The most frequent question I am asked is how do we know where is safe to forage?
This is perhaps the most important question to ask, but quite difficult to answer, especially in an urban, or suburban area. Generally the rule is 100 ft away from a roadway. This is due, in part, to the fact that gasoline contained lead in it until 1995, where it was then phased out by the EPA. There is large concern that this is dispersed along the roadside in high concentrations. It is also important to recognize that pesticides sprayed are persistent; they stay in the soil for years. Pesticide and herbicide sprayed areas are unfit and poisonous for human consumption. That said, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are also sprayed on conventional foods, and sometimes its not a black or white issue, but more pertinent is the relativity of our actual dietary choices.
If we are eating all non gmo, and organic, then of course we will want the purest source that we can find. Still, it is important to understand that organic food is still sprayed, it is just sprayed by FDA approved pesticides and fungicides. This has 2 obvious loop holes. One of them, lobbying by chemical companies, and the other, that often new chemicals created by companies made are yet to be banned due to lack of research because of their newness. More info on this can be seen here
With this in mind it is important for all humans to have a relationship with the land they live in. This has always meant watching populations, herds, plants, as all of our ancestors always have done. Insuring the guarantee of biodiversity through caretaking, conscious harvest, and utmost respect for the elements we require for survival. And, most importantly, in our modern age it has taken a more challenging twist. This now means getting familiar with who is spraying what around your neighborhood, park, or township, or getting familiar with what a superfund site is, and where they are located. Here is a map of superfund sites to check in your area. I remember last year as mosquito spraying trucks went around to all waterways spraying chemicals, when addressing the local township they let me know conveniently that they are not required to tell the citizens that they are spraying. More info on that can be seen here
These 2 potentials represent the most highly contaminated areas and unfortunately limit the capacity of self-sustenance, homesteading, and survival practice. The saddest part of NDE (Nature deficit disorder) is to watch your foraging habitat be systematically destroyed due to short-sightedness, or just plain ignorance. I found my first oyster mushroom stump when I was around 19. After taking near hundreds of pictures of them I went back several days a week with a water bottle to harvest the larger ones, and spray them down with water to mimic more rain cycles. It was a mini cultivation experiment, and I was regeneratively picking. This was a profound and mystical life changing experience to interact with this organism in this way; It wasn’t about exploitation, but about symbiotic relation and mutual benefit. The next year I went back to that sacred spot, and they completely removed the stump; ripped it out without a trace. Probably, at least partially, because of seeing me and thinking I was trying to “trip” or that I would kill myself. These things have happened all my life in NJ, and I know they happen with alarming frequency (I’ve got plenty more personal stories).
In time, we have seen with the example of chernobyl, if humans stop adding insult to injury the land will regenerate itself into a lush paradise. Chernobyl is now home to the largest wolf population in the world, along with seeing resurgence of eagles, bison, and several species thought to be extinct. But, it often takes the moment right before “too late” for humans to adapt a hands-off methodology for land restoration. I foresee that in the near future we will realize, either by force, or choice, that nature has things much more taken care of than we can ever imagine.
In a sane world, we would not have these modern issues to contend with, afterall the alternative to these harmful practices is free and local organic food and medicine. Due to the current ideology and practice of weed treatment, as well as OCMD (Obsessive compulsive mowing disorder) the forager is rapidly losing their habitat.
Happy foraging and be safe!
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