The March/April issue of Orion Magazine features a short essay by Yours Truly called “Stalking the Urban Nettle” about the lessons I learned from my two wild food week experiences. The article is not available on the magazine’s web site and the actual issue can be hard to find on the newsstands. So here, curious readers, is an excerpt. It’s the good part:
“The spiky green balls that line autumn curbsides are hiding chestnuts, which can be roasted and pounded into a nutritious flour. And dandelions, those perpetual rebels of manicured lawns, offer their roots year-round as a caffeine-free coffee alternative for anyone willing to oven-bake and ground them.
It is, of course, one thing to know that wild food exists and another to depend on it.
“There is a fine line between dumb ass and bad ass,” my friend Will Schattel once cautioned me. As it turned out, this was a kind of prophecy for my first attempt at living exclusively on wild food for a week in the city of Portland, Oregon, in May. I had been warned by savvy herbalists that it would be a tough time to find calories, but I tried it anyway, encouraged that indigenous people had lived this way for so long in the very same place. I quit on the fifth day after nearly fainting from hunger and stress. My meager diet was the baked roots of thistle and burdock, the greens of chickweed, dandelion, and stinging nettle, and tea made from pine needles, cleavers, and wild chamomile. Though I wanted to avoid killing animals, I got so desperate that I even tried eating ant eggs. This was pointless—the spongy little things were smaller than Tic Tacs.
In Native American stories, Coyote is portrayed as a playful trickster who teaches in unexpected ways. When you learn through folly, it is said that you have been dosed with coyote medicine. Indeed, my mistakes were most educational. I learned that nature is not like the grocery store. Wild edibles appear briefly and then disappear within weeks as the seasons progress. Like a squirrel, the successful forager is the one who stores acorns in advance of the winter. And most importantly, I learned that survival is a collective endeavor.”
I am really, really, really excited about my upcoming article on RealitySandwich.com about plant consciousness and pop culture. Stay tuned for that one — it’ll be available very soon!