The Edgelanders


The oxeye daisy is an edible plant and is commonly found in the edge lands of forests, roadsides and fences. This is a naturalized plant that was originally native to Eurasia.


BLOG 43: When it comes to foraging for medicinal or edible plants I find myself before the forest gathering the ones I need without having to venture deep inside where the mosquitos live. I fondly call these plants the ‘edgelanders’. Here on the edge of the forest are giant sun-seeking goodies with a host of butterflies, bees and birds to view as well. It’s heaven. After several years of foraging, my pantry is well stocked with dehydrated plants so I only venture here from time to time to replenish expired stock or use the fresh plant while in its peak. Usually, I am deep in the forest hunting gourmet mushrooms. I wonder, is this why I never see anybody else out foraging? Are they all only here some of the time and never at the same time as me? Hmmn, or does the suggestion that the horrific stigma of eating ‘savage’ and ‘peasant’ plants still have its grip on us. I think so and the stigma is something we sincerely need to change if we want to work towards being a sustainable individual.


It is a sad fact of life that humans have been foraging for 8000 years and that today when the headlines show climate change catastrophes they are followed by headlines of organizations scrambling for donations so the affected won't go hungry. So, what happens when technology crashes? Today Roger’s communications went down country-wide and no one could use their Interac card at Tim Horton’s for breakfast or lunch. Heaven forbid the chaos in the drive through window! Living in a cashless society certainly sucked today and made for a grumpy constipated crowd. A reminder to carry real money. Eating plants is how we have sustained our life for 8000 years and everyone should know how to forage for emergencies.


Respected forager Samuel Thayer surmises that “as a society we are coming to believe the fallacy that people make food. Deriving a small part of our sustenance directly from the earth helps keep us in touch with a sobering reality that despite our advanced technology we cannot manufacture our most basic needs.”


Hunting and gathering food is human. We are built for it. Soon after trying foraging out several times one gets right back into the groove as if you have been doing it all along. One of the many side benefits that accompany foraging is one gets innately close with our natural world and miraculously understands their own ecological role in it. Participating in Nature is the ultimate loving connection.


Did you know ‘hunter and gatherer’ practices of the past were almost wiped out because the hunter and gatherer occupied the soil needed by growing agrarian based villages? Bolder than Spock, Thayer states two reasons why agrarian economies wiped out the hunter and gatherer: one, ‘Human societies tend to despise their economic competitors.’ Two, ‘Foragers represent an entirely different socioeconomic system that threatened the stability of oppressive, feudal agrarian civilizations.’ As a result of this soil war Thayer also states that ‘hatred of hunter-gatherers became the universal dogma of civilized cultures.’ All of a sudden, wild foods became gross and foraging indignant. Foragers who used wild plants were killed or mistreated and was honourable to take over their land!


European settlers in North America almost wiped out First Nation traditional diets by the early 1900’s by making the defeated First Nations peoples embarrassed by their traditional dialects and diets that only beasts or savages should eat. Ethnobotanists and Anthropologists also ignored recording First Nations traditional knowledge because they saw no value in “savage” information. Disheartening indeed. Due to worldwide stigma attached to wild foods, the European settlers refused to eat them. When there was an emergency such as crop failure from disease, for example, settlers had to eat from the land. They chose not to eat what the First Nations ‘savages’ ate and brought with them from Europe peasant plants, which had their own stigma attached to them from non-peasant Europeans. These plant are routinely listed in Canadian plant books and are found in the edgelands. Such plants as dandelion, chicory, plantain, stinging nettle, curly dock, sow thistle, common chickweed, lambsquarters, amaranth, purslane, wintercress, sheep sorrel, and black mustard.

Thus, the dominant culture of North America has been inherited from European peasant tradition and not our native land.


There are so many reasons why forging is good for you. The food is pesticide-free, fresh and free. Expert forager Samual Thayer says it the best “The power certainly is in the buck but the opposite is always true as well. The paradigm is that there’s power in spending no buck as well’. That’s right foraging reduces your grocery bill when you need to. Being independent from the market economy feels good and you’ll feel even better knowing you can feed yourself if times get tough.


Foraging the edgelander plants on the south facing side of any forest yields more flowers and fruits. Edgelanders can be found in many places like at the edge of fields, buildings, fences, wastelots, etc. Please know the quality changes depending on the soil grade. The edgelanders include indigenous and endemic Canadian plants too, of course. Hopefully I'll see more of you out foraging once in a while as silent protest to the oppression hunters and gatherers around the globe have experienced and are still experiencing today. For example, fast food hamburgers come from cows. For monetary reasons Cows are raised in the jungle. Therefore the jungle has to be clearcut and turned into a grass lot…there go the precious edible and medicinal plants! The mysterious spore cloud living above the forest canopy disappears to where? Then up goes the methane gasses…creating climate chaos.


I don't expect you to become an expert forger but I do expect you to do it once in a while out of respect of our ancestors and for your present physical and mental health.


I don't know about you but I think I may start practicing some ‘no buck days’ out of principle. Happy foraging.


Sources:

Thayer, Samuel. The Forager’s Harvest, Foragers Harvest Press WI, USA. 2006

Thayer, Samuel. Incredible Wild Edibles, Foragers Harvest Press WI, USA 2017

Meredith, Leda. NorthEast Foraging. Timber Press. Portland, Oregon. 2014

Gray, Beverly. The Boreal Herbal. Aroma Borealis Press. Whitehorse Yukon. 2011


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