Forgotten Treasure- Nature’s Pantry
Since life on this planet began long ago, one major thing separated types of life on our fair planet into two groups: Those organisms who produce their own food, and those who did not. Plants, in most of their forms, occupy the former, and animals, ourselves included are grouped into the latter.
Luckily for us life gave us both lemons, and a way to eat them. Evolution guided the hungry lifeforms towards those who were making their own food and did what we’ve always done- we ate them! Those being eaten wised up to this and the arms race began.
Some plants developed different toxic substances to secrete while being grazed upon, others used the visits from their animal friends to develop successful reproduction techniques and evolved complex flower structures, edible fruits, sticky seeds, and even mimicked beetle mating pheremones.
Through eons of natural selection, delicious plants came into being, capable of being eaten, as long as it ensured a chance of survival for the next generation. Our ancestors shared this knowledge with each other, the ol’ monkey see, monkey do phrase comes to mind.
FORAGING is term used when you hear about hunter-gatherers- the gathering portion. At some point in our collective history, all of our ancestors were foragers. It is literally in our DNA to be foragers!
FORAGING IN FLORIDA
The sunshine state offers unique opportunities for foraging, due to a variety of biomes, each home to unique flora and fauna. This, combined with a lengthy growing season, is key to the wealth of food sources the state provides, largely unharvested by man.
Before the arrival of europeans, the “primitive” people who settled the area had cultivated food forests growing along well trodden paths. The people could perform their daily commutes from village to hunting ground with food, medicine, and other useful plants within easy reach of the path. Everything they needed they got from the land, which they treated with care, for it was, and still is, sacred to them. But it was the invaders who sailed here who all but destroyed that lifestyle. The newcomers plowed under the food forests, slashing and burning, and letting pigs and cattle graze as they pleased. They planted corn and beans, strawberries and other crops they had brought with them, many of which failed, unfit for the sweltering heat of our summers, and lack of rain when it was cool enough to grow them. Perhaps, had the immigrants taken lessons from those “ignorant” indigenous people, foraging would not be such a lost art.
Short of having wizened old shamans guiding our plant collecting journey, who can we turn to to learn the lost art? Well, the web is a great place to start- Vast volumes of information at our fingertips, far more than any library could hold- search engines, online encyclopedias, and blogs such as this one, compiling all your need-to-know information in one easy-to-get-to site. We may not be ancient or wizened, but we will show you how fun and rewarding the venerated tradition of foraging for wild edibles can be.