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Every Day is Earth Day

Wild Food Forager, Paul Tappenden, reminds us the Earth gives us gifts every day…

To those of us who love nature and her myriad, wonderful gifts, every day is Earth Day. We celebrate the seasons and all that they bring, and feel a responsibility to help protect that which is our very source of life.

Since becoming a forager and herbalist, I have made friends with many species and have studied their nutritional value and medicinal powers. The natural world is filled with powerful superheroes. These heroes don’t leap high buildings in a single bound, but have protected far more lives than Superman. They don’t parade around in tights and capes, but exert their super powers in very subtle ways.

As one who uses plants as food and medicine, I have become aware of their remarkable abilities, and have, of course, incorporated them into my life. I also feel that it is my duty to share this knowledge with others, especially the younger members of our society.

The main objective of Earth Day is to help spread respect and appreciation for this amazing planet that supports us and presents us with such beauty. One does not need to overlook a canyon or stand atop a mountain to observe nature’s beauty. It is possible to find great beauty on a single square foot of land, wherever nature has blessed the soil.

April is the month of rebirth (in the Northern hemisphere), when we can observe nature springing to life, and the world that surrounds us transforming, bringing with it sustenance and healing and promise of abundance.

Of course, I’ve already been out there grazing on fresh young greens and shoots, throwing wild ingredients into my dishes and just plain enjoying reuniting with familiar plant friends, watching their daily growth and marveling at the forces which bring us these gifts.  So, I am celebrating Earth Day today and every day, and hope that this annual celebration helps us appreciate all that we have been given.

The Persistent Forager

WILD FOOD FORAGER PAUL TAPPENDEN REMINDS US THAT THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO FORAGE, NO MATTER THE SEASON…

For us foraging types, February is a very challenging month. It is about now that I am usually climbing the walls, counting the days until spring. Once the snows cover the ground, whatever greens are left disappear from view, so we are pretty much left with what the trees have to offer. With few other options to distract me, I use the winter to brush up on my tree identification and to explore possible uses.

Pines are very versatile. They provide us with their needles for making teas and resin (for myriads of uses). The inner bark can be prepared and eaten (although I have yet to try it). The bark is also useful for making baskets. Other conifers can be used in similar ways.

The inner bark of Black Birch makes a delicious wintergreen flavored tea, or it can be fun to chew on a twig while walking in the woods. Sassafras root bark has a similar flavor and was originally used in making root beer (hence the name). Ardent herbalists and woodland dwellers use this season to gather some of the medicinal polypores such as Chaga, that inhabit the trunks of dying White Birch trees.

Just recently, a friend introduced me to Hickory syrup. She arrived at my house with a bag filled with chunks of loose bark that she had gathered from a Shagbark Hickory tree. We put it in the oven for about half an hour to give it a slightly smoky flavor. Then we put the bark into a large pan with several cups of water and two cups of organic sugar and simmered it until it had reduced down to a rich, brown syrup. I dipped a fingertip in and sampled our creation. It was delicious. Every bit as tasty as maple syrup (but way cheaper).

Speaking of maple syrup, before this month is out, we may also be tapping the Sugar Maples and other likely candidates (such as Birches) for making syrups and sugars, or just for drinking (a pleasure that everyone should experience at least once).

So, as you can see, for the persistent forager, the season never really ends.