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Barefoot foraging

| 13 Feb 2024 | 03:59

This spring, I invite you to take a walk on the wild side. Grab your foraging basket and kitchen shears but leave your shoes behind. The grass is soft, the earth is moist, and our wild spring greens are still demure, many just beginning to peek above the grasses and hold their flowers high. What better way to discover these nutrient-packed greens and flavonoid-infused flowers than sans shoes.

When I walk barefoot, I pay close attention to my every step. Hey, my ancestors may have been doing this for lifetimes, but honestly I’m still a newb. In paying close attention to my footfalls, I can’t help but notice the five-petaled white faces of chickweed creeping along the creek. And I don’t just see the tiny plants, I feel them, smell them, which assists in plant identification. The Velcro-like leaves of cleavers cling to my ankles as I graze by, and the fuzzy tops of purple dead nettle cushion my steps. The faint scent of garlic rises to meet me as I pad over soft garlic mustard leaves, followed by mint as I wiggle my toes in the ground ivy. Barefoot walking, also called earthing, not only enhances your foraging experience but scientific studies suggest it may be helpful in reducing inflammation, supporting immunity and regulating sleep cycles.

Barefoot walking provides an intimate way to connect to the natural world, and for me, that’s what foraging is all about. Yes, wild food is nutritional, medicinal and free, but that’s just the icing on the nettle cake. There’s no drive-through in foraging; the practice requires slowing down. To see the plants that grow around us, we must walk more slowly and observe our surroundings. To further distinguish an edible plant from an inedible lookalike requires yet more focus. Are leaves opposite or alternate, are flowers five-petaled or four? Before even harvesting a plant, you’ve spent 15 minutes quietly in nature. During which you heard a chickadee call, noticed an earthworm wriggling through the soil, felt the sun warm your back when the clouds cleared. The reward extends beyond your basket of greens. You’re not just shopping, you’re preparing a meal in your earthly home. Give it a go. Your belly, feet, and spirit may thank you for it.