When I was a student I discovered wild garlic. Vast green and white carpets of wild garlic in between the trees of the forest. Gathering armfuls for cooking with go-to student pasta was fun and exhilarating, and cheap. We also skip-dived and gathered waste food to binge on - it was an odd and unbalanced mix!
A different way to shop
Rush, rush, rush, grab, grab, grab. The same approach just doesn't work for foraging. Ask Miles Irving (who set up Forager Ltd, the largest supplier in the UK) and he'll tell you that grabbing everything doesn't make sense, on any level. Supplying foraged food for over 15 years, Miles and his team know that they need to look after the wild spaces they pick from. They also know that picking everything would send their business bankrupt. Picking seasonally and leaving enough wild plants to flower, not over-picking and leaving plants to rejuvenate is common sense to a good forager.
Swapping aisles for hedgerows
In 2007 I moved to Cornwall with my first foraging book by Roger Phillips, which I wrote about in How I got into Foraging. In my first year in Cornwall I foraged a lot and would spend weeks, especially in Spring, shopping in the hedgerows rather than the supermarket aisles. I loved this connection to nature and prided myself in picking amounts and in a way which was largely unnoticeable that anything had been disturbed or taken.
I chose abundant plants, common weeds and areas where they were thriving. Picking what I needed and ate well. I learnt about the seasons, benefited from nature's bounty and started to share what I knew.
It isn't really shopping
Of course, the definition of shopping is normally founded on buying and wild food is associated with 'free'. Free food! You'll find it promoted a lot in this way. Although there is no monetary exchange, it is always an exchange. Always.
As a wild food teacher it's not just the plants I'm teaching about. Just spending time in nature invites a deeper connection to our environment, a way of seeing, being, smelling, tasting and responding differently. The hands-on experience of foraging enables us to see the direct impact of our food desires and consumption. It's different from the bargain aisles, black Friday or my childhood memories of jumble sales. There's the potential for more sensitivity, for enjoying the process as much as the goal. For re-education, for a desire to have less so to widen the benefits to others, albeit person, soil, animals, birds or insect. It's not always an easy mental shift to make, nor a easy physical one. Yet with each flower, leaf or fruit there is the potential to shop, to take, to exchange in a different way.
I lead foraging courses where you can learn about edible plants, recipes and how to pick sustainably. Side-by-side with enjoying the outdoors, engaging with nature and perhaps picking up some shopping tips along the way. Follow my journey on instagram or facebook to hear from me more regularly. Or tag me with #mindfulwildforager