The Philosophical Forager
Adele Nozedar is the author of many books including ‘The Hedgerow Handbook –Remedies, Recipes and Rituals’ (Random House). She is currently working on a book about sweets. During March 2013, you can join her on foraging walks on 5th March and 7th from Book-ish, Crickhowell (11am-1pm), from The Hours, Brecon on 5th March (3.30pm, with lunch) and Gliffaes on Saturday 23rd March (11 am-1pm with lunch). Booking is essential for all of these walks. Adele does a monthly blog post for us on nature, foraging, the Brecon Beacons or whatever is on her mind
I’m sometimes troubled by the word ‘forager’ and ‘foraging’, which is often applied to me. I’m even more worried now, since I just had a look in the dictionary (The New Shorter Oxford, a big fat proper one in 2 volumes, none of your online rubbish) and here’s what it’s telling me (I’ll leave out all the word origin bits and get to the nitty gritty)
- Fodder for horses or cattle, esp. now for army horses
- Food which animals find for themselves
- To obtain supplies from; plunder, pillage (Carlyle; Noble and Peasant had been pillaged, ransomed, foraged, eaten out by so many different Armies...’)
- To gorge oneself
Although the idea of finding food in the wild is wholly creditable in itself, foraged food, for us, is a luxury; we no longer really need to live off the land. These days, wild food has acquired a gourmet status and in many ways that’s lovely, because these products make us pay attention to the beauty and, sometimes, scarcity of what’s available in the wild. But the relationship between the word ‘forage’ and ‘pillage’ is, for me at least, too close for comfort.
I wish there was a better word...but I can’t think of one. However, what I can do is explain my point of view and how I work.
I don’t go foraging. I go for a stroll, enjoy the landscape and the elements, and enjoy seeing the changes in the seasons, especially those marked be the appearance of plants. Fresh shoots poking up through the soil are like old friends, especially at this time of year.
I’m not bothered about hunting for anything specific, although if I find an abundance of a certain plant then I will certainly take some and play with it in the kitchen.
We don’t need wild foods. Birds, animals and insects, however, have nothing else. Let’s not be greedy.
I’ve been approached four times now by individuals/companies who have asked me to become involved in branding and packaging wild plant edibles. Flattering in a way, but feels wrong, so I would never do this. Why pay premium prices for, say, jam made from wild berries, that you could easily make for yourself? Do this with children, and it becomes an important part of their education in all sorts of things; plant recognition, ecology, science, cooking. And they also soak up a love of nature at the same time. I’m not saying that others shouldn’t do this; it’s just not for me.
There’s another reason why I don’t want to do this. As the recent horsemeat scare has shown, we are increasingly disconnected from our food sources. Going for a stroll with a loosely-connected aim of maybe finding some interesting wild plants is a way to re-connect with the natural world and its birds, animals and plants. And it also helps us reconnect with ourselves.
None of that can be put in a jar.