Why eat wild foods? Reasons abound!

IMG_1484

Photo: Michelle Johnsen

From Dillon Naber Cruz of  Susquehanna Permaculture’s Foragers Co-op:

Perhaps you have wandered past our stand, The Foragers’ Co-op, at the new Lancaster East Side Market at Musser Park and been bemused by what was displayed on our tables.   We’ve had a wide variety of edible wild plants for sale, everything from birch twigs (smell that wintergreen aroma!) to various roots, leaves and even stinging nettle! “Stinging nettle, what do you do WITH THAT?” seems to be a common query of many passersby. It’s a delicious green vegetable, makes a wonderful tea and a hearty nutrient-filled broth for soup.  Additionally, stinging nettle is used by many people to help with seasonal allergies and joint pain.   And that’s just a start!

One great reason to eat wild foods is that they are extremely good for you!  Wild-grown foods are typically more nutrient-dense than cultivated vegetables (though eating organic veggies is also a brilliant plan for staying healthy). Eating wild foods gives our bodies micronutrients like trace minerals that are not as readily found in cultivated foods, plus loads of vitamins. Stinging nettle, for instance, provides copious amounts of iron, calcium, as well as vitamins A, K, and D.

Wild edibles also add highly beneficial variety to the typical American diet.  Many Americans only consume five “vegetables” on a regular basis (I put “vegetables” in quotes here because that list includes corn, potatoes and tomato sauce).  Scientists have shown that our health is best supported when we eat a wide variety of brightly colored vegetables. Wild veggies like long leaf plantain, burdock stalks, violet greens, dandelions, nettles, and more all have the potential to help bring Americans into a healthier state, like the peoples whom were living here prior to European contact.  The American Indians were recorded by the Europeans as being tall, strong, and without blemish or disease. Their diets were rich in wild foods.

Eating wild foods from The Foragers’ Co-op also supports our efforts at Susquehanna Permaculture to tend local marginal lands, woodland areas, and meadows with the ethics of permaculture as our guide. Those ethics are: earth care, people, care, future care. A significant portion of the proceeds from The Foragers’ Co-op market stand and sales to local restaurants goes into our efforts to “rewild” these areas through the following activities: planting edible species that once thrived in this region, transplanting important species to appropriate areas in order to spread those species to more parts of the region, removing rampantly dispersive plants that choke out important species, rebuilding soil, careful pruning to encourage growth, and ethical harvesting of abundant species that proliferate here.  Recently, we have reintroduced Apios americana  (common name hopniss or ground nut) to a local woodland area.  Along with that we’ve transplanted wild leeks and planted wild strawberries in the same area.  As we continue to work on these efforts our region will become more ecologically diverse and abundant in wild edibles, which will benefit all who live here.

Eating wild foods is an increasingly popular thing to do as is evidenced by the number of top level chefs worldwide who seek out foraged ingredients to fill out their creative menus.  These ingredients are fresh, unique, delicious and healthful.  Foodies on a budget can shop at our Forager’s Co-op stand to create their own delicious recipes or perhaps try one of ours (provided on our website and at our stand). Eating foods from our stand or at local restaurants supports the local economy, increases the biological diversity and health of our region, and adds nutrient-rich diversity to one’s diet. Eating wild is a win, win!

IMG_1308

Photo: Michelle Johnsen

Picking a farmer

unnamed

Emily, Green Moon Farm! Photo: Michelle Johnsen

From Emily Kelly of Green Moon Farm:

Before I became a farmer I worked at an organic CSA. Before I worked at an organic CSA, I ate McDonalds. I ate MTO from Rutters and I ate sandwiches wrapped in plastic. In my defense I was in college, and I didn’t know any better. After I graduated (malnourished by the way) I started working at Goldfinch Farm. I put my hands in the dirt, I learned how to plant seeds and how to tend the magical plants and give us food. I learned about nutrient cycles and soil microbes, beneficial insects and the way the sun smells. I learned about GMOs and roundup. For the past five years I have never given a thought to where my food comes from. Everyone I know is a farmer or a home gardener. We all understand the value of growing our own food and exalt in the opportunity to work with our Mother Earth to feed ourselves, our families and our communities.

