June 14, 2016 - 3:07 PM
'FRESH LOCAL PRODUCE FOR NINE MONTHS OF EACH YEAR... THIS IS MY REALITY'
It started in 1999. I harvested wild produce for the first time in my life, at the age of nine.
Eleven years later I began selling wild mushrooms at the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market. Fast forward and I have been at harvesting and selling professionally for five years in the Okanagan. Hundreds of locals have since become their own kind of expert, having experienced the wild produce from our region in Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Maybe it didn't start there. It could have started when my grandpa took his six children to the maple forests for a morel harvest. A nickel for whoever got the first mushroom. It could go back further to the 1930's where my Great Grandmother sold wild produce in the streets in a small Austrian village.
My relationship with wild food is unique in our society. For most Canadians, foraging has entirely skipped two generations. During this time we have handed over the reins for our food supply to a handful of people and corporations. Our nutrients and food security have been greatly diminished.
Farming is great! Who doesn't love farmers? We may love them, but we must do some serious critical thinking on what we are doing with food and the land.
I have been harvesting wild greens in the Okanagan since the middle of March this year. The abundance is astounding. Waves of wild mustard greens, many of which will develop edible florets resembling broccoli. Except they are available in April and require zero input (irrigation, fertilizer, soil). Stinging Nettle is the best in every category of nutrition, there is no downside to eating the tops by the pound. As long as you wear gloves and cook them! Lamb's Quarter is our wild spinach. It is also the wild quinoa plant. It has more nutrients than farmed greens, requires no inputs, it is available before spinach, and after. Lamb's quarter is also adapted to grow on recently disturbed soil, which means all over town. It will not be missed. These greens are all available for consumption while farm fields are just beginning to sprout.
Fresh local produce for nine months of each year. It may sound like a dream, but this is my reality.
The wild greens are simultaneously the healthiest option and the most responsible. There is no downside. I often deal with the objection of harming nature. What is more harmful: Clearing the land to grow or taking from what is there and leaving nature intact? All production and consumption has an impact; this is the most minimal approach. It is better to do the damage yourself if you feel responsible, rather than have somebody else do it for you and never be a witness. I suppose we are so used to the fact that everything was destroyed long before any of us were born we do not feel guilty. Fields and forests could be given back to nature, even temporarily. If we participate as consumers, just like all the other animals, we can have a food revolution.
It takes time to understand what is happening around us. I did not have knowledge of herbs as a child, and I feel like I grew up in a different world than the one I now reside in. If I grew up knowing my most basic needs could be satisfied in my immediate environment, life would have seemed much less daunting.
You might just realize that dandelion may as well be radicchio, lambs quarter is our spinach, Miner's lettuce and Mountain lettuce are our lettuce (yes wild lettuce, very common in your garden but only good for two weeks. What a treat).
Spring, Summer, Fall, and a bit of winter. I will do my best to demonstrate the abundance of the food found at our feet using hundreds of individual examples. Each example is one tiny piece in the complex array of eating local and wild.
— Scott Moran is a local forager discovering his own path to food freedom
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