With the first day of Spring, comes the birth of a new online project, to share my botanical adventures and a system that I have found helpful in my plant studies, P.E.M.U.
My journey started something like this..
- Buy plant books when I was a kid.. lots of them
- Go on plant identification walks.. lots of them
- Try to learn a bunch of plants.. lots of them
- Forget a bunch of plants.. lots of them
And so my 30 year love affair with foraging finally reached a frustration point several years ago when I realized I needed a better way to learn.
What I had learned in all those years was that I never forgot a plant that I ate, used for medicine, or used for another purpose. Observing that the key to my understanding was experiencing, I set out on a new path of study, as I realized the best plant book is the one you write yourself.
And so the P.E.M.U, Project was born and in the pages of my books, I would identify and document the plants around me with a simple system that follows.
1. Identify the plant with the use of a good field guide and write the identifying characteristics down.
These are my two favorites for my region.
http://www.amazon.com/Wildflowers-Tennessee-Valley-Southern-Appalachians/dp/1551059029/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426908635&sr=1-1&keywords=wildflowers+of+tennessee – Lone Pine is arranged by families and publishes field guides for other regions
2. Using Tom Elpel’s “Botany in a Day” system, identify and write down the family characteristics.
3. Sketch the plant. Drawing really makes you focus on observation and old school naturalists knew this.
4. Research the following qualities in books or on the internet. (Listed in additional resources)
- Poisonous- because I need to know this first
- Edible – because I get hungry
- Medicinal – because I may want to use if for medicine
- Useful – because I like making fire, baskets, cordage, etc.
5. Make a checklist for discipline and integrity.
Example: I love groundnuts and have eaten them several ways, but I have never made flour out of them or baked them, so the next time I harvest some, I will be motivated to resist frying them up and try new stuff.
The last thing I do is add a page number, the plant to the index, and mark in my field guide the corresponding volume.
So starting next week, the P.E.M.U. Project will be a regular feature of this blog as I continue my explorations of the botanical world.
- Don’t eat anything unless you are 100% sure that you identified it correctly
- Avoid gathering near roads or areas that are sprayed with herbicides
- Foraging may not be permitted on some public lands
- Obtain permission to forage on private land that you do not own
- Avoid harvesting over 25% of the plants, unless they are invasive exotics
Online plant resources: the ones I use the most
- http://www.pfaf.org/user/Default.aspx – Best online resource I have found.
- http://www.eattheweeds.com/ – Great write ups with lots of details
Foraging books that I use the most –
- Sam is the real deal and his books are the best – http://www.amazon.com/Foragers-Harvest-Identifying-Harvesting-Preparing/dp/0976626608/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1426910625&sr=1-2-catcorr&keywords=sam+thayer
- Sam Thayer’s 2nd book – http://www.amazon.com/Natures-Garden-Identifying-Harvesting-Preparing/dp/0976626616/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429580821&sr=8-1&keywords=nature+garden
- Doesn’t cover as many species, but great in depth info – http://www.amazon.com/Edible-Wild-Plants-Foods-Adventure/dp/1423601505/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429580873&sr=8-1&keywords=kallas+edible+plants
- Arranged by seasons, Steve Brill’s is another great resource – http://www.amazon.com/Identifying-Harvesting-Edible-Medicinal-Plants-ebook/dp/B003TO584C/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426910678&sr=1-3&keywords=Steve+brill
- Leda Meredith’s is a great quick reference (2 pages per plant), but I refer to it for info on preserving the harvest – http://www.amazon.com/Northeast-Foraging-flavorful-edibles-wineberries/dp/1604694173/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1429581145&sr=1-3&keywords=leda+meredith
I start herbal medicine school in April, but the books I have used the most up to this point are:
- Good reference written by some heavy hitters – http://www.amazon.com/Peterson-Medicinal-Eastern-Central-America/dp/0547943989/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426910783&sr=1-1&keywords=medicinal+plants
- In depth reference for my region – http://www.amazon.com/Medicinal-Southern-Appalachians-Patricia-Kyritsi/dp/0977490505/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1429581289&sr=1-6&keywords=appalachian+herbal+medicine
I received this photo after posting my P.E.M.U. 0001. It made my day. Way to go Ian and thumbs up to Dad for taking him out!!