By Fergus Drennan
How we grow, source, process, prepare and relate to foods is a fundamental dimension of the permaculture way. My expertise lies in the realm of wild, feral or otherwise non-cultivated but important potential food crops that have a vital part to play in more holistic and sustainable ways of living.
Wild plants are their own reasons, their own ends, having an intrinsic validity and truth beyond any means-to-end perception of their utility as potential food that you or I might wish to impose on them. Yet in a peak or post-peak oil world, wild foods inhabit a unique and pivotal realm between worlds past, present and future.
lime leaf salad with fennel flower buds, hairy bittercress and Ivy-leaved toadflax flowers
At a time of increasing concern over food security, and short-sighted global reliance on a mere handful of staple food crops, wild foods speak the language of resilience, they speak the truth of inherently low-impact sustainable harvest, where sustainable isn’t just a co-opted green-wash term. Instead it resonates with the ancestral and historical wisdom of ages, of ancient peoples foraging and fed, nourished and supported for millennia upon millennia. Of course, globally and cross-culturally, temporally and spatially we no longer inhabit the Palaeolithic era.
I’m neither arguing for nor against such a return; that’s a debate for philosophers and intellectuals. For me however, I only observe the ever-present awareness that, for whatever reason, my recessive hunter-gatherer genes are pushing me into a reciprocal dialogue with plants, and wild food plants. As a consequence, absurd as it may sound, foraging has become my vocation. Listening to my heart, the doubts and mental clutter that neurotically leads to pointless questioning has fallen away. All that remains is a clarity of purpose whereby I recognise the need to step into vulnerability, to offer as a gift my determination to fully and honestly explore the profound potential of wild food plants as a vital component of the modern diet.
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