Opportunities for Further Learning
The world of foraging can open up so many opportunities for you to learn about and engage with other related fields and disciplines. As we saw in the Five Steps to Wellbeing, learning is a key mental wellbeing activity, so exploring one or more of these can really elevate your foraging experience, tailoring your adventures to what interests you and your children the most.
Learning about plants and mushrooms could lead you down the path of exploring Natural and Alternative Medicine. Herbalism, the study of the natural medicinal properties of plants, for example, is an ancient and faciniating field, and allows you find new and alternative uses for your finds, such as creating herbal teas, tinctures, oils and washes. Other related fields to explore include naturopathy, homeopathy, and aromatherapy, all of which, also encompass foraging for medicinal benefit.
If alternative medicine is not really your thing, then foraging also offers you the opportunity to learn about the natural sciences. Botany, the study of plants, and Mycology, the study of fungi, are especially relevant areas, but foraging can also lead you to an interest in ecology, entomology and even zoology. Arthur and I are always on the lookout for rare plants, mushrooms, wildlife, and insects, and we regularly document our finds or spots on numerous scientific websites dedicated to the recording of various species. It makes our foraging more engaging, encourages us to learn new things, and provides us with a definite sense of purpose - knowing that we are contributing to a wider understanding of the natural world that surrounds us.
“... The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living ...”
Creativity and Art
As a photographer, I've found foraging to be a wonderful outlet for creativity, allowing me to bring an existing skill with me on my foraging journey, but also granting me a departure from what I normally shoot at weddings. Whilst documenting Arthur's foraging adventures and capturing portraits has been what I mostly love doing, there's also so much scope for other forms of photography too, such as landscape, wildlife, and macro. I also know countless creatives who use foraging to inspire their craft, including artists, illustrators and poets. Not only can the natural world serve as inspiration, it can also serve as a medium for art, and Arthur and I have engaged in some lovely creative exploits with our finds, from spore printing to painting with inkcap ink.
“... The artist and the photographer seek the mysteries and the adventure of experience in nature ...”
Wild food can also inspire a creative spark in the kitchen, which is unsurprising since many of the best gourmet foods are wild-foraged, such as the mighty cep and the delicious chanterelle. Wild food ingredients are a mainstay of popular cookery shows such as the Great British Menu and Masterchef, with many professional chefs now specialising in using foraged ingredients in their cuisine. I follow many professional and amatuer foragers on Instagram, and I'm often in awe at the wonderfully inventive recipes they create from their finds. The rise of self sufficiency and eco-permaculture also means that as time goes on, more and more of us will substitute shop-bought items for foraged alternatives, which only serves to make foraging more appealing to us all.
Exploring Plant Folklore
One of the most wonderful things about foraging is the wealth of lore that is often attached to commonly foraged plants and mushrooms. In the average forager's basket there is not only wild food, there are goblins, trolls, fairyfolk, myths, legends, biblical lore, lashings of luck, alchemical secrets, witch's spells, omens of life and death, and tales of brave knights, vengeful kings and warrior queens. Delving into the folkloric history of plants and mushrooms can really engage children and adults alike, and there's nothing quite as magical as sitting under an oak tree on a Summer's eve, and telling your child about the mighty Oak King and his eternal battle with the sly Holly King, who steals his crown every Autumn, to rule until Spring.
“... Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know ...”
Bushcraft & Survival Skills
Many people like camping, but some people just love the outdoors to the extreme. So much so, they spend days, weeks, or even months exploring the wilds. Think Scouts, SAS, Ray Mears or Bear Grylles and you'll be on the right track - survival and bushcraft specialists. When you're in the middle of nowhere and need a quick snack, foraging is an essential skill, which is why it is often incorporated into this immensely popular pasttime. When learning to survive in the harshest of conditions, or perhaps a zombie apocalypse, foraging becomes important, unless you want to eat each other!