After our foray with foraging bears and berries, we found the landscape to be in a continual bloom of wild delights — thanks to the conspicuous amounts of rains received this year, we continue to make discoveries of the wild edibles that adorn our forest home.
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Growing up in the midwest, in my outdoor wanderings I was surrounded by a plethora of wild edibles: sorrels, blackberries, plantago, pineapple weed, mushrooms and more. Yet, while I did certainly delight in some of those, to a large degree I neglected the fact I was living in that incredible abundance. Mostly due to my young age, and the fact I wasn’t surrounded by foraging humans in my life, what could have been an explosion of diverse natural nutrients of sustenance, my family and my needs were met by following suite the western way of seeking and obtaining sustenance from without rather than from within. Easy to do, as grocery stores burst with ready-to-eat foods. Like today still, one can choose from an array of deadened fruits and vegetables and packaged foods that barely breathe the life of nutrients into our living, yet not thriving bodies.
It is now believed that the rapid rise of chronic disease is due not solely to our genes, but rather what we grew up eating–meaning, our environment. The rapid rise of chronic disorders now directly correlates with the rapid decline of nutrients in modern “food” sources. Foods by which some standards shouldn’t be called food at all. This is of course as I mentioned in Wild Kinship, multifaceted: declining soil quality, lack of diversity, the ever-growing uptick of environmental chemicals and pollutants… All of this contributes to our great malnutrition — malnutrition which leaves our cell’s mitochondria starved of energy, therefore, unable to keep up with the many vital processes our bodies depend upon to regulate, detox and avoid disease and cellular dysfunction.
The facts are depleting, in and of themselves….
– One would have to eat 8 oranges to provide the nutrition of 1 orange from the 1800’s.
– Wild berries contain 33% more anthocyannins and 2x the amount of antioxidants than even organic berries found so readily in our stores today.
– Polyphenols in wild foods are sometimes a hundredfold more dense then domesticated versions such as in some wild berries and greens according to nutrition experts.
Staggering, considering this has been deemed to be “the missing link to optimum health”… Nutrient dense, wild foods. REAL food. This makes sense given, that the root cause of nearly every disease is excessive oxidative stress and inflammation, which polyphenols play a role inreducing and keeping at bay. Polyphenols now are used as therapies for those suffering from health decline, in a scramble to put back in to our bodies what we’ve excessively taken out of our foods: actual nutrition–the nutrition we evolved alongside for more than 250,000 years to remain resilient and thrive human beings.
We can only do so much in our own daily efforts yet, until the industrialized food system cools itself down, we’ll be living in a perpetual state of health decline.
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When I can I try to cease the opportunities I have closer to home to reconnect with and indulge in the abundance of nutrient-dense food growing freely all around. Food whereby no sticky labels, barcodes nor exchange of money is necessary. In a forager’s delight, recently we were able to harvest many wood-ear and puffball mushrooms. Add in some small purple potatoes from the garden and a few other on-hand vegetables, and we were able to create a special (mostly) home-foraged vegetable stew.
There’s no other feeling than foraging your own sustenance, as any deeply tuned hunter or angler would also know. It is a way of practicing true humanhood. Honoring what life, in the form of plants and animals, really means for us here on this earth. Nutrients. Health and vitality.
As I’ve always try to do, I take notice and catalogue in my mind the useful plants found around me. So far on our property alone, I’ve recognized close to 20 wild edibles and many more wild medicinals, with even more expanding into neighboring areas. We’ll have a long way to go to re-create a thriving forest bustling with the native foods that were surely striped, and lost, by past abuse to the land.
There is nice drainage that (apparently) flows from Summer well into late Fall, perhaps into Winter as well–it’s still too early to tell. Yet, it is a moisture rich area blanketed with a healthy amount of leaf litter capable of supporting many more native edibles. The drainage flows into a small basin and continues downstream towards the main creek. As mentioned before, this forest has experienced an onslaught of ecological blunders including logging, livestock rearing/grazing and more recently, excessive thinning, all of which tend to throw off ecological balance for decades to come.
My plan is to inoculate the drainage with as many useful Native plants I can and help the forest find it’s thriving equilibrium again. Plants that I know could and should be thriving here. Many of these plants, I find growing in harder to access riparian areas nearby. These harder to access drainages and creek beds abound with various layers of useful plants, as they should. While planted food forests of domesticated plants is also a beautiful thing, it is a dream of mine to live side by side an abundance of native useful plants…. Plants that will also provide suitable habitat and food sources for native wildlife.
We’ll have a ways to go, but I’ll be dedicating my time here towards the recovering of this forest in this way, in the best way I can.
What kind of nourishing abundance grows near you?