Foraging Tour, July 30
Chickweed, dock, plantain, clover, and dandelion. Weeds, they would seem. Most of us would walk on by without a glimmer of thought as to their utility. Some of us might recall seeing dandelion leaves in those pre-washed, ready-to-eat, packaged salads sold at supermarkets, but that’s probably it. Yet on the warm Wednesday evening in Mount Pleasant where a number of us gathered, our guest Lori Snyder, of Earth Awareness Realized Through Health, showed us otherwise.
“A man may esteem himself happy when that which is his food is also his medicine," Henry David Thoreau once said. For Lori, this quote encapsulates her exploration of the flora that surrounds us in the British Columbian west coast. After spending fifteen years discovering the alternative lives of ‘weeds’, where instead of nuisance they are deliverers of nourishment and healing, Lori has a plethora of knowledge about how we can interact with the natural world about us.
Rediscovery, instead of discovery, would really be more apt a word for what Lori has done, for the path she has embarked on is one that has been taken by her ancestors before her - the Métis. Lori’s ancestors had a sense of mindfulness in how they related with the natural environment around them. Just enough was taken so that life could proliferate on all sides: person, plant, and creature. It is tempting to imagine that for the people’s prudence, the plants revealed their innermost secrets to them.
In turn, Lori, and others who have found wonder in the botanical world, share information about the abundance literally at our feet. On that evening as we took our herbal foraging tour, we could barely walk a few feet without stopping to learn about the beneficial properties of this or that plant. It was like meeting neighbours for the first time and dispelling the air of anonymity. Plantain can neutralize insect bites and bee stings. Usnea is a powerful antibiotic. Chickweed can relieve dermal maladies. Dandelion contains essential minerals. Rosehips can be made into a jam or a tea. Blackberry leaves can be used for hair dye. The list goes on.
Our evening excursion ended at the Means of Production garden, an artists’ raw resource collective space where what is needed is sown and allowed to meander. Instruments have been made out of strong stems, and dye material has been extracted from a special type of flax. These are just some of the beneficial things that the plants have allowed us to do. The garden is open for everyone to enjoy. With so much abundance, it is hard not to do so!