Summer is a magical time where the demand of everyday living is lessened by the whimsy and silent wonder that is this time of year—at least it seems this way to me. Right now, a lot of magic is happening in the plant world. Ephemeral plants such as Trout Lilies, Ramps, and Trillium have already made their debut and are about ready to leave us. However, more growth is anticipated in the plant world, and there will continue to be more delicious medicines for us to eat.
The Foraging and Wildcrafting class has been strongly immersed in learning about the plants and how to ethically forage and wildcraft. This past Tuesday, we spent the day in Burlington, Vermont working with Urban Moonshine, an herbal medicine company that has a strong focus on herbal education as well as offering an amazing tincture product line. We spent our time with Rachel Keener, learning about and gathering wild edibles such as Violets, Garlic Mustard, Nettles, Dandelion, and Ground Ivy in a field near the woods. Then, with the help of Ren Weinerz, a local chef, we created a lunch out of the wild edibles that we had gathered which included dandelion fritters, tacos with beans and ground ivy, as well as sauteéd greens. This was followed by a special lollipop dessert treat with the hard candy being made from Spruce and spice tips, poured over molds containing Violet and Nasturtium flowers.
At the end of the day, we spent some time at the Misery Loves Company and ate a delicious meal there, exploring the flavors and hidden delights of wildcrafted cuisine. Part of what makes this restaurant so special is that the menu is based on the seasons. As Ren Weinerz put it, “The food will never be the same, each dish will be constantly changing, because the plant is always changing.” This is a rather unique approach to food, because it mirrors the concept of how life is always changing and how not one moment will ever be the same. Part of the restaurant’s mission as described to us by Aaron, one of the chefs, is that they focus on “food literacy”—trying to teach and educate people about the sacredness of wild food. He confessed that he prefers to not be called a chef, rather a person who curates emotional experiences through the individual stories of the food. At the end of this day, we were able to grasp that there is such an abundance of wild food, and that through ethically harvesting it there are so many opportunities to create meaningful and flavorful food.
We are beginning to grasp that even more each day as we continue to hear different perspectives from people who work with plants. Today, we went to Groton State Forest and talked with Abenaki plant medicine healer Tom Beck and learned about the cultural ties between Native Americans and medicinal plants. We drew from his insight of how essentially humans and plants are the same. At times, it can be overwhelming trying to grasp all this profound wisdom, but slowly and surely we are sifting through it, putting aside special gems to examine later.
Part of my wish for this course is to stay present in the current moment, whether we are out in the field harvesting or in the kitchen creating a dish. By being intentional with my self and how I interact with the plants, I am feel like I am choosing to be present and grounded in my connection with the Earth. Through this class, my peers and I are being exposed to the wonder of the woods and are actively seeking out the wondrous plants that are growing. It couldn’t get any better than that.
Written by Eliza Dery.