Back when I was studying forestry, I remember the big panic about maple syrup prices. Acid rain was causing a huge decline in sugar maple trees in New York and Quebec. And one thing I learned in Economics 101 is, when supply drops, price increases. As a forestry student especially, working out in “the bush”, real syrup was a delicacy so this was Really. Bad. News.
And though I was one of those “nuts and berries” eaters, I dropped the ball on the whole climate change thing. Yes, we were concerned about climate change back then. But we couldn’t garner enough excitement about it at the time to really make a global difference. For years, I just did my own little environmental things. I did have one big question, though: what happens when climate emergency causes wide-scale destruction of crops as a result of drought, floods, and out-of-season snow?
Well, it is happening. As a result of climate change destruction, last year the rain simply would not stop in my area. We saw farmers unable to plant their crops in soggy fields and the price of homegrown vegetables and fruits climbed exponentially. This is not only a sad fact historically, but future effects will be extraordinary.
The causes of crop failure are many. Small farms are very different from large farms with fewer varieties of crops (called monocultures.) Large farms must do much more to get the same yields each year. More topsoil, more pesticides, more watering, and more human interaction are needed. When hundreds of acres hold only green peppers or cauliflower, one plant-specific fungal infestation can quickly destroy the whole crop.
Farmers with smaller tracts of land might also use similar land practices, and if so, will suffer the same consequences. Seeds sit in their bags, ready to be sowed. Seedlings sit in the greenhouses, growing too large for the machines that could have planted them quickly and efficiently, and more cost-effectively.
And now, it’s too late in the season to plant them.
So, hello to higher prices. In Ontario, Canada, where I live, the affected produce is varied. From strawberries and blueberries to grapes for wine; to peaches, pears, and apples; to every type of vegetable grown here in our temperate land.
Just for fun, let’s take it to the next Armageddon. The only foods we will find are from farms that diversified, or from larger farms that were fortunate enough to have more temperate and “normal” weather. Diversified farms will be charging much higher prices because demand will be huge. If you don’t have your own well-tended garden, or something valuable to trade for the produce, you may be shut out of this year’s veggie bounty.
The alternative is the good news/bad news that we are all wonder about.
Lovely, full, green, mature, forests.
These natural spaces are our saving grace. Don’t expect them to look like your groomed annual vegetable garden, but they can provide so many nutrients, and some amazing tastes for your crazy, flavor-loving palates.
For example, instead of expecting to find baby spinach in a plastic container in the produce section of your supermarket, what about changing it out with wild spinach (lamb’s quarter), mixed with wood sorrel, dandelion leaves, violets, and purslane? Throw in some wild berries and your favorite dressing, and you have a wonderful new taste.
“Well, what about nutritional value, Hollie? Will it be worth it to trudge through the woods to forage?” Well, I’m so glad you asked! Have a look at the table below. You won’t need to eat baby spinach again!
|Spinach Salad||Wild Spinach (Lamb’s Quarter)||Wood Sorrel||Dandelion||Violets||Purslane|
|8 oz* raw||8 oz cooked||8 oz raw||8 oz raw||8 oz raw||8 oz raw|
|7 calories||97 calories||25 calories|
|0.86 g protein||9.6 g protein||1.5 g protein|
|30 mg calcium||692 mg calcium||147 mg calcium|
|0.81 g iron||2.4 g iron||4.5 g iron|
|24 mg magnesium||76 mg magnesium||154 mg magnesium|
|167 mg potassium||127 mg potassium||Good source potassium||1,116 mg potassium|
|2,813 IU** vitamin A||3,248 IU vitamin A||Significant vitamin A||Significant vitamin A||Significant vitamin A|
|58 mg folate||84 mg folate||Significant folate|
|0.1 mg vitamin B6|
|0.1 mg riboflavin|
|22.4 mg vitamin C||Significant vitamin C||Significant vitamin C||Extremely high vitamin C – rated one of the highest on the planet!|
Now, maybe you don’t live near a huge forest. I get it. You have to look around some. But parklands also qualify, if they haven’t been marred by too many dogs, feet, picnics, and pesticides. Step past the curtain! Every wooded area grows a curtain of thick saplings, prickly brush, heavy branches, and/or wet areas. Do your best Indiana Jones impression and chop your way through. It’s well worth it – you will find the greatest cornucopia of food imaginable!
No woods? No problem. I will also tell you what edible plants are right in your backyard! Every urban area, every suburban area, every street has plants that are edible. All you have to do is find them in a more or less uncontaminated state.
What other foods might be there? After your salad, collect some snack foods. Towards the middle and end of summer, you can find a great assortment of nuts, berries, wild grapes, and flowers. Even your own neighbourhood may provide mulberries and wild grapes in abundance, as well as seeds from plantain (a nutty flavor all by themselves!)
Grape leaves can be used to wrap meals on the grill or in the oven. Like cabbage rolls, grape leaf rolls can cradle delicious rice/meat mixtures. The added flavor is amazing!
My goal and utter pleasure are to take you through the woods to show you plants that you can eat safely. I will show you the plant, discuss its characteristics, identify look-alikes that are not safe to eat, and give you tips on preparation for cooking, storing, or drying. You can just sit back in your comfy chair while I take you on a virtual walk in the woods. Read my blog, learn a bit, and have some fun.