I’m happy with how much interest people seem to have in plants. “Can I eat that?” and “What’s that one good for?” are normal topics of discussion on my plant walks.
I vaguely remember a time when I walked out in to the woods and didn’t know much about plants. I was young and loved the woods but knowledge: not much. What I saw then is common to anyone without much nature training. It’s called “the green wall”.
Sounds scary. And it can be! Where do I start? “Can I eat that?” It can seem overwhelming to think about not only identifying every plant in the woods so I don’t poison myself and THEN learn what I can eat or use for medicine, when to pick it, how to prepare it…. You may say “I might as well not learn anything and leave it up to the professionals. There is just too much to learn.”
A helpful thing to remember for aspiring naturalists and plant lovers is that things are a bit more organized than that. Yes, chaos theory may apply to some things (like variations in the same plant, wow!) but there are some pretty easy ways to tell them apart too.
Let me give you an example. Know what a banana looks like? Could I convince you that you’re looking at an orange? Do you need to know every fruit in the world to see the difference? Once you KNOW a plant you will know it. It’s that simple. Start with one plant family that you’re interested in and like everything in nature, what you learn there will start to hitch on to everything else, until you don’t realize that you’re learning and the extent of what you know.
All that being said, There’s way more answers than “Yes you can eat it” and “That one will cure a cold.”
WHEN do I harvest it?
HOW do I use it?
WHAT does it look like at the right stage for use?
Join us in a Edible or Medicinal Plant workshop this year to get a jump start on your learning. Until then whet your appetite with these articles:
Winter Herbal Apothecary