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Saturday, August 27, 2011
foraging v. gardening
Listening to:TWiT
Reading:Shadow of the Hegemon
Weather:Overcast, far from hurricane Irene
Off-topic (or is it?), the way I seem to learn about all my male acquaintances' divorces is when they refer on some social media to a girlfriend. It's funny, because the several I'm thinking of right now are people I've only met a few times, and am only likely to see in person every couple years or so. My only exposure to the marriage has been the various social media postings, which have tended to be a gushy about the awesome wifey. So funny how I never noticed they apparently stopped talking about awesome wifey some time ago, and then suddenly it's all gushy about awesome girlfriend. It's mildly annoying to me, not really all that interesting, except that it seemed to have happened with several men I know within a short period of time and exactly the same way, from my perspective. I did 5 minutes of googling on one at first mention of girlfriend, then went back to see in the comment thread someone else said "I thought you were married," to which the dude replied "not anymore." Settles that. Another one I looked up to see Separated in the personal info on Facebook, to my surprise. Perhaps they were foraging instead of gardening.

Back to it. I've been a gatherer of black raspberries for a couple decades, but typically gave up fairly easily once a cereal-bowl's-worth accumulated in my hand on any given outing. And rarely went beyond the yard or the road I'm on to find the berries. But a couple or three years ago it was a particularly bountiful berry season, plenty of early spring rains, and the birds had been berry berry good to me (cheers, fellow cellist Garrett Morris!) and planted a shitton (are 2 t's necessary/appropriate?) of black raz and blackberries in a bodacious spot under my biggest apple tree. I became pert near obsessed with berry gathering. I woke up planning when to pick that day, I mentally catalogued which berries were in which stage of ripening, I jumped all over interlopers who picked a berry with the slightest blush of red still showing by the stem. I drove down roads I never even saw before in search of the berry motherlode, gathering all along the way.

Berries on cereal, berry pancakes, berry cake, berry syrup, berries in seltzer, and sheets upon sheets of individually frozen berries passed through my kitchen. Then came the jamfest. Jam takes alotta berries, so I think I got something like 16 or 20 halfpints of jam, some black raz, some blackberry, and was ecstatic. Gave a precious few as gifts, carefully put a little on toast now and again, and horded the remaining few. Dreamed of the next berry season, even of the scratches and pricks that would cover the backs of my hands, forearms, and ankles.

I've gathered plenty since then, and though I'm still zealous, I'm somewhat less obsessed about the berries, as my zeal has broadened to the foraging of more and more savory and rare plant foods. This spring was a bizarrely prolific morel season around here. I found one in my yard just feet from my kitchen porch. We found a dozen right next to Larry's driveway. Though mushrooms are among the more dangerous foods to forage, morels are pretty easy to distinguish from their toxic doppelgangers. It just pushed my foraging lust further.

Then came gardening season. As usual, I merely put a few food plants in pots. This year I've just got a few herbs. But Larry has his massive garden, and I have had the great pleasure of picking, shucking, washing, snapping, canning, pickling, and freezing a bunch of his bounty. And eating, of course. Lettuce, a precious few beets, onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green beans, peppers peppers peppers, and tomatoes have been on the menu. Glorious. Reminds me that not all that is delicious can be foraged, by far.

So I've been contemplating the cultivated versus the foraged. Foods that make it in the wild where you live are likely to be exactly what your body wants, I imagine. But until I can get a fat cabbage outta the woods I'm hanging out with the gardeners. The foraged foods tend to be stronger tasting, packed with sweet or bitter. The gardened foods tend to be juicier and milder. In the organic garden ya get bugs, which you deal with in various ways, we mostly smash by hand. In the wild, ya get bugs, but often not so many, cuz the food that survived somehow successfully hid from or partnered with other plants to defeat its bug nemeses.

Time to exit this seat and freeze some fresh sweet corn and pickle a few more beans.

permalink posted by cat 8:44 AM

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foraging v. gardening