Friday, 1 July 2016

Foraging Challenge Attempt Number 1

Last week I attempted the Foraging Challenge for the first time, and I already quit on the third day. Here are my notes so that I can try again and hopefully get better results next time. The challenge was to live for one week on foraged foods only. Since this time I did not complete the full week, the challenge still stands, to be completed at a later time. This blog post is intended to show that foraging is not as easy as it might seem!

I also did not manage to forage all of my water intake, although I did learn to source and filter water, and I am planning to make a water filter for when I attempt this challenge next.

A review of my week

Day 1: Monday 20 June 2016
I started the day with some red clovers. In the evening I had some yarrow tea and a large mixed salad with Lamb's Quarters, Hemp nettle and chickweed.

Notes: I noticed how accustomed I had gotten to eating all the time. I have a lot of food around me everywhere due to all the food I keep rescuing from supermarkets day after day. This has made me very careless about my food intake. I noticed how often I would almost automatically reach for a bag of cookies, nuts or berries, just because it was there. Maybe this is why I felt quite hungry on the first day. Also I had a  slight headache on the evening of day 1, although I am not sure if this is related. Perhaps I was detoxing or slightly dehydrated. I think I did not drink enough water. However, I also felt lighter, and more focused and energetic - probably also related to eating less.

Day 2: Tuesday
I felt like eating something salty today, so I went to collect seaweed at low tide, which I ate straight from the sea. I tried a handful of gut weed (Ulva intestinalis). It tasted okay, but it soaks up quite a lot of sea water, which is not particularly healthy. I also rinsed some before eating it, but I found it ruined the taste and texture a bit. I also tried some rockweed (Fucus gardneri), which was surprisingly tasty and crunchy.

I found some wild roses on the way, so I picked some of the petals for my evening salad. I ended up with a beautiful salad with a base of chickweed and some lamb's quarters, hemp nettle, rose petals, ox-eye daisy and even common lady's mantle. I also tried out a few very young (green) large-leaved linden seeds during the day. Those were surprisingly tasty!

No headache in the evening on day 2. I did have some bouts of hunger, especially after eating the seaweed. Perhaps a coincidence. I felt light and energetic all day and my concentration and focus were significantly higher than usual. Therefore I worked productively without breaks and only minimal distractions for most of the day. I did not eat nearly enough because of that, and again did not drink enough water.

Day 3: Wednesday
Woke up feeling feverish, jittery, weak and a little bit nauseous. I felt like I had to eat something immediately but I had no foraged stock on hand, so I had to resort to my dumpstered gatherings. This is where the experiment ended. I think it was caused by slight dehydration (combination of seaweed and not drinking enough water for two days) and subsequent lowered blood pressure. Since I already have low blood pressure, my body did not handle this well.

What went wrong? What did I learn?

I think several things can be improved before my next attempt:

1. Improve my knowledge of plants: I found out I did not know enough about plants to have a varied diet. However, starting the challenge prematurely did significantly increase my knowledge of plants and helped me identify and try out new things. I always remained on the cautious side though (as one should), because even a small amount of the wrong plant can be fatal. In addition to knowing which plants are edible, I should also know what their effects are (e.g. diuretic), so that I don't inadvertently mistreat my body (see also point 2).

2. The importance of a varied and balanced diet: It is quite a challenge to get a balanced diet from foraged food, but this is the most important part. Many wild plants have strong medicinal qualities which means they should only be eaten in moderation. This also means that one cannot rely on just a few plants for survival, but should use a wide variety of plants and trees. On top of that, the food should provide enough fats, proteins and carbs. Now that is a challenge. Of course, when doing this type of survival for a week this is not as important as it would be if I would keep going for longer.

3. Hydration: I need to remember to stay hydrated. Water can be difficult to come by, so it is important to carry enough water around at all times, or to drink a lot when I have the chance. I also need a water filter and be able to make a new one at any time.

4. Try cooking some food: I ate all plants raw. This is not always a good idea and some plants are better cooked: in a stew or steamed. Drinking tea from fresh foraged herbs is also a good idea to ensure water intake.

5. Quit sugar: Our conventional diet is usually loaded with sugar. This can cause some extra difficulties when suddenly shifting to foraged food, because that usually doesn't have that much sugar (especially when berries are not in season yet). Therefore it helps to cut out any (latent) sugar addictions before getting started.

6. It takes time: It doesn't just take time to learn foraging skills, but once you start foraging, it also takes time to gather meals every day. It is important to take this time. I did not spend enough time foraging for food each day and I underestimated the effort that is needed to gather enough food to maintain optimum health (even for these few days).  Also, nature offers different kinds of food throughout the seasons, so gathering some essential items might take careful preparations too. E.g. nuts and seeds are generally only available in autumn. So, gradual shifts may be more effective in this case than radical changes.

My plan of action:

* I will be studying the local flora intensively from now on, carefully keeping track of what grows where and when it is in season. This will help me familiarize myself with the plants and how to identify them. I will learn about edible as well as inedible plants, medicinal effects and poisonous parts.

* I will continue to eat foraged food in addition to dumpstered food so that I can get used to eating and preparing wild plants and encourage myself to continue learning more.

* I will consciously minimize my sugar intake from now on.

* I also want to learn about natural cleansing practices, because I think my body has accumulated a lot of toxins over the years from eating conventional food (as well as dumpstered foods). I am looking for a black walnut tree so that I can make a tincture to take on my travels as well, but I have not found one yet.

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  1. Hello! I look forward to following along on your next foraging challenge. I have wanted to try this myself. I used to be more proficient at identifying edibles, but the last few years life and work have kept me too busy and my skills have become rusty. Your health is definitely a priority and your new goals clearly show that even in just 3 days you learned so much!

    1. Thank you for your encouraging comment Gina! It was certainly an interesting experience and I look forward to sharing more. I am doing a lot of research at the moment on how to make use of different kinds of plants and food sources. There is so much to be learned... So cool you also wanted to try this! Maybe you have some tips?