Five ways to be more wild

IN

Here are five things you could try, if you haven’t already, to expand your wild horizons. Non of them cost anything. They can all be done anywhere, possibly with the exception of deep Antartica… 1. Get outside. 2. Google one of your conventional ingredients. 3. Eat a flower. 4. Drink a weed. 5. Take a walk.

But first, why would you want to disrupt the status quo? 

For us, foraging for The Botanist’s wild ingredients has opened up a whole new world. Once you realise that food and flavour are available outside of the standard system, and that you can provide for yourself, you start to see that system for the construct it is. You can get to know and appreciate plants independently and on a different level than just ornaments. And through plants, you can enter a renewed relationship with the natural world around you.

1. Get outside

As a species, we have not been universally brilliant at making beneficial environments for ourselves to inhabit. In all our centuries of congregating and creating cities, have we hit on a model of city design that is healthy for us, or sustainable? Do the interiors we’ve made to work in and live in uplift and optimise us? Whatever your opinion about that, an urban park or even an urban wasteland can always be a source of hope.

You have to hand it to plants, or perhaps to weeds specifically; they get everywhere, and they flourish. And just by living there, they make that place a better place, by pumping extra oxygen into it.

From a human to plant relationship point of view, green pigment is physically restful for your retinas – that’s why Victorian theatres had “green rooms” so that the performers’ eyes could rest from the searing “limelight.”

I recently took a 510 mile train journey, including a sleeper service, carrying a potted fern and a hellebore (don’t ask), but every time I looked at the living things on the table in front of me in that most unnatural of environments, I felt better. Calmer.

So If it is possible to get outdoors, wherever you are, and clap eyes on something green, or immerse yourself in it for a few minutes, you should do it. Remember you are an animal, part of the living world. Disconnection with the earth is disconnection with part of what you are.

green is good

It’s remarkable that some of our conventional foods ever caught on…

2. Next time you eat or cook with a conventional herb or spice, google it

What actually is a black peppercorn? Is it the same as the pink peppercorn? Saffron, really? What is a clove? Much of the food we are accustomed to is actually ridiculously esoteric, and we are only familiar with it because of an accident of history. Even the tomato was originally valued in Italy as an ornamental plant, it was hundreds of years before it every occurred to anyone to cook with it. Read more about foods we take for granted thanks to the Columbian Exchange >

Garden Begonias

Begonias taste like lemon

3. Eat a flower

Eating a flower can be a new textural and flavour experience. Besides that, it seems outrageous that something so exquisitely designed and colourful can also be eaten! I think that’s the source of the thrill I always feel. It’s like eating a piece of jewellery.

As well as the edible flowers of vegetable plants like the brassicas (kale, cabbage, rocket etc) or the flowers of  herbs like mint and rosemary, you can eat wildflowers like cornflower and rosebay willow herb. And garden staples like roses, tulips, begonias, chrysanthemums. Here’s the full wiki-list of edible flowers >.. And here are Liz Knight’s pieces about storing and using flowers as ingredients.

4. Drink a weed

Weeds. By definition they are everywhere. Some of the most common weeds are edible. The dandelion, for example. It  grows in any temperate region, and the leaves are there year-round. Though bitter, they are nutritious, and they’re actually great in a martini. Mix a medley of edible weeds, smash with granulated sugar and lemon juice, then add gin ice and soda water to make a local and seasonal mojito.

Toronto

Take a foraging walk near you

5. Go on a guided walk

There are foragers everywhere, and their knowledge will be on point about what is local to you and in season. Guaranteed, it will open your eyes to things, even if actually consuming these wild foods regularly is not for you.

If you don’t get anywhere with finding a forager through a search engine, please drop us a line and we’ll see if we know anyone in your area.

P.S. For more inspiration, watch our mini film series featuring wild foragers chefs and bartenders: Wild a state of mind >

P.P.S. This is a good starter book: https://richardmabey.co.uk/food-for-free/

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