This article from the San Francisco talks about something I’d never really thought about seriously before. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/06/08/HO891O5F30.DTL I’m sure we’ve all done something like pick a few wild blackberries or some sour grass, but foraging has become a reliable food source for some people. I remember at the farmer’s market last week, there was a stand where I filled up a big bag with all different greens in baskets. In one basket was an eclectic group of little beavertail cactus leaves and fuzzy blue-purple flowers. I asked about the flowers and the farmer said they were wild borage and that they tasted like cucumber. I put a few in my bag to try and they were delicious. It didn’t really register with me, but the borage was the first foraged food I’ve bought. It’s kind of cool to think that it was just a weed and was used for food.
Considering the sustainability of foraging as it becomes more popular, I think the keys are balance and just knowing what you’re doing (as with pretty much anything). I don’t think you should kill the plant if you’re only going to eat some of the leaves. But maybe the plant is invasive, and should be pulled up. Maybe it will regrow if you only pick the oldest leaves. Maybe it’s a really important native plant and you have to come back once its older or wait for it to be pollinated and start a new generation of plants. I think it really depends on the plant. The possibilities seem amazing to me. What if there is a ubiquitous invasive plant that can be harvested for food? It seems like a pretty solid way to kill two birds with one stone.
On a similar note, I was reading the caption of the picture in the article and started to research natural dyes. There are lots of common backyard plants that can be used for dying. I used a few poppy roots to dye some yarn a light yellow the other day. I know onion skins can make a yellow-green to orange color. I think it’s a really cool way to use every part of the product. I’m saving my onion skins in a bag until i get enough to dye some fiber or a shirt. Sourgrass, that clover with yellow flowers that grows everywhere, can be used for a yellow color. It’s amazing to me how many plants out there have a useful purpose we don’t know about, whether its for dying or eating.
P.S. I’ll be putting up a new page soon with recommended books and movies, about the food industry or agriculture. On top of that, keep checking the sites page, because I’m always adding new sites.