My friend Sylee organized for us to go on a foraging walk last saturday.
Wild plants have to fight to survive, so they pack a much heftier nutritional punch than commercially grown vegetables that are mollycoddled with fertilizers and the like. Apparently, chimpanzees, our closest relative in the wild, eat a diet of fruit and foraged greens. While the bulk of our diet is made up of grains, flours and meat. This was generally the gist of the opening talk given to us by our foraging guide, Elisabeth Westphal.
After spending about half an hour trying to swallow, dry sometimes hairy leaves that tasted mostly identical and promised to fight “der Schleim” or phlegm. I started to think “Don’t we live twice as long as chimpanzees, anyway?” and “Well, I’m sure if chimpanzees had a choice between hairy green leaf and say salad nicoise, they would probably choose the latter.” Let’s face it, they would probably eat toothpaste right out of the tube, given the choice. And if slime is really such a problem, maybe we should call the ghostbusters?
But then we moved on to some more interesting edible greens. Wood sorrel; a small, clover like plant, made up of three heart-shaped leaves, tender and sour. I had visions of it on strawberry tarts. The young shoots of pines, succulent, with a strong resin taste, I could imagine them in a salad of olives, capers and tomatoes. Wild garlic flowers, a whisper of garlic, which I scattered straight onto the pasta salad I had brought along for lunch.
Of course there were the stars for foraging starting with elderflower: which should flower in the next two weeks, Elisabeth told us, meaning I can get in a few batches of elderflower cordial on before I leave Berlin for the month of June. We also spotted; raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.
I was most surprised by the blueberry plant, small and squat, I had only ever previously seen them in plant catalogues. The leaves give off the most incredible smell if you rub them between your thumb and forefinger. That is how I plan to find them again when it’s blueberry season but I took a picture of them just in case. While I was looking for a toilette, Sylee and I stumbled across these working glass houses. I peered through the open windows and took a few pictures. I looked at Sylee, she looked at me and said “A Petersham Nurseries style cafe, right? I totally see it too!” Not sure if people would get on a train and a bus to eat here but it was so gorgeous, it really got my imagination going.
As for foraging? Jokes aside, I enjoyed it. Enough so that I’m going to get myself a book and come back here again with a picnic and some friends. Oh and those strawberry tartlets!
…and mosquito repellent, lot’s of it.