2. Plants in your immediate environment
As the great ethnobotanist Jack Harlan once said, “wild plants thrive in the absence of human disturbance: fully domesticated races are so modified genetically that they cannot survive without human care.” Somewhere in the middle there are a lot of plants which thrive because of human disturbance but require little or no care. Many of the plants which farmers spend a small fortune trying to eradicate with petrochemical herbicides are highly nutritious wild food plants which could instead be harvested and eaten. We are beginning to persuade some of our local farmers not to spray, so that we can harvest some of these plants, although in many parts of the world this is standard practice. At Abbot’s Hall Farm in Essex, the Essex Wildlife Trust removed the sea wall and salt marsh is becoming re-established. They now have a large Samphire crop which requires no further work and is harvested to supply the local fishmongers. Nettles are another self sustaining resource, one which can be used for food, medicine and fibre (it was once the major fibre crop in Europe) as well as being a host plant to many species of butterfly.
There are plenty more wild food sources which suggest the kind of role foraging could have in the future. In this lesson we will identify four key plants globally that are found in most environments. We will look at how to locate and understand them. And you will learn how to harvest and cook in lessons 3 and 4.