Plantastic! A Horticultural Journey

On the Pursuit of Plant Wisdom

I grew up barely able to tell the difference between a maple leaf and an oak leaf. I perceived, somewhat dimly, that the crunchy green things I put into my mouth when I ate a salad were plant-related. And now I work with plants for a living. I still have so much to learn in my journey toward plant literacy, but I’ve certainly come a long way. I’m taking my family along for the ride, too. If I’m patient enough, and lucky enough, my kids will not only know the names, biology, and uses of plants in our area, they’ll have a deep and long-lasting reverence for the magic of the natural world. What follows are some of the best tools I’ve made use of along the way:

Credit: Emma Frisch

Learn about (and eat) wild edibles. What better way to learn about plants than to digest them? As we know, an experience that engages all five senses will stick in the mind far longer than a paragraph read on the internet. You’ll feel the texture and taste of the plant on your tongue, and feel the way it sits in your stomach. Go on a wild edible walk with a knowledgeable guide to learn what’s safe and good to eat. Taste the surprising sweetness of black locust flowers, crack open your first shagbark hickory nut, bring home a sack of fiddleheads and sauté them up (as my wife has done the past few springs) for your loved ones. There is a world of gastronomic delight right outside your door. Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer is the most enjoyable book on the subject I’ve encountered. Though I haven’t personally taken any, I hear Earthwork Wilderness Survival Training School offers informative classes all through the summer and fall.

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