My son started foraging at around 17 months old. Does that make me the best Mum on the planet? Yes. Does it more than make up for that time I found him with a tube of open super glue in his mouth? Why yes, yes it does. Smug.
At that age and over the coming months he could identify and heartily ate wild raspberries, blackberries, pineapple weed, elderberry and sea buckthorn berries. He helped me pick wild garlic leaves, cleavers and reedmace with whatever his little hands could muster (bless his little garlicky socks).I won’t forget the time we went to the nearby park and he found a patch of pineapple weed and proceeded to eat it straight from the ground like a
cow boss. Cue a visit from social services.
In all seriousness, it’s absolutely vital to me that Lochie learns how to forage from a young age, not least because it’s an extra pair of hands to cut down on some of the manual labour! Am I right?
Our children absolutely should know what is edible and poisonous. The only thing I could identify growing up was rhubarb in my neighbour’s garden!
They should have both a faith in and a humble respect for wild nature. It’s this disconnect between ourselves and our environment (same thing really) that’s got us in to the mess we’re in with this planet. I believe our kids are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder and one way to overcome this is to get them outside and engaging with their environment. Foraging is a great way to do this!
Most importantly, children should have access to the unbelievable nutritional powerhouse that is (sadly) only to be found in wild plants these days. Our kids need and deserve these phytonutrients. Chicken goujons just ain’t gonna cut it.
Finally, if we don’t nurture and protect this knowledge and teach our children respectful foraging practices, we might lose this expertise in just a few more generations. That would be a sad loss and ultimately contribute to our very demise (dnn dnn dnnnnn.)
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy to go foraging with a toddler. When he was a baby I could strap him on me and get on with it. Trying to negotiate barb-wired fencing, rivers and sheep whilst avoiding him falling head first in to nettle patches or down a ravine (hello, social services) is quite another matter.
But I’m certain that as both my kids grow they’ll come to enjoy foraging as much as Mummy does. Hell, maybe they’ll teach me a thing or two.
In fact, I know they will.