Guest article by: Laura Reeves
My passion for wild plants and wilderness skills goes back as far I can remember, to the times I spent wandering through the woods with my dad, picking berries, building shelters and fires, and tracking animals through the snow.
Over the years, I have built on these skills, creating a lifestyle around them.
Today, I have no need for the produce section of the grocery store. All of my produce comes from a combination of garden and wild harvests. I refrain from buying fresh produce, even in the winter, depending instead on my stores of fresh, frozen, dried and canned foods, much like people did for thousands of years. I have wild roots, tubers, greens, seeds, spices, nuts, seeds and berries that I incorporate into every meal, including breads, main dishes, desserts and beverages.
There are many benefits to gathering wild edibles. For the most part, they are free, local, organic and have a higher nutrient content than domestic produce. However, I believe the greatest benefits come from the process of gathering them.
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 wild 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.
I have developed a close relationship to the plants I gather, whether they are for food, fire, baskets or medicine. They take care of me, and I take care of them. This connection goes beyond the physical and can only be understood through experience. It is this connection to the plants that I love most, and the reason why they are an integral part of my life.
Laura Reeves, Botanist and Wild Food Aficionado, is owner of Prairie Shore Botanical and author of Laura’s Guide to Useful Plants – From Acorns to Zoom Sticks. She lives near Gardenton, Manitoba and hosts experiencial workshops on identifying, harvesting and cooking wild edibles called “You Can Eat That?!”, Wilderness Skills Intensives, Natural Basketry Workshops and Urban Survival & Disaster Preparadeness.