Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Of Roots and Divinity
The more I get to know these two plants, the more I love them. Considered a weedy annoyance to many, I actually encourage these plants when they grace my garden with their presence. In fact, this year I prepared and planted a bed of wild carrot from seeds that I gathered and saved from a previous season.
The roots have an intense carroty aroma and flavour. The cultivated carrot that we all know and love is just a domesticated version of wild carrot. They even share the same Latin name: Daucus carota. Wild carrot, or Queen Anne's Lace, as it is also known, has many edible and medicinal uses from seed to root. A word of caution though: it is extremely important to have a 100% positive ID with this plant. Two of the most deadly plants in North America, poison hemlock and water hemlock, are in the same family, and have been confused with wild carrot with fatal consequences. A mistake you certainly don't want to make, so be sure to familiarise yourself with this plant and its poisonous look alikes, if you want to harvest it.
I've got a handful of years foraging under my belt now, a growing body of knowledge and a good sense of the effort and discipline involved in the practice. I've been eaten alive by mosquitoes, burned by midday sun, covered in mud, soaked by rain, with wet feet squelching in my boots, while scrabbling in cold earth with freezing hands.
I know gathering is the easy part and have spent long hours cleaning dirt out of gnarly roots, garbling leaves and carefully preserving the plants so nothing goes to waste. And still, the romance has yet to wear off. I get such a thrill learning about and working with wild plants. I feel deeply grateful to be in relationship with nature in this way and fiercely protective of the spaces where plants grow. I pray that I do right by the ecosystems that I interact with and ask for the wisdom to be a beneficial advocate on behalf of the plants.
You can't tell just by looking at the pictures above, but those unassuming roots are sacred to me. Digging them out of the earth on dirty knees, an act of worship. Spreading their seeds a prayer and gesture of hope for future abundance.
I've visited some of the most famous temples and sacred sites in the world and attended hundreds of church services over the years. Some have left me inspired and soaring, others dull and sleepy. My desire to experience the divine led to study religion in university. In all my seeking, nothing has brought me closer to understanding the interconnectedness of all things as the wild plants have, and I am humbled by that.
Well, I did not start off this post thinking this is where I'd end up! And I guess it might seem strange or downright blasphemous for some, to find religious ecstasy in a pile of weedy roots but there you have it. Some people look at the natural world and see dollar signs, some see the possibility to know the divine in all its manifestations. No doubt there is vast spectrum in between. When you pass your favourite plant, I wonder what you see?