Nature’s Garden: Edibles in the Woods and Fields

The woods path near our homestead.

I went walking our land yesterday, looking for wild edibles. I always like to bring a set of wild plant identification cards with me, so I can flip through the photos of different edible plants and familiarize myself with them as I’m trying to find matching foliage along the forest floor.

It’s so peaceful strolling through the woods, crouching to examine leaves and blossoms, listening to the wildlife chattering its daily news. I made my way through the mud-splattered grasses, flattened by the overflowing creek which had flooded its banks with a recent storm. There was a sudden rush of rustling brush ahead as a herd of deer was startled by my presence. For several minutes, I scoured the ground looking for the wild onions I had seen growing there the year before, but I guess the water must have buried them.

Fiddlehead fern.

I turned and headed toward the wooden bridge that crosses our creek. As I walked, I noticed some wild daisies swaying by the gravel road. I picked a few of the soft, white petals and placed them on my tongue. I had just learned that these were edible, and curiosity guided my impulsive snack. They were oddly bland, without any particular flavor, though satisfying in the knowledge that they were nourishing, nonetheless. I also found some particularly large plantain leaves growing in the shade, and some yet-to-ripen thorny blackberries. My feet eventually found the warm, wooden planks of the sunny bridge, and I stood for a moment gazing into the distance of the flowing stream. A movement below caught my eye, and a quick glance caught the tail end of a snake slipping from the wet bank into the water. A moment later, I saw it slithering through the middle of the creek, and then disappearing into the depths. Brown with cream colored bands, I noted to myself. I wondered what type of snake it was, and would be sure to look it up once I got back home.

I stood there, absorbing the tranquility into my soul for a while. And I thanked the Lord for our beautiful piece of this world. Then I headed back to my home, to resume my activities as mother, and to free my husband to get back to his projects. I’m so grateful to have a partner who lets me have a few moments to myself every now and then.

Purslane in the yard!

As I hiked the steep climb back up to the homestead, I flipped through my wild edible cards, hoping to find another to harvest on the way. I was excited when I came to a picture I recognized. Purslane. Hey! I thought to myself, I think this is that stuff I’ve been pulling out of the garden!  When I reached my back door, I took a few more minutes to search the garden in hopes of confirming my suspicions.

Sure enough, it was purslane which was taking over my tomato patch and my raspberry beds. Wonderful! I thought. Now that I know this weed is an incredibly nutritious plant, I’ll be leaving it to spread as it pleases. I might even transplant some into an area of its own.

It’s always exciting to discover more of nature’s bounty, and learning how to use what we have been given in this world. There is so much to take advantage of, to heal our infirmities and nourish our bodies with, if we can just learn how to unlock the secrets of these plants.

If it’s been too long since you’ve had a talk with nature, and walked in her serenity for a time, maybe you should cancel your plans one sunny day and find a forest path to wander. I have come to discover that you never know what lessons are awaiting you there.