yesterday, on a hot sunday afternoon surrounded by the lame attempt at skyscrapers that grace my fair city, we picked berries. it turns out that downtown grand rapids, along the grand river, is a forager’s dream.
but let me back up first, since i have discovered that many folks don’t know what i mean when i say “forage.” foraging is the gathering part of “hunting and gathering,” i suppose. it’s looking for edible plants and their fruits in a place other than your garden or your grocer. it’s walking through the woods, or downtown in our case, and coming home with a meal. foraging is a way of making good use of the bounty God naturally provides for us, and it’s also a great way to get you to your locavore goal (my own goal is to have 80% of my food source come from michigan, year round). along the way, it reconnects us to the earth and reminds us why it’s so precious and worth taking care of.
so last night, a few of us from our community went downtown and picked berries: juneberries and mulberries, to be exact. we picked enough to fill two large colanders when we got home. we passed by many others that could have been picked, if not for the “danger pesticides” sign alongside the trees. while picking, we saw lots of people walk by with confused faces (and a couple that my friend said “gave us the stink eye,”) and only a few that asked us what we were picking. we offered a taste, and got varied responses. everyone said they really liked the berries,but not many seemed to want to do it themselves. we marveled at how people can have gorgeous, free, tasty food right in front of them for the taking-and opt for a packaged collection of non-food in their grocer at the edge of the city instead.
but here we were, in the middle of the city. and though we had some curious folks stop for a minute, no one seemed to be catching on. towards the end of our venture, some folks were sitting on park benches across the sidewalk from our tree. well, i should say: they were Sleeping on said park benches, but sat up curious when we came along with our baskets. they were quiet, and watching, and so finally we asked if they had every had juneberries. showed them how to pick them, which ones were ripe, and what berry bushes to avoid. hmm, interesting, they said. and sat back down on their park bench. we moved on to another tree down the way, thinking yet another disinterested response…
but then one of us looked back-to find all four of the group picking away! one woman, especially animated as she instructed the group and ate as she picked, gave us hope that we had shared the joy.
because food, you know, is about joy. food is about sustenance and connecting with the earth and celebrating and giving glory to God. we lose so much of what food could be, when we push a metal cart around a sterilized box full of non-food. and that is why i forage, in the middle of the city, on a hot summer’s day: because i want the joy back.