Funding Partners

The Wellcome Trust, through Birkbeck ISSF fund


Updated: Jul 17, 2018

We learnt, we foraged, we cooked, we ate. A beautiful way to say goodbye to the sun before the summer solstice. Although, something I consumed has left me feeling a little queasy today; I'll run through the possible suspects at the end.

Learning skills of food procurement is emerging as an important part of what prepping in the UK means. Foraging as one aspect of this appears on the syllabus of a range of introductory bushcraft and survival skill courses. It is profoundly satisfying to be picking and munching as you walk. Even in a semi-urban area in early summer once the bounty of early spring shoots had past it was impressive how many different plants, in the woodland margins and along the banks of a river, could be gathered. Some only as rare treats to sample, others in abundance.

What can foraging add to prepping? It could be the more instrumental possibility of supplementing your diet or eventually replacing pre-stocked food once these supplies run out. Or a stop gap in a short-term survival situation - something to sustain you for a few days if stranded. It could also be valuable in replacing reliance on mainstream medicine and health aids.

I suspect its ongoing value in the here and now is in an ecological extension to what is called 'situational awareness.' It gives a sort of aware intimacy with your surroundings, a new language or series of signs that brings familiarity, comfort and confidence. Overcoming the concern - stemming from a lack of knowledge - that everything has the possibility of being at least inedible and at worst highly toxic must provide a feeling of almost ecological camaraderie. This knowledge has a spatio-temporal rhythm - there are particular windows of opportunity to gather different parts of plants that are edible at different stages of their growth during the year. These windows depend on specific micro-climates: so something that has past its peak in the warmer city, may still be flowering for a week or two more in the countryside. Knowledge of what can be eaten when - of what has past, what to anticipate - must add to a feeling of belonging, of being at home in an environment.

The zombie apocalypse did come up over our al-fresco dinner, suggesting that this way of valuing foraging skills was on at least one person's mind. They joked that ' I know what I'll do now if there's a zombie apocalypse!' [paraphrased]. Someone retorted: 'Yeah, spend my last night sitting on a hill drinking Himalayan balsam wine, watching the fireworks' [paraphrased]. I suspect it was this wine that gave me my queazy stomach, so unless there are really no other options, I'll not be joining them.

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