Will's Wild Food Diary

 Wild food diary

Fresh, organic and free! Of all things bushcrafty, nothing gets me more excited than a foraging adventure.

From time to time, I update this page with a different wild food that is in season- gradually building up an online reference on some of the foraging delights available to us.

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Disclaimer: There's loads of good stuff to eat out there and much of it is very easy to identify. Unfortunatly, there are also some plants and fungi that can make you seriously ill or worse. This diary is a brief overview intended to inspire and not a substitute for a good field guide and teacher. I will endeavour to point out any obvious poisionous look alikes but ultimately foraging is the individual's responsibility. Unless you are 100 percent confident you know what something is then leave it alone! Please also be aware that, as with any food, different people can have different reactions. It is wise to try just a small amount first.

Mugwort- Dream on

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This plant only just squeezes into the wild food category but is one that I’ve come to really appreciate over the last few years.

Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) is likely a plant you have walked past at some point but perhaps never taken much notice of. It usually starts to make an appearance in mid-spring but really comes into its glory around mid July into early autumn. Where it can grow to a couple of metres high. P1020109

Prior to the adoption of hops it was sometimes used to flavour ale. I cannot vouch for what that flavour would have been but on last year’s van trip through France and Spain we certainly found its aromatic qualities helped P1010022with the cheap red wine. For this kind of flavouring it is best to pick the plant when the leaves are still quite young and fresh such as in the photo opposite.

For the last 5 years however my main focus with this plant has been making smudge sticks. These bundles of dried herbs were used for ceremonial purposes and for energetic purification by the Native Americans, a wise people with deep connection to the land. In the south western pacific area of north America they used the native white sage and this is what has gained popularity in recent times over here.

It has always seemed a bit odd to me that we should be using such a far away plant from a completely different culture- especially considering it is often not harvested in a sustainable manner. So this is why I started experimenting with mugwort.

Although I've not found historical proof, I think the Druids of this land- our very own ancient shamans would have created smudge sticks from the plants around them. Certainly mugwort is recorded as one of their sacred herbs so it’s not a hard stretch of the imagination to think that they would have burnt this plant with it’s sweet and pungent aroma. Possibly inhaling it too- I can concur that burning this shortly before bed time creates some very deep and lucid dreams- the ability to consciously observe and control your dreams and a very interesting source for creative inspiration. I have also heard of others who gather the leaves and put them inside a pillow with similar effects

IMG_0020 2Making a smudge stick of Mugwort is pretty simple. Pick the whole plant- ideally mid July to late September when the flowers are out. Fold the plant up until it is about 30 cm long, then bind it very tightly together and dry it well. You might need to combine a couple of plants to get a nice thick stick. I use hemp string for binding but any natural fibre like a strong cotton would work. 

Be aware though that it can crumble a bit as it’s burning so it's sensible to keep this as an outside activity and dip it in some water and leave it outside after use- I have known it to smoulder away unnoticed which would obviously be very dangerous if you were to take it back inside and store it away. Incidentally, mugwort is the herb of choice for the technique of moxibustion in Chinese medicine, the herb is burnt over various accupressure points to release stagnant energy and restore balance.

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Foraging considerations: Mugwort is a tall slender plant with leaves that look somewhat similar to a cannabis plant although no relation. If you rub the leaves lightly there should be a slightly sticky residue from the high level of natural oils and there should be a smell somewhat similar to lavender – again no relation. The stalk is usually a dark red colour with a slight groove and the undersides of the leaves are white with a fine downy texture. It can often be found growing along footpaths and colonising waste ground freely.P1010284

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