Posts Tagged ‘Foraging’

Gleaning

A group of us in Goshen got together last night for an evening of gleaning, and ohhhh, what a lovely, lovely time! Transition Goshen has a project called, “The Low Hanging Fruit Press,” which many of us crowd funded so that we could purchase a community cider press. As a side part of this project, we also began to map fruit trees in town — on private or public property — in need of harvesting.

Many people buy homes that already have fruit trees planted, and they find these trees a nuisance rather than a boon. With permission, those people who do appreciate the abundance of free fruit can save the homeowners a lot of work. In some cases, a timely harvest will even save tree limbs from breaking with the weight of unpicked fruit. A number of websites help to match up gleaners and fruit trees, and David and I found something similar when we lived in Madison. I believe Transition Goshen has decided to use http://fallingfruit.org, which can be used for wherever you live around the world.

I have eaten a lot of apples in my life, but I’ve never actually harvested one from a tree. (Just crabapples.) Most apples in the grocery store are four months to a year old and waxed. Even “organic” apples may be sprayed with antibiotics. The apples we gleaned last night had not been sprayed at all, and you could tell. Many did not look “shelf quality,” because they had little marks on them or odd shapes. Our group harvested these for cider pressing and to donate to a local soup kitchen that will turn them into applesauce. I arrived after a foraging walk with and going away gathering for my friend, Kimber, so I had forgotten to bring any kind of bucket or barrel. That turned out well, though, since my backback swung around front to become a highly efficient harvesting set-up.

Something magical happened to me as I approached the trees at sunset. Long time readers know I feel a strong connection to Avalon, also known as “The Isle of Apples.”

apple tree

This particular property sits on an old orchard, with rolling hills and twisting trees. I said a little prayer to the faeries and trees to help me find the nicest “low hanging fruit” so that I didn’t need to climb a ladder. I felt an immediate response. Amazingly, even when I’d approach a tree after someone else had already gleaned the lower branches, I kept finding flawless or nearly flawless apples — enough to fill my backpack within the first half hour. I then helped others collect for their own harvests or the donation. While picking, as twilight settled in, I could feel the mystical energy of Avalon. A huge well of joy bubbled from my heart up through the crown of my head as I walked under the trees.

We took a cider break to enjoy pressed cider from last week’s similar outing, which I missed due to a friend visiting from out of town. I had donated to the crowd funded community cider press just to support the project, not because I usually like apple cider, but this was the sweetest, richest tasting cider I’ve ever had! Something about drinking a fresh community harvest that would otherwise have gone to waste or broken tree limbs just felt right. This project also dovetails with the Youth Engagement Grant I’m working towards with some neighborhood teenagers to plant fruit trees in a nearby park. I had sensed the community potential of planting the trees and beautifying the park, and I love the idea of providing free, local food to neighbors. But last night, I also realized how healing and empowering the community harvest is. Again, bubbles of joy from a deep well of gratitude.

It’s not just about the apples … although I must admit, the one I ate last night upon returning home has forever changed my attitude about Red Delicious apples. Normally, I find that a completely ironic name! Not this time. Sweet, crisp, fresh, no wax, no spray … and with that extra magical something I sensed while picking:

apples 2

We can heal our planet and our communities. Indeed, we already are. I encourage people to check out the http://fallingfruit.org website and see what gleaning opportunities exist in your area. What a treat! Free food. An evening in Nature. A gathering of friends.

Blessings abound!

Wild Edibles vs. Organic Gardening

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a daily lesson gleaned from our extensive yard and my intensive gardens, namely, that wild edibles are infinitely easier and more naturally prolific than fussy annuals or even some intentionally planted perennial vegetables. I have gathered bags and bags of dandelion greens this Spring, given them away to friends, blended them into smoothies, happily fed guests and ourselves on Goji Dandelion Red Lentil Curry, sauteed them, and even wrapped them around slices of raw Manchego.

