Thursday, July 14, 2011


You know how sometimes during a short period of time in your life the same idea keeps popping up and it almost makes you wonder if there if there is a force out there in the Universe deciding on a theme for your present life. I must write this down, and all future serendipitous theme emergences, because I know I will grow old and forget and, in the future, I want to be able to read it to myself and any kids or grand kids who will listen.

So, it all started a few weeks ago when a colleague of mine told all of us science teachers that he is organizing a Food Day at our school and he welcomes our participation. Since I am a botanist at heart, I immediately start to think of ways I can incorporate plants and my eye wanders over to a shelf in my classroom and my eyes rest on my old copy of "Wild Edible Plants." This book was my parting gift at the end of the first summer I taught outdoor environmental education at nature preserve in Ohio when I was eighteen, a long time ago, ahem...

So, I decide that I am going to teach my students to forage and we will prepare and eat wild plants for Food Day. Then, as I leaf through my book I find that many invasive plants, like Japanese Knotweed and Garlic Mustard which grow "like weeds" all over the forest near my high school, can be eaten. So, at this point, I am feeling like I have come up with a novel solution to a pretty big, bad and expensive environmental nightmare (removing invasive exotic plants) and as a side bonus, found a local food source that is free, which could, I don't know, alleviate hunger. It is a great idea, but it turns out that I am not the first person to suggest eating invasive species as a way getting rid of them. In fact, there is a NY Times article in this week's Science Times all about it. Last week, in an environmental course my teacher shares an article with us and on the opposite page is a small blurb about the latest trend in the locavore movement, "invasivores." So, I guess my wild edible plant workshop for my students might have to have some trendy title like "invasivores for a day."

So now that this idea is taking shape I am foraging with Jove and Miranda in the yard. I must say that I really wish crab grass was edible since it is the primary weed in my garden. The biggest hit so far with the kids is purslane. It grows pretty much everywhere as a weed and it is yummy. We like it so much we have left a spot for it in the garden. Today, Miranda told me that she went out to get some when she was hungry for a snack. We have also harvested some dandelion greens and plantain leaves and added them to soup. They are a little on the bitter side to eat right out of the lawn.

I have a couple of month to prepare and I will have to be creative since a lot of plants you can eat in summer won't be so tender in October. I am keeping my eyes open every time I am outside and reading as much as I can. I may even take a foraging class with the legendary Wildman Steve Brill who is local and makes his living teaching people to eat wild plants.

Summer of Foraging here we go!