I live a life that incorporates, what I like to call, "Everyday Forage." It's an ideal put into balance. My own balance, and hopefully one that serves you too. Yes, would I love to have 100% of my meals coming from the wild, sure thing. Is that the reality living in the 21st century Chicago? No, well at least not for me. Not yet that is...
While I lived off of about 20% wild perennial foods in 2017, that number grows more and more each year and each season. As we build up familiarity with the plants, we're reconnected and become hooked in a way. Outside of being an enthusiast, I work as a permaculture designer with some powerhouse communities including El Paseo Community Garden in Pilsen and the MLK District Garden in North Lawndale where we're able to double, if not triple, the exposure of edible perennial plants within our city systems.
It's both inspiring and a bit frustrating for me to see foraging communities on Instagram showcase their latest "find" without any follow up images to the actual dish they used these treasures in. Even more so, seeing photos where EVERYTHING is wild. Where to begin? How to engage in re-learning and re-connecting to these food groups?
In my humble journey and advice, I say take it one plant at a time. Study her leaves, flowers, textures, seeds. Know how she responds to different conditions in the Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter/wet season, dry season. I found myself starting out with common weeds. I observed them, ate them in different stages and played around with different dishes too! I tell ya, a dandelion leaf creamed pesto is AMAZING!!! Play, observe, pick up a field guide, and please don't eat anything until at least 3 encounters with the plant and 100% confidence in it's identification. If you're in the city, be careful which locations you are harvesting from because urbanite soils are a thing. How much of "a thing" is still unclear as it pertains to your health, but transplanting plants/saving seeds are great practices for everyday harvesting!
As I've been continuing on my journey in reconnecting to the land, I've found a re-connection to my perennial fruits this year! Goumi berries, Elaeagnus multiflora, has been one of my favorite treats. I love eating them raw, right off of the tree, slightly warmed by the sunshine. Or skinned as a juice for extra sweetness. Or in this smoothie bowl with a hint of Lemon Balm <3
Just some delicious food for thought. Eat perennial...and start off small. As a forager I currently eat 20% from the woods and food forests (not including harvesting form gardens). Yes I shop at Whole foods/paycheck and find complete comfort in knowing that when money gets tight, I know where to find the nutrition I need to get through another week.
If we all pitch in and start planting perennial plants we CAN eat...imagine how many truly local, "organic," sustainably sourced smoothie bowls we can eat together! <3
*****Special thanks to Brian Bieschke for the photos!*****
With love and encouragement to forage "every damn day" with Everyday Forage!