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MORAN: Understanding our climate can translate to food independence

November 02, 2016 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


If a person observed the same plot of land for more than one year, they would realize that every year is wildly different.

Today is Nov. 2 and in the Okanagan Valley wild plants are still thriving. At this same time last year, the frost had taken away or heavily damaged most of our flora and fauna. We cannot use our plants to make a forecast, but we can certainly discover previous weather patterns by observing our surroundings.

The land and its living contents are the same as a farmers’ almanac. Yesterday I saw a few violets flowers, which are usually visible in March and April. This matches perfectly with the buds on the huckleberry bushes that I saw in Revelstoke last week. These two living symbols tell me that there has been an extended warm period across a large swath of B.C.'s interior. These plants are activated by warm weather after an extended cold period and have been tricked into thinking it is spring. Their buds and flowers will be gone after a heavy frost, providing us more data to understand our climate.

The flush of growth in the spring never looks the same twice. One year a particular species may be dominating a piece of land, the next year it could be pushed out by another. Seeds all sprout at different temperatures and under a variety of specific conditions. Sometimes the sprouts of different plants appear on the same day, sometimes they are weeks apart. It can be incredible to witness and experience, but will take at least a few years of keen observation. I know that most people just see weeds and grass, but if you take the time to know each plant it can change your relationship with your surroundings.

The taste of our edible herbaceous plants (or weeds, if you prefer) will change with each day of rain or shine and is another indicator of. Bitter plants become less bitter in the cold, and stronger with the sun. Spicy plants like horseradish and cress will only get stronger as it gets colder, with their peak flavour occurring after the second heavy frost. Plants that have oils, such as carrot or fennel, will produce more oils in hot weather and a more pungent flavour. Wild daisy leaves have an incredible sweetness when it is cold, but are just plain gross in the summer. These are just a few examples. There are many other ways to read the climate by observing mushrooms, trees, and berries, not just plants. The information provided by these different forms of life complement each other and helps to provide a more complete snapshot of our current climate.

Taking on this process of discovering what has always been at your feet can be a daunting challenge, but if you appreciate good produce it is worth it. If we can better understand our climate then we can take advantage of its benefits more efficiently. It is Nov. 2 in a Canadian town and I can eat fresh super-foods such as watercress and dandelion as much as I want without spending a dime. It is likely I can do the same by the middle of March next year. This kind of food independence is only a dream to many individuals and families who fork out hundreds of dollars each month on high quality produce.

It doesn't have to be.


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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