Can you guess which wild edible I was taxiing for?
Yesterday: a secret hitchhiker. On one of my sleeves. A travel companion from Brussels to Ghent. Joined me on the subway, the train and during a walk on foot.
Can you guess which wild edible I was taxiing for?
These are a delicious treat, lovely to make when someone is coming over for a cup of tea, as a snack when you're on the road, or when you need some inspiration for your kids' lunch box. We call them super power balls.
Here's what you need:
Place the nuts in a food processor. Blend into small chunks. Melt the coconut oil on a very low fire and add. Next, add the wild edibles. Blend again. Taste and add dates/honey to taste. Take small pieces of the batch and roll into balls. If things aren’t coming together, feel free to add in more dates/honey/coconut oil or even a splash of water to get things moving.
To finish: roll the balls into some grated coconut, carob or cacao powder or sesame/hemp seeds.
These are versatile and sometimes we add some dried wild berries as well: redcurrants, sea buckthorn, mulberries, cranberries, gooseberries, cowberries/lingonberries. Whatever we were able to find.
My kids love to make these nutrient-dense treats, and they usually disappear as fast as we can make them. They were a big hit on one of their birthday parties as well.
* Chenopodium album
English: Lamb's quarters, also known as melde, (white) goosefoot and fat-hen
Dutch: Melganzenvoet, witte ganzevoet
French: Chénopode blanc, ansérine blanche, poule grasse, drageline, senousse, blé-blanc, herbe aux vendangeurs, chou gras
German: Weiße Gänsefuß, Weiß-Gänsefuß
** Equisetum arvense
English: Field horsetail, oblivion horsetail, common horsetail
Dutch: Heermoes, roobol, akkerpaardenstaart, unjer
French: Prêle des champs, Queue de rat, Queue de Renard, Queue de Cheval
German: Acker-Schachtelhalm, Zinnkraut, Acker-Zinnkraut, Katzenwedel, Pferdeschwanz, Schaftheu, Pfannebutzer, Scheuerkraut
Let's not forget the true gifts of this season. The slumbering seeds beneath the soil, the lights that get their value from the darkness, the fierce winds undressing the trees, revealing their magnificent shapes. The story time that emerges from the quiet.
Story time. While the water is boiling or the herbal tea is steeping. A time to share those folk stories and legends about the plants in our daily lives. I love telling them as much as my kids love hearing them. They are part of our oral culture and heritage and have so many hidden layers. They are a woven link with our ancestors. They are a specific but comprehensive language, universally understandable for those who listen. In all those years of storytelling I have yet to find a story that is meaningless. Even if it's a story that claims a certain plant can make you invisible at night, or turn itself into a toad, there's something to be said about that. Not literally of course (though some of us may want to check that themselves), but on a deeper level.
At certain times, storytelling was the only underground way to pass along herbal knowledge. Listen carefully, crack the code and they'll tell you all about medicinal and edible plant parts, toxic uses, the way they disperse their seeds, when they are flowering, where to find them, how they alter our perception. There is something about the human mind that somehow makes us remember things more easily in story-form.
Stories make things accessible for kids, who will discover new dimensions and deeper layers as they grow up. I still get new insights frequently, maybe after the 200th time I've told or heard a certain story. When the time is ripe.
Not my best video, as it was cold and I got distracted a little by my 3-year-old son running around, but I still wanted to share this with you. This is the perfect time for foraging dandelion leaves and making a wild autumn salad!
Working on The Private Life of Plants project made me once more aware of how important the human factor is in spreading plant seeds. Some plants have grown very fond of our company, some thrive in urban contexts rather than in the deep forest, and some seduce us with shiny, bright coloured, sweet and juicy fruits, to make us disperse the seeds. Some hitchhike on the sole of our shoes.
Some plants travel from continent to continent, migrating together with the people who are fond of them. Like the garlic mustard that travelled to the US because the French immigrants didn't want to miss this wild edible plant. Where it became a very invasive species by the way, and in some states it's a threat to local flora.
I have pondered that, as I am a herbalist, and therefore my wisdom is very local. Drop me in a forest in Indonesia or Brazil and this wild edibles expert would be lost. What if I'd move to the other part of the world? I'd probably feel delighted to get to know some new wonderful flora, but wouldn't I also feel lost and alone, away from my trusted allies that I know and I have worked with for quite some time? I remember doing a weed walk in the US, in an area in (roughly) the same climate zone as here in Belgium, and I was thrilled and excited to be introduced to some new plants, but noticed just how relieved I was seeing all the plants I recognized and knew very well. They made me feel a bit more at home.
So yes, even though I know how hard this can be on an ecosystem, and by no means want to minimalize the effects foreign species can have on local wildlife, as I see it happening every day, I can understand that people who leave almost everything behind do want to take a trusted plant. Maybe it's a food plant they love, or a medicinal plant, or an ornamental plant, or a psychoactive plant, or a fiber plant, or a plant to dye with. Or just a plant species you're attached to for emotional reasons. Perhaps because your grandmother used it, or because it was a daily company when you walked the dog.
What about you? Can you think of a plant you would take with you when migrating? What is the one plant you wouldn't want to miss?
The lush green district of Cité Modèle, in the Brussels area, is home to thousands of plants and herbs. Just like the residents, they come from all four corners of the globe. But how did they get here? Whenever plants travel, they come up against exactly the same challenges as people: transport, borders, legislation, illegality, survival tactics and so on.
Curious? I'm leading you around and tell you stories steeped in adventure and history, about tourism in the plant world and what effect it all has on local biodiversity.
More info and reservations here.