Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wild Harvesting – Part I: Memories of a Harvest Gone Bad

My memories of wild harvesting stem from when I did not even know the practice carried such a romantic tone. It was one of those things we did because we were asked to do so – and we had fun with it. Making games out of berry picking, we would compete to see who could find the perfect blueberry, pick the most raspberries or climb the highest in the apple tree. After being slowly butchered by thorns and briars we would drag ourselves home with our cache to prepare our score of treasure. Lining up our best berries, finally, by evening the winner would be declared! 

My brother, sister and I would tromp through the field picking the youngest dandelion greens or nettles. Chokecherries, blueberries, apples, raspberries and even wintergreen were all on my parent’s harvest list. Jams, jellies, butters, pickles, relishes and wines were ways in which we preserved these foods in addition to enjoying them fresh. Of course, hunting and fishing proved as prolific as our herbivorous harvesting. And all of this wild harvesting was as important as our homegrown beef, chicken, pork and vegetables. Sitting down to every meal, we proudly looked around and noted all of the delicious foods we poured our heart and soul into raising, gathering, preserving and preparing. This feeling of self satisfaction is one that I will never forget. However, it wasn’t always this good… 


On one occasion my father decided he wanted us to pick milkweed pods to be steamed for dinner. The three of us groaned as we begrudgingly dragged ourselves outside to pick whatever pods were closest to our hands. No one ever told us that only the young, tightly closed, tiny pods were the ones to pick. Suffice it to say, after swishing around the stringy, silky, nearly-blooming, over cooked pods, we were all (father included) very ill at the thought of ever eating them again!                       

As much of a debacle as the milkweed pod incident was, I thank my father for the desire to learn more about the outdoor world and to develop my knowledge of how to live in it.
It was he who fostered the idea of gently caring for this world so that it may in turn care for me. And it is he who I credit for my awareness and ability to honor and respect this delicate balance that is far too often overlooked and sneered at in detest by the lurking developers of our modern world. Salvaging whatever dignity and grace this world so newly introduced to me had would be my quest; if only for my tiny existence.

1 comment:

  1. Oh God, I so hated that as a kid. It seemed there was no weekend without going into the woods to pick blueberries or look for mushrooms. It was tedious and no fun and the worst of all, I had to endure fried mushrooms over toast for dinner. As an adult though, I found myself with a deep appreciation for it (the collection of food and also the eating of mushrooms). I love to go to the orchards and pick, in general, people find it hard to pry me away from the abundance of berries... When I stand in those rows of nature's bounty, one can only feel content. There is the connection to nature and life as well as stilling the very basic need of food, just as it has been thousands of years ago...

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