This article first appeared in our Women: time for action issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 02 July 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
Before the agricultural revolution a few millennia ago, every human’s diet would have consisted largely of wild plants, with some entomophagy (eating insects) and a little hunting on the side – usually of the rodent size.
This is ‘proper’ foraging, though it’s not what I’m proposing – not least because it would be impossible to feed the UK population (nearly 70 million) with our wild flora and fauna.
At a stretch we’d be able to feed a million this way; the best land has sadly already been left barren by modern monoculture.
The proposition here is to obtain an edible reward for sure, and the potential rewards run much deeper than nutrition alone.
Foraging is becoming more popular, and rightly so. The trend looks like it’s here to stay, with interest bolstered by the rise in staycations brought on by the pandemic.
The lockdowns have gifted us a perfect opportunity to get outdoors and learn about a few plants – whether edible or not – at the same time.
The health benefits from being active outdoors in the fresh air are boosted with social time and a companion. Walking in the countryside or woodland has been shown to bestow benefits to the immune system and mental health, with a staggering 50% improvement of functionality (according to Dayawansa, 2003; Li, 2007 and Park, 2010, among others). A drug with this sort of efficacy would be hailed a ‘wonder-drug’.
Japan leads the way in the understanding and appreciation of walking in woodland. Shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’, involves a walk through the woods that takes on the form of a sensual journey, with eye-candy from aesthetically pleasing shapes and colours and olfactory interest from various pungent plants.
By sitting in quiet contemplation, the sounds of nature are allowed to permeate our senses.