A column I recently wrote about foraging seemed filled with garden-related corollaries. In order to write it, I contacted a couple of longtime foragers and followed them through the mud, brambles and creek beds of a local park as they pointed out various edible plants and fungi.

It was an exciting expedition.

This is ramp season, as I am sure many of you know, but that wasn’t the cause of my interest. I’m not crazy about ramps and don’t even use mushrooms that often. No, the excitement came from the intent focus of my guides. It was clear they were there for the experience, not for the free wild food.

As I noted in my column, foraging is not just about food. Maybe even more important, it’s about acquiring knowledge about how nature works and making sense of those relationships. This is something that is clearly at the heart of gardening. 

I have to admit though, that I was more interested in the various spring ephemerals beginning to make their presence known, including podophyllum peltatum (Mayapples, above) and  erythronium (below). I love seeing these because I grow one and have related hybrids of the other. Wildflowers were noted on our hunt just as much as turkey tail fungi (at top) and ramps.

 In a recent essay for Outside magazine, entitled “How foraging taught me middle-aged self-acceptance,” writer Megan Margulies observes, “Paying attention to the plants around us requires slowing down. Foraging has certainly helped me find my place in my own seasons, my place in time.” She also quotes botanist Bob Popp, who says, “Knowing how to identify plants can help people know where they are in the world.”

That connection, for me, must include knowing how we are affecting the natural world that affords us the opportunity to forage or to garden. That’s why I use this space to talk about climate change, as I can’t accept that it’s not relevant.

Another connection was made when I asked one of my guides what he thought the biggest threat to the wild places he regularly explored. He did not answer me with comments about pollution or development. Instead, he replied, “Disinformation. People google something and decide that they are an expert in five minutes.”

That gets in the way of responsible foraging. It also gets in the way of responsible or even satisfactory gardening. 

Foraging was more interesting than any of my assumptions had led me to expect. I’ll be back out there; though I’ll likely come back empty-handed, it will be worth it.