Since we believe that wild foods are the most healthy ones, they are a stable and steady part of our diet. People used to live only on wild foods and were much healthier than their successors, the full-time farmers.
Humans evolved as foragers (and pretty soon became hunters, too), so foraging wild foods is essential for many things from health, over knowledge about the natural world around you, to spiritual connection with your environment.
In the future we would like to have a “food jungle” that sustains itself through permacultural systems and that needs little work to be maintained, so that we can forage while taking a walk through the garden. There are already many wild vegetables that need little or no care and just keep growing.
We regularly go on field trips to the jungle, where we also learn how to identify edible plants. Foraging in the jungle always has to be done with the right mindset, we don’t want to inflict any serious damage on the ecosystem! Edible plants are plentiful in the jungle, but we make sure we don’t take too much of any plant so that the plant can recover fast and feed other animals.
PHOTO PHAK GRA-CHET
This is a wild vegetable that grows as a tree in the jungle. The young leaves are squishy and taste like egg.
Many species of semi-wild fruit can be found in fallow areas where the jungle is slowly working on taking back the land. Among the pioneer plants that inhibit depleted soil of abandoned farming grounds are many edible species and medicinal herbs with tremendous health benefits
Wild cape gooseberries are a cousin of physalis and taste like sweet little tomatoes. The grow on small bushes and thrive even in bad soil.
PHOTO WILD PASSION FRUIT
PHOTO MIMOSA PUDICA
A common weed in tropical gardens is Mimosa Pudica, also called ‘sensitive plant’, because it folds up its leaves when touched. M. pudica is both friend and foe, since it helps increasing the fertility of the soil but at the same time is very spiky and occasionally makes weeding or walking barefoot a bit painful.
The flowers are edible, and juice from the leaves assists our body’s wound healing activity when applied directly on the injury (it has anti-inflammatory properties as well). Furthermore, an extract or infusion of the leaves and/or roots can be used to treat diabetes. Water extract obtained by cooking the roots of M. pudica was found to be very effective in neutralizing cobra venom – luckily we never had to try that ourselves!
When ingested by women in any form the root acts as a natural contraceptive.
PHOTO BARLERIA LUPULINA
Barleria lupulina is an inconspicuous-looking herb that is useful against bites from various animals, including snakes, dogs, centipedes, scorpions, spiders and other insects. Leaves and roots can be applied as a poultice and have strong anti-inflammatory properties. They are also chewed to bring relief from toothache.
If we happen to find more than one wild beehive in one of our trees, we harvest the honey of one of them. Bees are gardener’s good friend and a crucial part of the ecosystem, since they pollinate all the flowers for us – this is why it is good not to be too greedy.
We light the dry flowers of palm trees (they burn slowly like incense) to produce smoke that distracts the bees and use a knife on a stick to cut the bottom half of the hive, which we catch in a bowl. Bee stings hurt quite a bit, so it is always funny to watch someone trying to cut the bee hive without getting stung.
Doing this at night is easier because the bees can’t see well in the darkness and are less likely to coordinate an attack.