This summer I am not farming. I have taken a break from the life I love and understand to move to Ohio and help my sweet momma in her fight against breast cancer. So here I am in a city I don’t know, surrounded by landscaped lawns and golf courses and I wonder, what the hell am I going to eat this summer. I am trying to navigate local harvest and the internet as a whole and I feel totally overwhelmed. How do you know if a farm is organic? How do you know if the  farmer talks to their plants while they are weeding? How do you know if they love the honeybees? Do they enjoy their work? Do they feed their families Dandelion salads and Nettle tea?

I will tell you how you know. You ask them. You go to the farmers market and you ask them. Ask them what the birds say to them at dawn. Or what their field smells like at dusk. Ask them how they grow your food. Ask them why they became farmers. Ask them to see the dirt under their fingernails. Ask them about their favorite vegetable and the best way to prepare it. Farmers love to talk about food, and if they don’t, then find another farmer. You want vegetables with heart, vegetables that were loved. There is nothing more empowering than being handed a tomato by the person who has lovingly tended it from seed to seedling to fruit.

The incredible Farmers of East Side Market are passionate about growing food for you and your family. Growing food with the most care and respect for our planet and the most care and respect for your health. So do yourself a favor and head to East Side Market and talk to these beautiful women about their vegetables.

Real food

10013795_622614657822866_85184025_n

From Rachel, Assistant Market Manager:

Do you remember the first time you had real food? Not just any food, but food from a farm-to-table restaurant, or fresh from your family’s garden, or just picked from a local farm. Food made with fresh, flavorful ingredients so delicious that even the simplest preparation makes for a spectacular meal.

I still remember my first experience with “real” food. I had a bunch of beets with greens from a local farm, and I approached them as I’d approached vegetables my entire life: as a necessary dietary evil. But we had a good recipe, so I was trying to be optimistic. We peeled and roasted the beets in oil with salt and pepper, then sauteed the greens with garlic, oil, and red wine vinegar. When it was done we tossed the beets and greens with crumbled feta and some pistachios for crunch. I braced myself to suppress that icky-vegetable face on behalf of the others, took a bite and…the food was amazing. Great rich beet flavor with a taste so fresh that I could practically feel my body absorbing the vitamins. The greens were sweet and the flavors, while simple, went together perfectly. I suddenly felt that I’d been wrong about vegetables my entire life, that they weren’t the garnish on the plate but were in fact the main event.

East Side Market is focused on bringing just such real food to you and your family. You can stop by and ask the farmer why this beet is the best she’s ever grown, get a bread recommendation directly from the baker, discuss the ins and outs of local honey with your beekeeper, learn from the chef exactly how much difference fresh herbs can make in a quiche. Our vendors are our farmers, our bakers, our chefs, and you will be getting food from the people most passionate about it.

1376447_10101875693711643_1277475996_n

Wintering the Farmer

1602180_600136643407958_805922539_o 1891029_992638407910_617452098_n

From Emily Kelly of Green Moon Farm:

People ask me all the time, what is it exactly that farmers do during the long, dark, cold winter days. And to be honest the answers vary. We knit, we read, we sew, we play music, we cook, we surf the web, we socialize, we nap, we relax, most of the things normal people do on a daily basis. The things we don’t have time to do when we are working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week during the farming season. We also do a lot of arguably unpleasant things too, including taxes, data entry and generally trying to make sense of the whirlwind that was the last season. And once we have had a chance to catch our breath we begin planning for the next season. Seed orders, planting schedules and dreaming. When we are trapped inside because outside there is a polar vortex and 2 feet of snow, we dream. We dream and hope. We dream of the wonders the next farming season will bring. We dream of 7 foot tall pea vines. We dream of germinated carrots and big fat brussel sprouts. We dream of the smell of the warm soil and the feel of the sun on our backs. We dream of that bite of the first ripe tomato, warm from the sun, juices running down our faces. We dream of butterflies on zinnias. Very soon we will start seeds in the greenhouse, and we will breathe a sigh of relief because spring will soon be here and we will be able to be back doing what we love. Being out side, growing food, all of us worshiping Mother Earth in our own way. We will throw ourselves in to our work with a renewed passion after our long rest. For me, winter is hard, particularly February, particularly this February, but as it comes to a close this year, I am reluctantly thankful for the down time, and I can’t wait to get started.