One awesome benefit to a zone 4/5 area in a permaculture design is the ability for wild edibles to offer themselves without any input from us. How awesome is it to go for a walk into the woods or through a prairie and realize that you are walking through a grocery store where all you had to do was make the decision to let nature control the production.
I’m not an expert about every wild edible out there – rest assured – but I do learn about new edibles that appear on my property every season. By continually learning I discover that plants I have previously just walked past are now a place I can stop for a snack.
Typically, wild edibles are not going to produce the amount of edible food that your managed kitchen garden or main crop will do – but that’s okay. Wild edibles have so many other benefits.
If simply not having to worry with the whole system of seed harvesting, seed storing, germinating, growing, maintaining, and harvesting is not enough to convince you, then perhaps the fact that many wild edibles are also cherished for their medicinal value will help convince you. For nothing more than a pleasant walk and minimal harvesting you can get sustenance and medicine. Excellent.
Two beauties are standing out at J&J Acres right now – Elliot’s Blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii) and Wild Violet (Viola sororia Willd.).
Elliot’s Blueberry sure is a hit with the wildlife here. Deer were browsing the leaves well into late winter. Now the flowers have finished and the berries are being set. These berries can be used in any of the same ways your more common blueberries are – just that they are much smaller of a berry.
Wild Violet’s dot our forest floor and as it happens there is a great patch right next to the best Elliot’s Blueberry patch we have on the property. These Viola’s are know as a good addition to salads and can also be used in making tea for many various medicinal reasons (if adding a splash of edible bluish purple to your salad wasn’t a good enough reason to give it a try).
If you don’t have the space for a zone 4 or 5 wild edible foraging system, do not despair! Elliot’s Blueberry can be relocated from the woods to an area in your garden and viola’s would just love a spot in the edge of another planting or in a container of their own! They require for you to help care for them in these locations, but you can at least enjoy what nature has to offer!
What wild edibles do you see around your area? I wager that there are a lot more than you think there are! Go take a walk and keep a sharp eye – Happy foraging!