Whether we reside in a rural community or urban center, edible, medicinal and otherwise useful plants abound.
Most of the plants we consider noxious or nuisance weeds are not only edible, but tasty and nutritious, offering stiff competition to our domestic garden vegetables. Many are also capable of treating or curing common ills that plague our society. Stinging nettle, for example, is super rich in calcium, while burdock is well known as a “blood purifier” and is used in herbal cancer remedies.
I am a big proponent of the health benefits that come from eating or using wild plants. However, I am equally convinced that there are many additional health benefits that come from simply getting out there and gathering the plants.
There is something liberating about harvesting wild plants and incorporating them into meals, medicines, baskets, cordage or any myriad of things. Yes, it is free, but above all, it is freeing. When I buy anything from a store, I feel little or no connection to it or its origins, and the memory of getting it is often one of haste and overwhelm from marketing pressures and the rush of people around me.
When I gather wild plants, I feel connected to nature. I feel alive, relaxed and thankful for what I’m harvesting. I also have a sense of being at least somewhat self-sufficient. When I prepare food, weave a basket or make a salve from these plants, I continue to feel a connection to nature. And every time I eat this food, or use this basket or salve, I relive the gathering experience.
I remember, clearly, the sweet yet medicinal smell of the balsam poplars that thickened the spring air, the cheerful sound of the song sparrow singing its heart out in the tree next to me, the reflection of sun and clouds in a tiny pool of crystal clear water, the shocking coolness of a frog on my foot, the porcupine waddling noisily by, and the refreshing flavour of wild mint joyfully plucked from an ephemeral wetland.
It takes time to secure food, medicines and all of the other things we need to live – whether it’s time spent at our jobs earning money for trade, or time spent gathering and preparing things, ourselves. I hope that, through my website, you will be enticed to spend more time in fields and forests experiencing the joys and benefits of harvesting and using wild plants, yourself.
About the author, Laura Reeves:
Laura Reeves is a Manitoba-based botanist who shares her love of wild edibles through workshops and classes. Laura is an adept survivalist, having taken courses at Tom Brown’s Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School in New Jersey and the Kamana Naturalist Training Program with Wilderness Awareness School, based out of Washington. You can find out more about her courses and workshops at Prairie Shore Botanicals and see what she is gathering and cooking up on her Facebook page.
Up close and personal with Laura:
My passion for wild edibles and other useful plants is rooted in my desire to feel connected to nature at all times. In the process of increasing my consumption of wild foods and practicing wilderness skills, I have not only gained a greater appreciation of food in general, but of local cultural and natural history.
I have become much more aware of my local surroundings, including the effects of seasonal changes, weather patterns, moon cycles, soils, and the interactions between living and non-living things.
I know where I can find a healthy patch of plants, even when the one I normally harvest are not abundant. I have learned to appreciate my own vulnerability and to quickly distinguish my wants from my needs. I value things differently than I used to. As I got to know the plants and animals around me on a deeper level, any sympathy I might have had for them was replaced with empathy. As a result, I have experienced several philosophical transformations over the years and I am sure there are more to come…