Each year I set the intention to gather pine pollen, and each year I miss the season.
That’s one of the frustrations about foraging. With so many plants out there, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to gather them all when they are at their best.
Yet out of this frustration comes forth a delight. You’ve gotta love paradox!
The realisation that although I may have missed the gathering season of a specific plant, it is at the same time a great lesson in patience and becoming more present in each moment.
I often find myself chuckling as I realise that I will have to wait a whole year before I can try and gather the plant’s bounty again.
How different from the way our culture relates to food.
Let’s face it, if you forget something from the market, you can always nip down the shop again and it will be brightly displayed… even if it is months out of season.
Foraging has taught me many life lessons. It goes way beyond simply putting food on my table, and is instead a lesson in living.
I love how nature is such a wise teacher, when I pay attention to it.
This week, I want to encourage you to step outside, and find a plant that is just starting to grow.
Trees are usually good at this time of year, especially pines.
I want you to take notice of this plant every time you walk past it.
Watch it through its lifecycle.
What do you notice?
Try picking it at different stages, then get a notebook and start recording its taste and texture and anything else that takes your fancy.
Is there a specific time when it really comes in to its own?
I had that happen to me last week.
I was walking back with a friend at 11.30 at night, when suddenly I was hit by the most exquisite smell.
I mean I was truly “brought to my senses”.
My friend and I stopped, then walked backwards trying to identify which plant it was.
Lo’ and behold I realised that this divine smell was coming from a Mahonia.
I had never smelt it like this before.
So my friend and I pushed our faces as far into the yellow flowers as we could, without getting wounded by its prickly, holly like leaves… and simply breathed in lungfuls of ecstasy.
I’ve nick-named Mahonia; ‘Angels Breath’.
Try tasting the flowers, because at this time of year they are truly something else.
Think sherbet. First you experience the super sweet honey nectar followed by a delicious lemony tang.
I ponder what I can do with them beyond simply popping them into my mouth.
If you have experimented with Mahonia flowers, why not leave a comment below. I’d love to hear what you’ve done with them.
Robin is a forager and self-taught ethnobotanist. He specialises in wild edible plants and has been running foraging courses throughout the UK since 2008. He travels extensively documenting and recording the traditional and local uses of wild food plants in indigenous cultures.