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Falling Into Nature's Bounty: Foraging at Quercus

Falling Into Nature's Bounty: Foraging at Quercus

Lately, I've observed a subtle shift during my morning walks at Quercus. The refreshing caress of a gentle breeze heralding the promise of the approaching cool autumn weather on the horizon is replacing the sticky humidity that Georgia residents know all too well. With this shift of temperature also comes the changes in the foliage as fall begins to paint our landscape with a riot of colors. This time of year is one of my favorites as it beckons those with an adventurous palate and a penchant for foraging. Here at Quercus, foraging for wild edible plants during this season offers a unique culinary experience and many potential health benefits. I recently spent a Tuesday morning walking our creek line with skilled guide Care-Lee Langston, of Wildcraft Kitchen.

Along with my trusty little four-legged companion, Athena,we spent two hours crossing pastures and hardwood forests to Red Oak Creek insearch of wild plant foods that will soon grace the plates of diners coming toexperience the culinary delights of Quercus. As I quickly learned, the propertywas teaming with nutrient-rich wild edibles taking up real estate on the land.These included wild mushrooms, berries, nuts, and various greens.

Some of the most exciting sightings were the wild grape (Vitissp), known here as the muscadine, whose sweet and tangy fruit was missingthanks to the herds of deer roaming the land. The leaves of this vine would bea great option for a local take on the traditional Greek dolmas, while thefruit could be used to make jelly or a deliciously sweet wine.

Another find was the American Beautyberry (Callicarpaamericana), a graceful arching shrub that produces a bright purple berrywith an astringent flavor. I never knew this little fruit could be turned intoa lovely jam while the leaves are a useful insect repellent.

A surprising discovery was Sweet Everlasting (Pseudognaphaliumobtusfolium) or Rabbit Tobacco. This silvery green “weed” has potentmedicinal properties, making it a great bronchodilator for chest and sinuscongestion. According to Langston, this herb also imparts a wonderful smokeyflavor when used to smoke meats.

Other surprising finds were wild ginger (Asarum canadense),passiflora (Passiflora incarnata), and sumac (Rhus typhina), yes,the herb that is widely popular in Middle Eastern cuisine!

While I could sit here and write about the over twenty species we identified in just two hours of foraging, I will spare my readers the details. In fact, I hope you will come join us here at Quercus to experience the joy of foraging on your own.

The art of foraging not only presents an opportunity to truly live in symbiosis with nature but also introduces us to an untapped world of culinary exploration. Wild ingredients can add unique flavors and textures to dishes, contributing to a diversified diet. 

Did you know that our ancestors had a much wider variety of plant foods in their diet compared to ours (Barras, 2016)? In some hunter-gatherer societies, it is estimated that people consumed several hundred different plant species as a part of their diet. These societies relied on local plants and had a deep knowledge of their uses for food, medicine, and other purposes.

It seems that with the arrival of modern agricultural practices, our consumption of plant species has since diminished to a relatively small amount compared to what indigenous and traditional cultures used to consume. This is a sobering thought,especially since recent research highlights the nutritional superiority of some foraged foods. For example, mushrooms like chanterelles and maitake are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them wonderful dietary additions for boosting overall health.

Autumn foraging at Quercus offers a delightful way to connect with nature while reaping the abundant nutritional and medicinal benefits. However, it's essential to approach foraging with caution, relying onre putable sources, and considering safety, ethics, and sustainability. By following evidence-based insights and expert advice, individuals at Quercus can embark on a rewarding foraging journey that not only tantalizes the taste buds but also nurtures overall well-being.



Barras, Colin. (2016, December 5). Ancient leftovers showthe real Paleo diet was a veggie feast. New Scientist.

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