Today, upon admiring my vintage style foraging poster in my office, my co-worker asked me if I was a “shroomie.” – And this friends, is how rumors get started.
But in a sincere response to that question, I do have a fascination with the foraging of foods, flowers, and most especially, mushrooms. I blame COVID-19 which led to quarantining which then led to downloading Tik Tok and that ultimately led to a host of new interests.
Foraging is not new, nor is it something related only to antiquated practices. “Foraging is the act of searching, identifying and collecting food resources in the wild. Those include a wide range of plants, mushrooms, herbs and fruits growing around us uncultivated, as stated by britshlocalfood.com.
There is something magical about foraging and educating myself about the earth that is under my feet and surrounds me in all that I do. Foraging furthers me in my journey of renewing my intimacy with the earth and with creation; it is a part of my spiritual practice and a form of meditation, being able to experience a deeper relationship between myself, creation, and the Creator. God made us of the earth and our relationship is symbiotic, and in re-connecting in these relationships, I see my relationship with God strengthen, and I become more self-aware and content in my unique existence.
This new wave of interest in foraging, that includes myself, is incredibly positive as it allows us to connect better with our roots and early influences, and instincts – But it is also a movement that, like everything in the United States, is impacted by racial and systemic oppression, foraging cannot be done without an understanding of how your privilege and my privilege may be treading on cultural practices and our understanding of foraging will never be the same as it is among indigenous communities. I am still educating myself about the role of foraging in indigenous communities and learning to understand how my interest in foraging can exist in a way that honors and respects that role.
Two excerpts from an article from ThisisMold.com about decolonizing foraging, quickly provides a framework for a complex history, narrative, and struggle:
“For me, that’s first, even more than physical nourishment,” Black Elk said. “We have to realize that these plants don’t just feed us physically, but spiritually.” For her, plants are sentient beings, who speak and know her relatives. Believing that live things can only feel if they have a central nervous system is narrow, she says, adding that plants should be treated with the same reverence that we treat animals.
For Baca, the infinite Indigenous knowledge of plants and foraging belongs with the Indigenous community. White men and white women are like little brothers and sisters, he says. “You only give them information that they can handle in an honorable way, because throughout history they’ve proven to us that they can’t,” Baca said. A recent example of this irresponsible use of information happened when people came onto reservations and over-harvested sage, which is known for its antibacterial and anti-viral properties, as a response to the COVID-19 crisis.
If you are curious about foraging, or looking for some calming, yet empowering, magic in your life, I encourage you to give foraging a try. Foraging is a possibility in any landscape, you do not need access to an unbounding forest to partake. Here are 3 great ways to get started:
- Check out two of my favorite foragers (and my two biggest influences on foraging): Alexis Nikole and Jules Amanita . They have relatable, quirky, and easy to follow content. Alexis is based in Columbus and is an amazing example of foraging in a more urban landscape. Jules lives on a commune in Virginia and is a self-taught guru on mushroom hunting.
- Start observing the world around you. You do not need any fancy tools to get started. Look for plants that you don’t recognize, take pictures if you can, and then look them up online and you will be amazed at how you slowly build up your foraging knowledge.
- Look for foraging meet up groups in your area. Even if you are just exploring the possibility of getting more engaged in foraging, this is a great way to meet new people, ask questions, and see first hand what to expect.
My foraging journey is just beginning, but I cannot imagine my identity without it. Welcome to the Mushroom (and plants) Kingdom!