Today's post is just a quick link to an interesting article dated October 6th, 2009 on Salon.com, by Sarah Karnasiewicz, "Eat the Weeds". (Unfortunately I'm still working on a stiff deadline for my 9-5 job and can't do too much on my blog.) This article is an interview with Landon Cook, a forager/cook/writer living in the Northwest US.
Honestly, I haven't heard of him until today but I have been very interested in foraging for many years. I bought my first book on the topic around 1998 Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places, by "Wildman" Steve Brill. This is a wonderful book that I still have today and hope to memorize - because the thing with foraging is you have to be really careful to harvest what you know is not poisonous. A lot of natural edible plants resemble others that are very dangerous.
Although I haven't had a lot of time recently to do wild foraging, what I learned from this book has helped me with my backyard garden. Another thing Steve Brill points out is that you should NOT forage within 15 - 20 feet or more of a busy road. The cars driving by will spew pollution into the soil. I have this problem in my front yard - I would love to grow some veggies there but it is only about 10 feet from a busy road. I confirmed this with my local Master Gardeners - they were even more adamant that any planting should be at least 20 feet away from a road.
Landon Cook is foraging in Washington (state) and Oregon. He is so lucky! I actually lived in Seattle for a year, and as a Jersey girl, I was totally amazed at how much wilderness there was! I couldn't believe how many hours we could drive into nothing but trees, up a massive mountainside, to camp along a gorgeous river. The trees were so huge you couldn't even come close to wrapping your arms around them. There is nothing that huge here in New Jersey. So I'm sure the foraging is much easier for Mr. Cook.
That said, it is still possible here - you just have to make sure you know what you are doing. At the very least, you can eat dandelions from fields where you know they haven't used pesticides. I mentioned this before in one of the first posts on this blog - how irrational it seems to me that we potentially poison our water supply with chemicals to get rid of dandelions when they have more nutrients than spinach!
The good news is, I planted an edible fiddlehead fern in my yard, which is doing well. They do grow naturally around here so at least it is a native plant. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to get a good picture of it back in my zen contemplation garden, since the light back there is really funky and the purple shiso completely took it over. Below is the best recent picture I have of it. But I think that is ok, since these ferns usually grow in shade on the forest floor. Plus I will be trimming as much as I can of the shiso soon to dry the leaves and make shiso vinegar (post to follow). We'll see what happens next spring when the fiddleheads should come out! I hope to cover more exciting, real foraging adventures in future posts.
p.s. Have you noticed how my "quick posts" turn out to be super long? Haha. If only gardening was my full time job...