Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hedgerow Resources

Despite the remit of this week I definitely wouldn't be leaving my copies of my chosen books on a bench anywhere, I couldn't bear to part with them. I would, however, definitely consider buying more copies and leaving them on benches to spread the word. And that in itself is a high recommendation of them as I don't tend to buy books now-a-days. I find that Libraries amply supply books that I want to read. The only purchases I permit myself are reference books that I will not necessarily read all in one go, but will keep refering back to for years to come.

So now that I have thoroughly piqued your interest I shall introduce my chosen books. The first is actually by Norfolk authors Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, Hedgerow Medicine: harvest and make your own herbal remedies. It is a fantastic introduction to the ecology, history, folklore, medicinal properties, harvesting techniques and potential uses of 50 herbs which can be commonly found in UK hedgerows. It is clearly laid out with beautiful photographs and is very easy and enjoyable to read, although it is impossible to take in the information on more than a couple of herbs in one sitting! As well as providing interesting anecdotes (such as the fact that WW2 pilots ate blueberry jam sandwiches before a flight to improve their nightvision)there are also many easy to follow recipes for concocting your own remedies with clear explanations of their medicinal properties.

My other book is River Cottage Handbook: Hedgerow by John Wright. Now I happily sat down and read this book in one sitting, not because I was able to absorb all of the information in it at once, but because John Wright is such an engaging and amusing author. I would like to treat you to an excerpt:
"I am frequently told that going on a walk with me can be rather disconcerting. Except for the occasions where I offer my companion the odd leaf to chew upon, I appear to be strangely distracted and barely listening to what is being said to me. Well, I am - usually - listening; it is just that I am doing something else as well - looking.

Once one learns the foraging way of life, it is difficult to stop. If my walking is absent-minded, my driving is lethal. Foraging at 50mph, with eyes darting right and left and the occasional abrupt punctuations of the forager's emergency stop, has made me a danger to all road users."

And I know from experience that foraging on a bicycle is not much safer! In common with hedgerow medicine, this book gives you a detailed introduction to each plant, its distribution, appearance, harvesting technique and ways of eating it. It also, usefully, details some of the very poisonous plants that you need to make sure you avoid!

Between these two books I am slowly, season by season rediscovering my environment and transitioning my approach to food and health. And how exciting it is to concoct your own Rosehip and Rowan berry syrup to boost your immune system. For me it is the ability to take these books in bite-sized chunks that appeals to me, so when I happen to spot something whilst on a walk or I find time to go on a foraging foray I can dip into these treasure troves of information and glean a bit more knowledge of the world I'm living in and how I can be a part of it.

I would like to share these books with other people as they are easy and engaging introductions to foraging and herbal medicine. The revelation that you can eat things that grow all around us and which you can collect for only the cost of your time, challenges the supermarket concept of food, linking the consumer directly back to the source. Similarly herbal medicine calls into question some aspects of our current health system, especially the 'purity' of many medications, which only consist of one or two different chemicals and are consequently quite harsh on the body. In comparison plants are incredibly complex, containing many different compounds that work in harmony to affect change in the body, this results in much gentler medicine.

A greater understanding and personal control over our food production and healthcare will be very useful skills in the Transition. As will an increased connection to our environment. So come on, give it a go, eat weeds!

I did have lots of lovely photos for this blog, but blogger is having none of it so I will have to add them later!

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