I was writing all day yesterday (an article for Permaculture Magazine) and by around four o’clock, I just wanted to shake the words out of my head so I went for a forage. Ostensibly, this was a forage for nettles so that I could make nettle soup, but never let it be said that I cannot stack functions (Permaculture parlance for do more than one thing at the same time). I took the opportunity to learn some new plants.
In my foraging course last year, it finally occurred to me that, learning all of the edible plants and ignoring the rest would be a bit like learning all the vowels in the alphabet and ignoring the consonents. You need the whole alphabet for words to make sense. So, I stopped trying to be a forager and started trying to be a botanist. You can see the archive of plants that we learnt on the course here (if you’re on Facebook and friends with me, that is)
I use my phone to take pictures of things that I don’t know. This time I made the mistake of trying to be artistic and only taking Hipstamatic photos (that’s why they look super-saturated and old-school). If we’re talking ratios (and I am all about the numbers these days), I would say that Hipstamatic photos decrease your ability to identify a plant when you get home by about 30%, which is equivalent to the amount that they make your blog look nice. So, next time I would take one picture for identification purposes, and one for artistic blogging purposes. Actually, I cottoned on to this pretty quickly, and actually made some videos of some of the things that I didn’t know, so that I could see the plant from different angles.
When I get home I use various books and internet sources to identify what I’ve taken pictures of. My two favourite at the moment are these. William gave me Flora Britannica for my birthday. It’s brilliant! When I grow up, I want to be Richard Mabey. He writes about nature so well. This is more of an encyclopedia than an identification guide, but I love it for the portraits he paints of the plants and their place in history and mythology. Botany in a Day is a very exciting book that I have yet to get my head around fully. It teaches you to identify plant families and their characteristics so that you don’t have to learn every plant in your world individually. It’ll take a bit of studying, but I’m planning to make this part of my foraging design. What’s missing from this collection, I think, is a good plant ID book with big, clear pictures. Something like Roger Phillips mushroom guide but for plants. Suggestions are welcomed.
I’m in the middle of doing my design for my foraging project and I am pretty excited about it. I’ll start sharing it when I’ve got more done. It’s going to involve lots more looking in books and some dressing up…