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Gifts from the Land and Water by Mary Syrett

Ever since my teens, I have been fascinated with wild food foraging. Helping members of my family learn about wild edibles that grow in the Tidewater area has developed into an intriguing hobby that has allowed us to experience, to some degree, how our ancestors lived off the land. Foraging for plants and hunting wild game are ancient patterns of human subsistence. For thousands of years, people survived in this manner. In 1972, Richard Mabey published the book Food for Free; soon thereafter, the world began looking at ‘weeds’ in a new light. Urban foraging emerged as a culture and the phrase “if you can’t beat them, eat them,” reflected people’s desire to cut costs and help conserve. Today, as some global resources run dangerously low and climate change and human impact compromise ecosystems, Mabey’s sentiments have taken on new meaning. To survive, wild plants must cope with herbivores (plant-eating animals), competing plants, weather and climatic changes. As a result, they’ve evolved to become species that contain high concentrations of carbohydrates, fats and

proteins, as well as vitamins, minerals and fiber. Many of the tastes we appreciate, including sourness, pungency, sweetness, saltiness and bitterness are adaptations plants have developed in an effort to discourage herbivores. Many renewable herbs, greens, fruits, berries, nuts and seeds thrive in backyards, fields and trails in the Tidewater region. Although we can easily incorporate these tasty resources into meals the way our ancestors did, many


Tidewater Times September 2011  

September 2011 Tidewater Times

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