The organization Nature of the North is storming Fargo with their mission to get everyone out and in nature one way or another. This week’s attempt is a workshop featuring Cyrus Bickell of Disgruntled Brewing in Perham, MN. A man who is familiar with living off the land as he lives in a home that is 100 percent off the grid.
There was a lot of demand for a workshop about foraging and they answered. The workshop will cover many portions of what it takes to forage successfully in the wild. Topics will include: where to forage, what to forage, when you should forage, how to be safe while foraging, what gear you will need and how to cook what you find. The workshop will also include a section of “snack time” as Jon put it, where attendees will be allowed to try dehydrated, fermented, and cooked foraged foods. It will be a dang good time with dang good people.
For those readers who don’t know about the practice of foraging, it goes back to our nomadic ancestors who once hunted and gathered most of their food consumed. Foraging is the gathering portion of our heritage. It’s the act of going into nature and finding foods. While most of us won’t travel too far from home to gather our foods from nature. Our nomadic ancestors who once walked the plains would travel large distances to gather what they needed to provide sustenance for themselves and their people.
Nomadic camps would move regularly to find the best foraged goods. Depending on where berries, mushrooms and wild indigenous plants were growing, the tribe would go, considering refrigeration wasn’t a thing yet. The food if not preserved would have to be consumed shortly after collection and being close to the source guaranteed the freshest in harvested goods. It wasn’t until the agricultural revolution that homo sapiens truly laid down roots; no pun intended.
In the past five years there has been a cultural push to create a renaissance of our native’s ways and to return to the land that once provided for us. Another portion of this week’s workshop will also entail how to forage, but not to forage too much -- respecting nature is the first step to enjoying it. It is in the best interest of the gatherer to preserve the environment that the foraged food originally was found. This portion also goes back to our nomadic ancestors. It has shown that most of them camped in an almost cyclical nature. They would move with the season and with the growing schedule of their most harvested foods. For instance, if there were berries in the north in summer, you can be almost positive that’s where they would be. Wild game also followed similar paths and this allowed for hunting and gathering to coexist together. Different parts of the country would also provide different sources of nutrition and this created a diverse diet.
The fun of foraging in modern days is that it adds a more active and mission-oriented concept when spending time outdoors. It also exercises the mind along with the body. The best taxonomists or identifiers of indigenous plants are the best foragers. It’s not always the strong that survive in this activity, it is the individual with the best knowledge. One plant could make you seriously ill, as another could kill you, and without the knowledge of taxonomy and how to prepare what you find the forager will not survive. Luckily our current culture isn’t reliant on foraging for foods, and most people will never have to, unless of course there is some cataclysmic event, but knowledge of this skill and craft can be a great way to get outside. It allows us to really look at the living world and can hopefully dole out some respect for the earth. We live on an amazing planet that has edible food that grows naturally.
The workshop will cover multiple types of foraged goods. Wild greens, trees, mushrooms, and fungus are the major groups that can be found in “our own backyard.” Unfortunately, the foraging season is almost over, so you’ll have to wait until next year to find your own harvest, but at least you’ll have a solid knowledge base. NON is planning a workshop while the snow is still on the ground next year, and outings to provide hands on foraging instruction, so look for more to come. Talks of fishing workshops are also in play, so if you’re hooked on hunting and gathering, you’re in luck.
Join Nature of the North on Saturday May 26th for a rousing evening at Wild Terra. You might even meet a new friend to drink and go foraging with. Go forth and forage.
Saturday, May, 26th 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Wild Terra Cider and Brewing, 6 12th St. N, Fargo
by Sabrina Hornung
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