It's another dreary, unusually cold, rainy, April day here. Perhaps we should have put a little more oomph, into that Ostara celebration!
Perhaps thinking of warmer days will help on this seemingly extended winter...
Wildcrafting is the practice of sustainably harvesting plants from their natural habitat for food or medicine. It's just another nifty little label that gets some of us weirdos/enthusiasts on the same page.
It was warm in 2009 in the fall when my friend and I wildcrafted ginko nuts. Somewhere on a distant hard drive are pictures of that day (does anyone else have extreme difficulty keeping things safely in digital format?? We always lose them...).
Ginko trees are fascinating. They call them "living fossils". Ginkos have pretty much outlived any diseases or insects that would have preyed on them, they are "recognizably similar to fossils dating back 270 million years"( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginkgo_biloba). I cannot remember now where I read it, but male trees have been known to suddenly change into female ones. This is unfortunate for some, since they planted the males to keep from having the ginko (or "stinko" fruit as my husband calls them) fruit all over their yard and/or sidewalks. According to that same article on Wiki, the trees are so hardy, a few trees were still standing and continued to survive after the blast at Hiroshima, when the other trees and plants had all been destroyed. Some of the lore I read said that you should not eat more than a few nuts at a time (I think the article said 8), but some articles are saying children should not eat more than 5. Honestly, I don't like them well enough to bother again, but I am probably a bit jaded on the subject.
We knocked on a neighbors door, asked if they minded if we picked the fruit off the ground (of course not! why would they want anything to do with those nasty fruits!) We picked a ton...mistake number one.
Took them home, and we did have the wherewithal to get latex gloves to get the fruit off. I did not anticipate, however, just how much of a reaction you can get from the substance in the fruit related to urushiols (just like the sap in poison ivy). We washed off the fruit around the nut in warm water (probably allowing my skin to absorb even more of the irritating substances) and it splashed over the the gloves and onto my wrists. We processed a lot of the fruit, a whole afternoons endeavor, not knowing yet, that you can only eat a few at a time.
Within a couple days I had what I can only refer to as the worst poison ivy rash all over my wrists that I've ever had,and it started at a direct line of where the gloves had stopped protecting my hands/wrists.
I had my wedding a few weeks later, and I counted myself lucky to be wearing long gloves...
Before all that itchy, oozy suffering, when I ate the nuts I felt a little "off". I honestly can't tell you what it felt like. I just got the intuition I shouldn't eat too many of them at once. When I looked it up online, I found the lore saying you should only eat a few at a time, and I concluded they were mildly poisonous in some way. One would expect that from the way the pulp is so toxic.
The nut itself isn't bad, and reminded me a bit of edemame. I concluded however, with my extreme loathing of poison ivy, and the extreme similarity of the ginko fruit rash to poison ivy rashes, that it was only worth it if I was starving.
Perhaps if I covered myself in a body suit of latex while processing the fruit and...you know the nut wasn't delicious enough for any of that...
My friend's blooper was no less ridiculous.
I reckon everyone that enjoys wildcrafting has a blooper to
tell, but I don't know enough of them to get a clear picture of that.
One of the people I know enjoys hunting for morels and other edible
mushrooms. He also just enjoys identifying them (it's like finding a
rare animal or flower, if you can imagine enjoying that sort of thing).
One day he came across a destroying Angel mushroom. It's tall,
slender, pristinely white, it looks like some sort of enlightened little
being. I have certainly never seen one in person and neither had he.
It was beautiful. A picture of the same type...
Destroying Angel picture
by it's beauty, in child-like admiration and play, he dryly, kissed the
top of it. The Destroying Angel mushroom is very toxic, but I don't
think he could imagine how toxic until a few hours later when his
stomach was rolling. I do not now remember if he actually began
vomiting or not.
The sad thing is it's not like either of us were unknowledgeable, but both underestimated the potency of the plants/fungus we were dealing with. Is there a lesson to be learned here? ;)