Soggy & Clandestine Foraging
A couple of nights ago I posted on Facebook and Twitter the following update: Gotta be out the door at sunrise to do something soggy and vaguely illegal. It’s time to explain.
On a recent foraging tour I’d noticed a pond in a park where the pickerel weed was in peak, perfect bloom.
The cattails looked quintessentially cattail-like:
There was a sturdy fence around said pond.
There was a spot where said fence could be easily breached.
A bit of backstory to make sense of what happens next in this tale:
I am working on my third book, and it requires taking photos of wild edible plants. Naturally, I want to capture images of those plants when they are at their peak. So when I saw those two picture-perfect wetland plants, I knew I had to photograph them asap, but…
(I would have to wade into the pond to get good shots).
I was at the pond at 6:30 a.m., which I’d arbitrarily decided would be before any park rangers would show up. As I walked towards the pond I didn’t see anyone except dog owners, runners, cyclists, and one other intrepid forager who was collecting lamb’s quarters.
I jumped the fence and hid under some branches while I put on my rubber boots. Once I stepped out into the water I was completely exposed to the view of any passersby, but they paid me no heed (thank you, text message obsessed New Yorkers).
The pond was stinky. Other than that, I felt suddenly peaceful as I focused my camera on the pickerelweed and cattail. A frog croaked nonstop while I did my deed. I guess I was intruding on her turf.
On the way out, I stopped – again under branch cover – to take off my wet boots and put my hiking sandals back on. While doing so I found wild parsnips and northern bayberry.
But I was dismayed to spot reed a.k.a. Phragmites along the water’s edge. It’s a non-native grass that is choking out native Typha (cattail) species in some places. If I could work this particular pond without worrying about park rangers, I would be less interested in harvesting food from the cattails than in clearing out the reeds to give cattails a chance (don’t worry – the overall reed population would survive that act just fine).
So yeah, I hopped a park fence. But I didn’t harvest anything…this time.