Monday, February 16, 2009

Wild Foods

For Christmas my son got me the book Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plantsby Steve Brill. He couldn't have picked a better gift. In the fall I had borrowed a copy of this book from the library and mentioned to Collin that I'd like to get my own copy someday, but I was totally surprised when he presented it to me at Christmas.

He and I both want to learn about wild foods, so the book will benefit each of us. My son, however, defines wild foods more broadly than me--counting in such things as grasshoppers and bug larvae. Fortunately, those *ahem* foods are not covered in the above-mentioned book.

On my other blog I recently posted about the importance of becoming naturalized to our particular place on this earth. To live harmoniously and sustainably we need to re-attune to our ecosystems and become participants again. The thing that has always bothered me here in Colorado, is that I'm so unfamiliar with the local plant life. In Pennsylvania, where I spent my first twenty-seven years, I was intimately familiar with the plants, and that familiarity bonded me with the land. Here, it all seems so foreign. Prickly pears, tumbleweed, and cottonwood trees. Those were about the only plants I could identify when I first moved here (and what exactly is a tumbleweed anyway?). Not being intimate with the local plant life leaves me feeling separate and unconnected to nature here.

So, one of my goals is to deepen my knowledge of the plant life in Colorado. Not just the edible plants, and not just the native plants, but everything found growing here. This book is a fun way to begin that process. I've already discovered, for instance, (with the help of this book plus a color photo in another book) that all the time I've lived in this little house I've been pulling up and tossing into the compost tons of lamb's quarters, which are edible and highly nutritious. And my ramshackle, derelict, dusty little town has curly dock, sun chokes, mullein, cattails, yucca and possibly amaranth growing on the fringes, as well as more common things like dandelions, juniper, and sumac.

I'm itching for spring to start sending up new shoots so Collin and I can observe, photograph and learn. I want to be able to recognize all of these plants in all of the seasons. There's so much to learn, but it will be a fun adventure. Maybe by the time I'm ready to move back to Pennsylvania I'll finally feel naturalized here.