovelock on my shoulder I was keen to go. Perhaps, this was something I could learn and pass on. It was beautiful weather, I had on the right shoes and I went with a very clear idea of what it is I would discover. i.e we would find some stuff to eat and it probably would taste bitter and not as good as anything you could buy in a shop.
My forager for the day was Monica Wilde. She has a passion for herbal medicine and that element and knowledge was something I hadn’t expected. In fact I had only thought of foraging as about food. I hadn’t thought about it to collect natural medicines and there was a lot that was fascinating and useful. The astringent white sap of the dandelion can get rid of warts. Elderberry syrup is excellent for preventing and curing flu. Elderflower Cordial great for people with allergies and sinusitis amongst many other things.
Hawthorne berries good are for the heart and blood pressure – so you can a healthy gin! There was lots of information and ideas and I thought I could actually do it. I have decided my daughter and I will make five medicinal syrups and teas this year from foraging. (I know that herbal medicines aren’t without controversy, but you’ll be coming to my daughter when the drug companied are just dust and rubble.)
The food was slightly like I thought it would be. We found mainly weeds that you can use in salads. It was interesting though that although it was all quite bitter, I didn’t mind that. In fact I could see it was appealing as there are so few foods these days that give you that bitter buzz. Given the current obsession with our obsession with sugary food, I was really taken with the fresh bitterness. I saw how simple it would be to supplement rather dull lettuce with weeds like Bittercress, Lesser celandine and Wild Cabbage rather than buying a bag of ‘posh’ salad that you then throw away. These are really common weeds and it’s so easy to go into the garden and use them rather than just swear at them.
Foraging won’t change my world. I won’t ever become ‘a forager’ but I now have a practical basis from which to do a few things and that’s all to the good. I feel more confident and empowered to engage in the plant world in a different way. Oh, and survive the apocalypse.