The other day at a child’s birthday party a friend offered rides on his motorcycle to some of us moms. Many of us realized that it had been a long while since we had been the cute young girls that the bad boy was taking on his bike, so we were all in!
A really enjoyable experience, all on its own, but I found myself seeing different aspects of my community.
Riding is profoundly different than driving a car around; when driving I must pay attention to road conditions and other drivers while also participating in whatever conversation my children are having. Even while being the passenger in the car I am listening to the radio or the kids movie, conversations (or fights), or acting as a second set of eyes for the driver. On the bike there were no conversations and no distractions, I got to just observe.
Being a canner I saw several patches of prickly pear cactus that I had never before noticed, grape vines that had previously escaped my eyes, and even several trees that seemed so distinctive, and possibly fruitful, from the back of the motorcycle. I mentally began making plans to come back at the peak of each fruit’s season to see what I could forage.
This got me thinking about the change of society that foraging is no longer commonplace. I remember being a kid in southern California and eating citrus fruit or avocados off of trees anywhere they were found (salted lemons were my favorite). More than half of the reason I was willing to try making jelly from prickly pears a few years ago was a memory of a neighbor of my grandmother’s from that time in California who was picking cactus fruit near the mailboxes of my grandmother’s block. Later, as my family had moved to Wisconsin, it seemed that everyone knew of a patch blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries that they planned to pick from.
Where has this gone? Why do we have to have someone explain to us how to accomplish this? Why do we no longer eat from the land we live on?
I know there are still people who are interested in foraging. The subject can be found on any search engine. There are also television shows that discuss the treasures that can be found, such as truffles, through this method of getting food. Finally, I have even heard of diets that tout the benefits of eating locally sourced raw foods including those the dieter forages.
We have two young mulberry trees that produce a few wonderful berries each spring, but when I make jam I need to head to my local park or my friends house to get enough to fill a few jars. I am often the only person on these fringes, collecting these gems of nature, so I want to take this moment to encourage everyone to look around your community for those hidden treasures of native and natural produce and find a way to incorporate it into your life.