(Originally posted in 2014. Updated and edited November 2020)
When I first got into foraging, it was because of one thing: survival. One of the most unusual reasons why I love food so much is my fascination with wild food and living off the land.
I’m a geek and when it comes to gaming I love to immerse myself in a world where I have to fend for myself and survive in the wilderness. The idea of having to build something from scratch and be able to identify foraged foods successfully thrills me more than buying ingredients from a supermarket shelf. After all, we all stemmed from a point where survival of the fittest was the only solution.
It’s no secret that food plays an important part in our own existence but often I feel like we don’t see the value in it because it’s so readily available (often through the click of a button). And so, sometimes I like to imagine what it would be like to have to come up with a food source and construct a makeshift shelter.
I ask myself: Could I survive?
I’m not talking about running to a supermarket and raiding it clean, but what could I actually make from the most basic of ingredients, straight from the wild?
Despite what a lot of post-apocalyptic games and books lead you to believe, oftentimes it’s not about what’s in store, but what’s in your backyard. And wild food can be just as delicious as anything found on shelves.
Growing up in Kerry when it came to trying out nature’s finest, I would rarely give up the opportunity to try something that was on the doorstep. Periwinkles, sea spinach, samphire, elderflower, sloes and wild garlic have been regular features on my foraging adventures and I live with the seasons. The art of survival is more than just a hobby.
I adore putting on wellies and traipsing through fields – consulting my books on edible plants and getting an even bigger kick in creating something with them. This year after spotting ground elder which is often seen as a nuisance, we instead decided to eat it, making pesto and steaming the leaves. Dandelion buds became dandelion capers and wild sorrel added a kick to salads.
But it’s not only County Kerry’s flush wild edibles that contributed to my love of foraging and indeed the survivalist nature within me but video games and post-apocalyptic literature too.
Whether I’m swept away on a Raft trying to build a fort from driftwood or kitting out my workshop after a hard day mining and lumbering in My Time at Portia, I find myself intrigued by the worlds that could have been.
Given the stresses of being constantly glued to the computer and phone for work and pleasure, along with the endless bombardment of “likes” and newsfeeds, a world without technology actually sounds quite blissful at times. Maybe this is why I retreat to the fields with my books for peace of mind. I think editor Andrew Sullivan put it quite well when he said: “I Used to Be a Human Being“.
“I was in an unending dialogue with readers who were cavilling, praising, booing, correcting. My brain had never been so occupied so insistently by so many different subjects”
“I realized I had been engaging — like most addicts — in a form of denial. I’d long treated my online life as a supplement to my real life, an add-on, as it were. Yes, I spent many hours communicating with others as a disembodied voice, but my real life and body were still here. But then I began to realize, as my health and happiness deteriorated, that this was not a both-and kind of situation. It was either-or. Every hour I spent online was not spent in the physical world.”
This potential for inner peace will always be one of the main reasons why I pursued my interests in wild food and I think that’s what’ll keep me going in years to come. When I go into the hedgerows I know, I won’t be disappointed. The only thing vying for my attention will be nature itself and I’ll appreciate every moment with her.