I’ve made gorgeous salads of wild violets, and yesterday, I harvested a huge bag of lambsquarters and garlic mustard for an almond butter veggie curry dish served over millet. (Sorry, no recipe for that one … it’s basically just blended garlic mustard and lambsquarters with water, then two packets of frozen organic veggies mixed with the green water, almond butter, some red curry paste, homegrown dehydrated tomatoes, and fresh garlic. I toasted the millet in coconut oil for a few minutes before boiling it.) In 2012, stinging nettles were “my best crop,” and this year I even purchased some nettle plants from a local farmer. I put them in crates, because I feel bad introducing another “weed” to this already very wild yard:

Nettles in Crates

Nettles in Crates

Nettles in their prized spot in the shady Madison garden

Nettles in their prized spot in the shady Madison garden

The point is, we have been enjoying some prolific harvests (er, weeds) for months now, even though gardening season has only just begun. By leaving a portion of our yard wild, we also seem to have kept the rabbits less interested in our garden. Wish I could say the same thing for leaf hoppers: those things are voracious! They amplify the contrast between the wild edibles and organic gardening, although I visited an Amish friend the other day and was heartened to see her dwarf kale covered in Diatomaceous Earth just like mine below:

Diatomaceous Earth on tomato, dwarf Siberian kale, a very tiny Swiss chard, and oregano

Diatomaceous Earth on tomato, dwarf Siberian kale, a very tiny Swiss chard, and oregano

Note the heavy handed powder necessary to keep these plants somewhat uneaten. Note the heavy mulch necessary to keep the soil from drying out too fast and becoming overrun with never-ending dandelion fuzz. And now take a look at this lush spread of lambsquarters, first year garlic mustard (the second year’s the one you really want to tug out right away), dandelion greens, and soon-to-be-flowering edible daisies:

Wild Edibles

Our gnomes like this arrangement, too:

Wild Edibles and Gnomes

That photo actually includes three gnomes, but one is hiding behind the ash stump that now believes it’s 100 ash trees! We’ll need to trim it back, but faeries do enjoy the ash, even more than Stars and Moon Gazing Balls … although, apparently, they are quite pleased with the faery bling David and I procured on Tuesday. (I’ll save the rest of that for another post.)

Lambsquarters are quite pretty and pack a nutritional wallop:

Lambsquarters

Some people purposely plant these in their gardens. I did when we lived in Madison, but then I learned that lambsquarters grow pretty much everywhere. No need to plant! We have them in several pockets around our yard. High in calcium, copper and iron, superfood lambsquarters have 11 days worth of vitamin K in one cup! They are also very high in oxalic acid, so they require cooking. I learned that the hard way in Madison. I spent a few weeks blending them into fresh green smoothies and wound up passing a kidney stone one night. Holy Mother of God and Nature … never again!

I actually hadn’t eaten lambsquarters again until last night. Cooking them does break down the oxalic acid and release the nutrients. I’m not sure how to describe the taste — kind of like an earthy spinach or chard? They enrich everything you add them to, just please do remember to cook those guys.

One of our local friends recently suggested a wild foraging book called Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer’s Market, with 88 Recipes. I knew there was something else I wanted to check for at the library! Anyway, you can find lots of recipes online, but according to our friend, this book’s a keeper.

According to my back, the Faery Realm, and my would-be Lazy Gardener Self, wild edibles are also keepers — at least in the backyard. Out front, I pretend to exert at least a little influence with loads and loads of mulch and a few carefully nurtured herbs. I dream of the day when they, too, explore their invasive natures and take more active participation in the Mad Scientist’s Garden. Until then, my bags of greens keep me feeling it’s all worthwhile, even if I gather four to five times more wild greens than collards and kale. 😉

Dandelion Wisdom

Today we have a guest blog post from Madison herbalist and founder of Wildwood Institute, Kathleen Wildwood. David and I have attended several of her local herb walks, two Wild Edibles Gourmet Dinners, and plan to take her Making Herbal Medicines Workshop this coming June. Kathleen is a wealth of knowledge and today she shares some information about a much maligned weed and all the benefits it offers. Many thanks to Kathleen for her work and for sending me this article to post:

Green Wisdom from the Plant World

Plants are the original green living experts and we can learn a great deal from them. Whether we call them plants, crops, weeds, or herbs, they each have a part to play in the drama of life on Earth. They contribute to the health of our bodies, the health of the planet and all the creatures that live here. They are the ultimate recyclers, taking sunlight and water, free and abundant, and transforming it into nourishment for themselves, for the soil, for animals, and for us.

Wild plants, especially, can teach us about adaptation, beauty in harsh conditions, evolving in harmony with one’s environment, and healing. Consider, for example, the dandelion. When I give herb walks, even toddlers know the name of these sunny yellow flowers! This plant, often unappreciated to say the least, provides numerous benefits to the living things around it, including ourselves. The seeds are eaten by wild birds, including Canada geese. The leaves are eaten by creatures such as chipmunks, rabbits and even bears.

