Monday, June 25, 2012

Eating the Bike Path: Grape Leaves

The grape may not be gathered from the birch?
It's all you know the grape, or know the birch.
As a girl gathered from the birch myself
Equally with my weight in grapes, one autumn,
I ought to know what tree the grape is fruit of.

—Robert Frost, "Wild Grapes"

The idea of foraging for wild edibles somewhat romantically evokes trekking deep into the wilderness, but the reality is both more and less romantic: edibles are all around. They are in your backyard, in the park and even growing up through the cracks in the street (which, though tenaciously lovely, you probably don't want to eat). My favorite place to gather wild edibles is the Manhan Rail Trail here in Easthampton. Within a half-mile stretch, you can find chicory, garlic mustard greens, dandelion, blackberries, lamb's quarters, pokeweed, japanese knotweed and grape leaves. There's probably more that I can't readily identify, too. These vary in how accessible they are to eat: blackberries and garlic mustard greens can be eaten on the spot, while pokeweed must be picked very young and boiled (I haven't gotten to eating this one yet, but I have harvested its berries for dyeing purposes). Many of these plants thrive in sunny roadside environments, but best foraging practices recommend collecting edibles at least 20 and preferably 100 feet away from the road. This is what's beautiful about the bike path: it has all of the sunny growing and easy-access benefits of the roadside, but without the exhaust fumes.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...