Foraging, the First Rite

Earlier this week I went foraging for the first time.

Miranda and I have decided to detox starting at the end of the month. Therefore, we went out to collect burdock, an herb known for its ability to cleanse a person’s blood. I had previously identified a likely looking spot. It was in the woods, away from roads and back off the path. Digging out the burdock was troublesome, until then I did not recall how deep burdock root stretches: up to six feet. I have to admit, I gave up after a little more than one and handed the spade over to Miranda, who added another half-foot or so before we decided to simply break it. We collected another, smaller, burdock plant before continuing on.

In these woods there is another plant that is incredibly populace: mustard garlic. Like its name implies, it is a spice using in cooking. Ironically enough, it has a mustard flavoring with a hint of garlic. For this plant foraging was easy, it was only the leaves and flowers that were of interest. Despite the commonality of the plant (it is an invasive species), we chose not to kill them, because it was unnecessary. The root was not of interest and each plant had many leaves, so only a few were taken from each one.

While out there we noticed that there was a large amount of wild onion growing as well. And they were growing well, some of them were over a half-inch in diameter. The most amusing part of this venture is that I went to supermarket yesterday. Apparently they were selling onions just like the ones we foraged for $1.29 a pound. Considering my salary and the amount of time it took to gather them, purchasing onions is now intensely uneconomical.

The onions are in a jar waiting for use (probably in next week’s stew). The garlic mustard is waiting to be dried. The burdock leaves have been dried and are now in 80 proof grain alcohol, which, in another week and a half, will be a usable tincture for blood purification. The roots are in the refrigerator waiting to be roasted up, I’m told the taste is similar to hamburger. I’ll let everyone know soon.

In the beginning of this experience I felt guilty that I was going to go out and kill these plants. I knew that this reaction is cultural, and thought about it some. Why did I feel guilty now when I never used to? I realized that I never used to before I started walking this path. My reaction to pulling out these plants was a reactionary one from my old civilized memeset. I told myself that this was different, I was not killing “weeds” in the garden, to be thrown in the trash later. I was foraging, an ancient and sacred rite from time beyond memory. And I would thank the plants and the land that grew them before departing. While I was there, the trails through the area were full of athletes running. Though I was not hidden, and only a little off the path, they did not see me. But I had already decided that, if they had questioned me, I would not be embarrassed for acting like a human.

-Benjamin Shender



  1. Aftermath said,

    May 5, 2006 at 11:21 am

    Just a note. We will be away at a primitive technology workshop this weekend and will not have internet access. We’ll post how it went then.

    -Benjamin Shender

  2. Janene said,

    May 7, 2006 at 10:51 am

    Hey Ben —

    Garlic Mustard is more than ‘just’ a spice… in fact, if you saw something about drying it for spice, you shoould get me a link, cause I’d like to see what they say.

    I’ve been cooking mine up and freezing it to use as greens — any green can be a good stew thickener — and the mustard component is like mustard greens as opposed to mustard seed. That would be a good thing to check out though — are garlic mustard seeds usable as mustard? hmmm…


  3. Janene said,

    May 7, 2006 at 10:53 am

    Hey —

    Crap, I knew I was forgetting something…. :-)

    Apparently garlic mustard is a biennial… so when you see the plant with floweres, that is year two. However, from what I have seen, the greens are much tastier before it bolts, so I think it will be useful to figure out how to identify it in year one. It could be a good source of greens all summer long, potentially, rather thn just in the early spring.


  4. Aftermath said,

    May 7, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    Yeah, I guess you can use it as a green. I suppose any non-poisonous green plant could be used in a similar fasion. As far as using it as a spice, I’ll have to double check where Miranda found that site, but it jumped up on google search real fast. But really, just bruise the leaves, the spell is intense and appetizing.

    -Benjamin Shender

  5. Mike Irving said,

    May 9, 2006 at 4:22 am

    Not knowing how else to contact you…
    Good job on IshCon April 9.
    I would be more specific but I know this is not the right place.

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