Of tremendous importance, dandelions also provide an all-season food source for bees. And to top it all off, they improve the health of the soil they grow in rather than degrading it. Did you know that dandelions tend to grow in areas where the soil has been demineralized, and that they help to heal it? The deep taproot brings up beneficial minerals like calcium and potassium, to be incorporated into the leaves and roots. If the plants are not removed, they redeposit these beneficial minerals into the topsoil as they decompose, making it richer and more fertile. They also anchor loose soil against erosion, create drainage channels in compacted ground, and attract earthworms to aerate the soil.

Gardeners may want to consider these benefits when weeding! A student of mine taught her 3 year old son that where the dandelions grow, it is OK to play. Where there is only grass and nothing else, herbicides have been used.This plant’s amazing ability to concentrate minerals makes it a wonderfully nutritious food. All parts of the dandelion are edible, and there are no poisonous look-alikes. Dandelion leaves are tastiest when they are smaller, especially in the early spring, when I like to eat them as part of a wild salad. As the plant matures and puts energy into its flower, the leaves grow more bitter. lf you have been put off in the past by the intensely bitter taste of the large dandelion greens sold in stores, I suggest chopping them small and sauteeing them until tender in some olive oil and garlic’ There is nothing wrong with adding a bit of honey or sugar at the end if you prefer, or you can eat them like your grandmother did with a splash of vinegar to increase mineral absorption.

In addition to being nutritive, quality herbal preparations made from dandelion are safe and effective medicines. For example, did you know that a tea or tincture (extract) of dandelion leaves is the only known diuretic that does not leach potassium from the body? Scientific studies done on rats in the 1970s found, to the surprise of the researchers, that dandelion leaves acted as a diuretic only if one was needed. Dandelions have been used by both traditional and modern herbalists around the world to make remedies for indigestion, increasing lactation, stabilizing blood sugar, and much more. The sap even dissolves warts. The fresh blossoms can be prepared as a facial (see recipe), while dandelion wine is one of the few alcoholic drinks that is actually good for your liver!

On a spiritual level, the yellow flower of the dandelion speaks to the 3rd chakra, which in many traditions is associated with self-esteem, self-care and self-protection’ The spirit healing properties of dandelion are said to include: being aware of and appreciating one’s beauty, inner and outer; delight; playfulness; pleasure; enjoyment; taking things lightly. Picture yourself sitting on a hill in summer, blowing dandelion seeds – how do you feel as you hold that image in mind? Truly, we have much to learn from this untamed and exuberant plant.

Dandelion Blossom Facial:

Place fresh dandelion blossoms in a bowl or jar, and core, with boiling water. Cover the container, and let steep for at least one hour. Strain, reserving both flowers and liquid fusion). Put the warm, wet flowers on your face and lie down for at least 10 minutes. Meditate upon your beauty, both inner and outer. Then wash it all off with the infusion. Do not rinse. You can also splash the infusion on your skin before going to sleep. Cleanses the skin, minimizes pores, and gives a healthy glow.


Kathleen Raven Wildwood
is the founder and director of Wildwood Institute, “bringing the plants to the people and the people to the earth” ™ through education and locally grown herbal products. Wildwood Institute offers classes and apprenticeships in herbalism and natural healing. wildwoodherbs.com – 608-663-9608.

Hunter-Gatherer Skills Course

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend this one, but my friend Sue asked if I’d spread the word. This is a course brought into being by The Permaculture Project, LLC. It’s open to anyone interested in learning how to survive in the wild for practical and/or fun reasons. I’m not a doom and gloom subscriber, but given the recent events and trends in US government and around the world, I do like knowing my options for foraging and community building. This course seems like it offers a lot of both!

Learn the arts and practical skills of outdoor survival

Hunter-Gatherer Skills Course
August 19-26, 2011

Taught by Wayne Wieseman, The Permaculture Project, LLC

Sponsored by Popular Resilience, a Madison-based permaculture organization

Live for a week completely immersed in the environment in 548 acres of prairie, forests, cliffs and wetlands habitats located in Wisconsin’s un-glaciated “driftless area.”

Join with other individuals and families to adopt a hunter-gatherer lifestyle as you learn to make essential tools for hunting and fishing, and pottery vessels for cooking and eating.

Try your hand at fire-making, building shelters, foraging for useful plants, weaving, making cordage, flinting arrowheads, firing pottery, setting snares and more.

All (vegetarian) food included in fee. A kitchen, including refrigerator and freezer, and outdoor grills are also available on site.

Download a registration form or flyer
Please register by August 12th

Contact Norah Cashin (poprezil@gmail.com) for the course schedule or more information
$495 per person
Ask about special pricing for families.
Minimum age 13. Teens 13-18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian

Popular Resilience: Skills for the long term
A happy, healthy, liveable world for our great-grandchildren