Friday, January 20, 2012

Foraging A State Of Mind

Foraging is for me a state of mind as much as an actual activity. Most everything in life, as I see it, depends upon a personal point of view. But regarding foraging for wild plants (I hunt and fish, too, but hardly consider that “foraging”), neither the memory nor the anticipation of it ever leaves me for very long.

For instance, in shoveling snow from in front of my house and by my greenhouse, I noticed that some wild plants had thus far survived the winter in relatively good shape. Dame’s rocket and ground ivy looked good enough to eat (pun intended).

While I do most of my foraging in rural areas, I am quick to notice the great variety of plants available in built-up places too. I recently wrote about plants seen growing in “urban hedgerows,” those unkempt places between buildings in downtown Belfast. In fact, I can’t visit another town or city but what my eyes aren’t peeled for whatever wild plants may grow there.

Taking that one step further, I’ve noticed chicory growing between the cracks in the sidewalk of downtown Waterville, lamb’s quarters growing up alongside a building on the main drag in Greenville and all manner of good, useful wild plants growing in half-whiskey barrel planters all over Maine.

And even now, during the coldest time of year, I take time to note and identify dried plant specimens that cling to firewood brought in from my woodshed.

Also, while driving about the snow-covered countryside, I make mental notes regarding the dead stalks of last year’s wild plants. This activity has few, if any, participants, at least to my knowledge. But I find it great fun to see how many different plants I can recognize from the warmth of my car while driving along. I’d love to see others become involved in this activity, since it is something that requires no special equipment and can be done virtually any time and any place. And for sure, it does wonders toward helping boost identification skills.

And in somewhere between six and eight weeks from now, one of my favorite wild plant activities will happen. That is, once the March sunshine has its way, wild plants will begin to pop up all over, prompted by the urge to break ground, grow to maturity and either set seed or multiply vegetatively. What a joy to walk outside and with each new day, discover some favorite plant that I haven’t seen since last year.

So now perhaps you see why I say that wild plant foraging is a state of mind.

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