Spring is prime foraging time in the woods where we hike. We often see folks out with baskets or net bags and I know they’re looking for tasty tidbits to add to dinner.
Personally, I’m more of a catch and release forager. I love finding things I could eat, but I’m not really all that interested in actually consuming them. Plus, I know just enough about wild mushrooms to realize there’s a fair chance I might poison myself. I just take a picture and move on.
But I often think about my ancestors eating these plants not because it was cool or trendy, but because they were hungry. Especially for something green after a long winter of preserved foods.
Wild foods are so popular these days that there’s actually a company here in Asheville, NC, called No Taste Like Home Wild Food Adventures. You can call them up and book a guided foraging trip. I haven’t had any dealings with them (although I’m pretty sure I’ve seen their groups in the national forest where we hike), but I like the disclaimer on their website, “You can’t learn to forage from a website. Always learn from an expert, preferably, your parents.”
Which is a little bit ironic, because while my great-grandmother knew all about foraged foods and remedies, she would have taken pride in having children and grandchildren who didn’t need such knowledge.
Last weekend, I called Dad and asked him if he ate that stuff when he was a kid. Not really, he said, although there was a great aunt who did. Folks ate poke sallat, creasy greens, and ramps, but they didn’t brag about it. As a matter of fact, if they ate ramps, they’d skip church that week for fear of being too stinky.
As a seventh-generation Appalachian, I’m glad to have some idea about the sorts of things I can eat in a pinch, but mostly I’ll be sticking with the farmer’s market and grocery store.