Category Archives: politics and commentary

Doc Weed: Foraging on the Rise

While I was going crazy for dandelions this past month, you might have noticed that I referenced a certain Dr. Peter Gail in several posts, such as this one and this one. Gail, who also goes by Doc Weed, is the president of the Defenders of Dandelions and proprietor of Goosefoot Acres in Cleveland, Ohio, selling his books and DandyBlend coffee substitute. I first came across Gail in my search for dandelion recipes. His Dandelion Celebration proved a treasure trove of information on how to harvest and cook the common backyard weed.

Recently Gail has been part of a discussion preoccupying members of the Forage Ahead Yahoo group: Is interest in foraging increasing? The blog Cincinnati Locavore initially posed the question, receiving responses from some professional foragers (i.e. those who teach foraging workshops and lead field trips) including “Wildman” Steve Brill and Leda Meredith of Leda’s Urban Homestead. Both Brill and Meredith reported a recent increase in interest, with classes and field trips filling. Now Gail has thrown his hat in the ring with a post on his blog.

Quote: I am finding far more interest in my workshops now than has been the case since 1998 and 1999, when people were responding to the Y2K scare, and were coming out in droves for my classes.

I’ve always focused on the fun and educational value of foraging—the time spent in the outdoors learning how to identify, harvest, and cook wild edibles. But more and more I keep hearing how this “forgotten skill” will be in demand in the not-so-distant future as we are faced with escalating energy costs, food shortages, and possibly large scale societal changes in a post-oil world. What do you think?

Grow Your Own

By now most of you interested in local food issues and the environment have probably read Michael Pollan’s latest dispatch from the food wars in today’s New York Times Magazine. If you missed it, the article exhorts readers to grapple with climate change by planting a vegetable garden—”to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind.”

A friend of mine told me the other other day, after seeing a comment of mine attached to a NYTimes piece, that I was giving Pollan too much credit for galvanizing the local food movement.

Well, I’ve mentioned Pollan exactly once in this blog previously, but it’s true: I do give him kudos.

Like any successful writer, Michael Pollan has earned himself a backlash. Critics question his facts, his sourcing, his originality. My take is this: Pollan’s genius lies in his timing and his ability to synthesize a panoply of arguments. Though the original ideas may not be his own, he has the skill to make those ideas clear and accessible to a broad audience. He’s droll and self-effacing; serious without being overly earnest, didactic without being too judgmental. In short, he’s a good messenger. (Lord knows we need to get the message.)

If he’s getting rich off his new gig as a spokesperson for local food, good for him. In any event, it’s a reasonable piece of advice: Go outside, get dirty, and make something grow.