I grew up in the rural Midwestern U.S. I have never lived in a house that had sidewalk in front of it. Apparently, however, I am a city girl at heart. I'm not comfortable enough with my own limited knowledge to forage for food. I prefer the grocers produce to the bounty offered by nature. I'm confident (foolishly) that what I pay for won't kill me. So I have great admiration for people who know plant lore.
When we lived in Andorra we went up into the mountains every week with the 'Monday Walkers' (as opposed to the Tuesday Walkers – these Brits…always coming up with creative names….). I invited our Spanish teacher on one of our outings; a German lady who had married a local and lived in Andorra for years. When we met at the starting point she had no food or water with her. The rest of us had full backpacks, she had nothing. I thought perhaps she had misunderstood how long we would be gone. When I asked her about it she just said that there was plenty of food and water in the mountains. She proceeded to munch on greens, berries, mushrooms, etc. for the entire walk. When we passed a stream, she'd check it out, then, usually, lean over and drink. I was in awe! I mean, I've been known to pick a wild apple on occasion, but this….
Our friend from Spain, who was here last week for the vendange, is not quite in her league but close. He took the dogs for a walk one afternoon and came back with a sack-full of chestnuts for me. Then he found the tiniest plums I have ever seen (I assumed that they were poisonous berries). They were the size of blueberries. He picked all the ones he could find – said they make excellent liqueurs. Next he showed me how to mat down the weeds so I could find the walnuts when they fell from the trees in the woods. Finally we had a lesson in mushroom gathering.
The timing in all this nature lore was perfect. My garden, that had been over-producing and over-flowing with all things edible, quit last Friday. It didn't slow down, it just died overnight! I'm both saddened and relieved. I am slave to this tiny plot of land no more. The tomato plants turned brown and the tomatoes got all blotchy. The courgette leaves turned white with mildew; the squash leaves turned yellow. In one fell swoop it went from nature's food source to nature's compost pile.
The kitchen counters and gardening tables were finally clear of excess fruit and veg waiting for me to do something to them. The only thing left were the pumpkins. I'll give them another week on the vine, just because. I don't have time this week to deal with them. After all – I have nuts to gather, chestnuts to husk, herbs to dry and, if I can find anymore of those little plums, liqueurs to make. And I didn't want to leave my poor garden with nothing in it.
And the sky is blue, the sun warm….a bike ride is on order today…