Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You are what you eat!

On our family tree our ancestors are th' roots. Children are th' flowers. We are th' leaves. Our Spirits' th' fruits.  

fallen apple tree laden with fruit
  Foraging has become for us a way of life. It is an ancient way, almost hidden, almost lost, but it found us. (Maybe we were almost lost?) Gradually, slowly, we are learning to eat th' food that grows all around us. It is a long process, and we've only just begun. It's not apocalyptical. It's not in preparation for any catastrophe, or end of civilization or any of that business. It's a re-connection to our past. It's a tribute to those who've gone before us. To those who didn't need trucks and petroleum to get their dinner. It's a way of saying Thank you. It's a way of acknowledging and honoring th' life styles that have all but vanished. It's a way of saying, We see that there is value in th' way you lived. And we're sorry that we've let th' good things go. We will try to pick them back up again.
burdock in late summer

day lily bulbs and garden potatoes

When we forage, and eat locally grown food, our bodies are literally made up of th' dirt we trod upon. Of th' land we live on. Of the air we breathe and th' water we drink. We are at home. When all th' food we eat comes from distant lands, distant places, then our bodies are made of those distant lands. We are strangers to th' land we live on. We are restless without knowing why. You are what you eat. But there is good food growing all around us, in abundance. Some of it wild, grown with loving care by a Creator who loves his Creation. Some of it grown by farmers who care about th' food they grow, the animals they raise, and th' people whose lives are nourished thereby.

sow thistle, aka my lunch salad throughout th' summer
Most indigenous cultures have foraged their own food since th' beginning of time. Their bodies were made up of th' dust of their ancestors. They were alive in them in a very real way. They also lived in a world without pollution. A world where you could drink of th' rivers and streams, lakes and ponds. Are we really so sure that our ways are better than theirs? Has our technology lived up to it's claims of improving our lives?

ground cherries

dandelion and shallots 

black walnut hands
When you begin looking at all th' plants around you as food and medicine, th' world starts to look different. Where before you saw "plants", or weeds, you begin to see Sow Thistle, Mallow, Dandelion, Yarrow, etc...
In other words, you know what you are looking at. You know th' plants and animals individually, not as vague abstractions. It's not botany, it's being aware of your world. And when you become aware of what's around you, you realize that there's a whole new world that you never knew existed, and you've lived amongst it all th' time. Gradually you come to realize that every plant has a purpose, and when you know it's purpose, you also know that it's good. Some plants feed and nourish you, some will heal you, some will prepare th' way for others to come in, some will reclaim ruined land.
wild garlic
black locust beans

Nature is not here for our entertainment and convenience, it is our home. A sacred place. And when we find our place in it, which may be some where between the ant and the mountain, we realize that we too are sacred. We become living temples along with th' rest of creation. Foraging is helping us to find our place in this world. I used to believe that this world is not my home, that i'm just passing through, but i'm not so sure anymore. This world is my home. It's just been destroyed, that's all. It's time i start to appreciate it for what it is, and was meant to be, and stop trying to change it. It is a gift to us, and we are responsible for it. We are it's stewards. It will feed us. Take care of us. Heal us. From the earth have our bodies come, and to the earth shall they go. Why be a stranger all th' time in between.

giant burdock leaf

poudre river stinging nettle

Our food is one of our most direct connections to the earth, and th' sharing of it one of humanities most common delights. There are flavors out there which i never imagined possible, like milkweed pods, and black locust blossoms, and black walnuts, and th' stalk of a large wet thistle leaf, and sumac tea. There are others that i still haven't discovered yet. There is mystery in foraging. There is adventure, excitement, and sometimes disappointment, like when i spent a whole day cooking up a wild stew, of which i spent over a week gathering for, only to have it ruined by too many evening primrose roots. But my family and i picked the ingredients together, we cooked it together, we ate it together. We disliked it together. Do you see th' common theme there?
black elderberries

     People love food, and they love to find it and eat it, and they love something fabulous made from seemingly simple ingredients, and they love to share it with other people they love. So don't let th' wisdom of our ancestors go th' way of th' dinosaur. Never stop learning. And share all th' good that you've found.
yum plums!
With that in mind i've made a list of all th' food we've been able to forage this year. It is by no means an extensive list of what's available, there's much more. These are just foods that we've eaten this year from around Fort Collins and th' nearby mountains. Some of this food became regular fare in our house. Some of it we used and experimented with a little. Some we just tasted. But hopefully this will get you excited to go beyond your usual routine, to try new things, you will be well rewarded. You will have your favorites, and there may be much you don't like, it is food after all, you don't eat everything in th' grocery store do you?

