'Foraging edible (medicinal)plants'
Foraging your food is not only an adventure of going to nature’s grocery store, but also an alternative for a visit to the drugstore or pharmacy. That’s why Good Family Akse – Kelly who live in Amsterdam and Burlington (Canada) love nature. Greg (not in the picture as he is at work), Jennie, Anika (6) and Leah (4) go almost daily for a ‘wild weed walk’. This time their friends Jaya (6) and Ajami (4) join them.
“Today we are picking chickweed, or Stellaria media (redactie: vogelmuur). We found it in a very clean spot within Amsterdamse Bos. We like to use it as a salad green, or a green juice, or in a quiche, and we also make a medicine from it – a cooling herb, it’s traditionally used as a spring cleanser – and is particularly good for cleansing the digestive tract and as a skin revitaliser. It is sometimes used by herbalists to loosen arterial plaque and lower cholesterol levels, as well as for reducing fatty deposits in the body.”
“There is food and medicine growing alongside human habitation in almost every place on earth, only, most of us have forgotten how to recognize it. For example, in March, we collect various tender young greens – maybe a few leaves and buds off each dandelion plant – or early comfrey leaves. Also, linden tree leaves are delicious for salads, sandwiches or pestos. In summer, we can find just about anything. In fall, of course there are dandelion and chicory roots, and many kinds of fruits and berries for gathering.”
“Our children much prefer to eat greens, berries, fruits and nuts that we find along the way to school, than something purchased at the store - probably because they feel part of the process, partly because it feels like a gift from nature, and partly because it tastes fresh, a fresh unlike anything they've experienced from the grocery store.”
“Trees, grasses and flowers are designed to maintain a healthy equilibrium in the air, water and soil around them. Therefore, they are constantly changing their chemical composition to respond to the needs of their environment - which is, in fact, also our environment. By environment, we mean the super-local area within one or two kilometres from where we live. This special plant wisdom can be brought into our own bodies to heal us and/or help us adapt to the same changes. As well, certain plants have specific benefits for our human bodies - elderberries for fever and colds, horsetail for hair and nail health, black walnut for intestinal parasites, and so on.”
“Besides, when we forage for our food, we have no need for plastic or paper packaging; use no carbon for transport, storage or handling; the food is not irradiated or sprayed with noxious chemicals; and as for foraged medicinal plants - using them can help cure you or simply maintain good health - and keep antibiotics, steroids and other environment-polluting pharmaceuticals out of the watershed, and, if all of that isn't enough - it's completely free to all people.”
Good Family Akse-Kelly divide their time between Amsterdam and Burlington, which is south of Toronto in Canada. As Greg work with Radio Nederlands, he brought his family to Amsterdam and continues to take them to different places in the world.
Do you have an advice for other families?
“Children need to be in nature – it helps develop their empathy for all living beings, and helps them grow into environmentally-sensitive adults. Not to mention that they are simply in their element when playing and interacting in the natural world. It is pure joy.”
Is there a question you would like to be answered?
“We would like to see towns and cities follow the example of Todmorden, England, to incorporate food-bearing trees and bushes into public spaces, and to leave more semi-wild areas for plants to ‘do their thing’, meaning - to heal our cities. Amsterdam is surprisingly good with this, but could be much better. Schools could be teaching children how to recognize edible plants and how to determine where, when and how to pick them. Children used to know what was safe to eat - they can handle this information - but nowadays everyone is so fearful. Can and will governments, civic leaders, schools and teachers include valuable, hands-on interaction with nature as part of children’s basic rights and elementary education?”
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Interview: Leontien Aarnoudse
Fotografie: Lotte Rijkes