I started foraging as an adult in 2004, as a result of burning myself out running a digital publishing business.
The early days of the internet where like the wild west.
It was fight club everyday!
The crunch came one day when I decided to join the newly launched Facebook.
In my profile, it asked me to enter my interests and hobbies.
… and I was hit by a lightning bolt,
… a really uncomfortable realisation.
I was one sad individual, with nothing in his life except a hunger to make money…
… and that hunger had started to destroy me.
I was exhausted, depressed and had become a drug addict as a way to deal with the stress…
…I looked like one of the walking dead.
It was then, that I decided to walk away from the online business that was literally killing me.
I knew that I had to find activities that would ease my exhausted mind and sick body.
Something that would be healing, calming and fun!
Something that was as far away from “business” as I could get.
So I left my old life, shut up shop, and began waking up each morning at 10 am for the first time in years.
Slowly I found myself, as I relaxed down, getting drawn to…
… the hedgerows I passed every day while taking Pip (my foul stinking beast) for his morning walk.
And one day I picked a handful of plants…
… Took them home and proudly presented them to my wife.
Not as a love token. More like a kid in a sweet shop who had found something exciting.
And I was excited!
“What are those?” she said.
“I’ve absolutely no idea,” I said
“So what are you going to do with them?” she said
“Ummm…” I hummed like Winnie-the-Pooh. Pondering why I was actually holding a handful of weeds in my hand.
“No idea” I said
“But I think I’m going to head down to the library later today, and see if they have any books on wildflower identification.”
My wife looked at me sideways, as though the stress, depression and addiction I was trying to recover from had finally flipped my brain.
So that afternoon, I walked the few miles over the hill to my local library and returned home with a selection of plant identification guides.
There were photo, watercolour, and books with line drawings.
And one called a flower key that had virtually no pictures in it, but lots of text, so I thought it must be really important.
In some of these books where notes. Often just a small paragraph about how the plant had been used in the past.
What struck me most, was that around 70% of the plants I was trying to identify had at some point in history, been used in folk medicine for healing people.
Now that was interesting…
I had been walking past plants my ancestors had most probably used.
Suddenly my way of looking at the hedgerow changed.
No longer were they a thing to curse as a troublesome weed, and instead transformed into something amazing.
… it was then that I started to realise something.
And that something changed my life.
I was astounded to find that a huge number of the plants I was gathering to identify, had also been used as food.
I was totally intrigued.
Healing plants, craft plants, fabric and dye plants, plants for this and that were all fascinating…
… but the idea that I could just pop outside my front door and pick my supper (without having to garden) simply boggled my mind.
Were the books actually right?
Surely these wild food plants were only really horrible tasting famine foods because they were eaten by poor, hungry peasants?
Was I wrong!
I continued to identify more plants, and also started recording their use as food…
… both from my own experiments, as well as in combination with the research I was doing, using the very limited books available on the subject.
But these early days of plant identification were nothing short of excruciating.
I was damned if a bunch of greenery was going to get the better of me.
And although the books were partially helpful, I really needed to find someone who could teach me, a plant mentor.
Then one day I met someone extraordinary…