Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wild Food

People are confused about and intimidated by wild food. We've been an agricultural society for a long time, and that makes it difficult to comprehend great food growing without attention, even though all food was once wild. There are a few exceptions, such as truffle mushrooms, which people know are rare and valued.

Trusted sources for food varies for different people: for some it is a supermarket they are familiar with, for some, health food stores, and for a growing number of people, local farms and home gardens.

When I told my family I had gone out harvesting rhubarb from along the railroad tracks, each had their own reaction.

To my mother, who hails from an agricultural community in North Dakota, it sounded uncontrolled. She wondered (reasonably) if chemicals were sprayed there. Would this rhubarb be safe? DANGEROUS.

My father was a skilled gardener and forager as a child in West Virginia. To him, this rhubarb was appealing as free, fresh food. He wistfully reported that he would no longer recognize the wild plants that used to make up many of his meals. FREE.

My sister in California considers herself a foodie. If "foodie" means "eats anything," then she truly is. She likes the sound of wild rhubarb, too, assuming that it will have stronger flavor than its cultivated cousins. She doesn't remember particularly loving rhubarb's tartness, but she likes the word "wildfood," much like she likes "biodynamic" and "probiotic." FANCY.Two out of three people in my family (test group!) thought my newly harvested rhubarb sounded like good food. Why, then, has no-one in Beacon harvested this huge amount of rhubarb?

I grew up eating out of grocery stores. When I first saw a carrot growing, I pulled it up to confirm that it was, indeed, a carrot, then stuck it back in the hole thinking it could continue on. I've only learned about various wild foods in recent years, and only because of a shift in my own focus. I moved into a house that is host to black walnuts, mulberries, and blackberries. I joined a C.S.A., and my eating became much more locally focused. I've never been a fantastic gardener, and so what comes easily, naturally, makes me all the more grateful.

I think that nobody is harvesting that rhubarb because most people aren't even seeing it.

Now that I'm concerning myself with local food, and the local lack of food (hunger), wild food is that much more important. If you're at all open to it, I suggest taking a look around. (A little guide doesn't hurt, either!)

Thanks to Pickle Girl for the rhubarb picture.

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