orach and licorice root drying (and 2 peppers)

there's a black walnut in there somewhere

wild rose hips

black nightshade

     So go out and see what you can find. A good place to start is right in your own yard. You've at least got some dandelions i'll venture... and those are good, if you know how to eat them, and maybe th' most nutritious food on th' planet. We'll continue to post individual plant accounts as we get time, and i suppose since i'm telling you to eat dandelions, i'll soon get up some of th' ways we've found to enjoy (enjoy eating dandelions?, Yes.) them. And share your experiences - so that we can all learn together. Bring us a wild salad. Or take one to your friends. Post comments and send us pictures. We're only one family, with our own ideas, and i'm sure you've got different and perhaps better ideas than we do. That's th' beauty of learning, you don't have to be the expert, just a student, always open to th' truth, and ready always for a better way.
me and american licorice

late summer asparagus

Wild foods of Northern Colorado

Wild foods of northern Colorado,
specifically Ft. Collins and surrounding areas 

(Only food parts that we've actually eaten are listed.
There's more! There's more!)

Let Food be thy Medicine, and Medicine be thy Food.

Acorn                                                                           Elm - (seeds)
Salsify - (flower, stalks and buds, roots)                        Linden - (leaves, flowers, berries)
Black Locust (flowers, beans)                                       Burdock - (flower stalk, leaf petioles, root)
Dandelion - (leaves, flowers, root-eaten and brewed like coffee)     
Asparagus - (shoots)                                                     Thistle - (shoots, leaf petioles, root)
Sow Thistle - (leaves and stalks, flower buds)                Purslane - (all above ground parts)
Lamb's Quarters - (leaves, seeds)                                  Amaranth - (leaves, seeds)
Currant - (red, and at least 3 different black kinds)         Choke Cherry 
Autumn Berry or Silver Buffalo Berry                            Wild Strawberry - (berries, leaves dried and fresh)
Wild Raspberry - (berries, leaves dried and fresh)          Wild Plum - (at least 4 varieties) 
Apples - (who knows how many kinds?)                        Serviceberry
Highbush Cranberry - Crampbark (berries)                    Elderberry
Cow Parsnip - (stalks)                                                   Angelica - (stalks)
Wild onion - (whole plant)                                              Wild garlic - (whole plant)
Cattail - (hearts, shoots, rhizomes, pollen, rhizome fibers make good cordage...)                       
Bullrush - (rhizomes)
Evening Primrose - (roots, flowers, buds, seeds,stalk used for fiber)          
Wild mint(s) - (leaves, fresh and dried)
Milkweed - (shoots, flower buds, pods, young leaves, stalk also makes fiber, pod silk for stuffing)
Clover - (red and white, leaves and flowers fresh and dried) 
Black Walnut - (nuts, husks for dye)                               Sumac - (berries, cold brew tea)
Black Nightshade - (fruits, leaves)                                  Dock - (leaves, young stalk, young flower buds)
Prickly Pear, - (pads, fruit)                                             Common Mallow - (leaves, fruit)
Shepherd's Purse - (seeds, whole plant tops)                 Peppergrass - (seed pods, plant tops)
Day Lily - (tubers, flowers, dried flowers, buds)             Chamomile - (dried flowers for tea)
Pineapple Weed - Wild Chamomile (dried flowers)        American Licorice - (roots, chewed and dried)
Wild Rose - (hips, dried for tea)                                    Orach - (leaves, fresh and dried for spice)
Stinging Nettle - (leaves)
Conifers, Fir and Spruce - (young buds eaten fresh, added to water, needles used in tea)
Conifers, Pines - (needles used in tea)                            Juniper - (berries, used like peppercorns)
Ground Cherries - (fruits)                                               Wild Grape
Horseradish                                                                    Musk Mustard
Horehound                                                                     Bee Balm
Watercress                                                                      Oregano 
 That's all i can remember now, but this list may grow over time. Feel free to inquire about more specific uses, or give us your own opinions. Happy Hunting. ~Rico