poetry and prose about place

growing and gathering – the benefits of eating ‘very local’ foods

with 13 comments

In 2007, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon embarked on a year-long experiment in eating local. Their book, The 100 Mile Diet – A Year of Local Eating, introduced many to the idea of obtaining their food from nearby sources. It reminded people about the thousands of kilometers our food has to travel to make it to our tables. It pointed out some of the barriers to ‘eating local’ and showed how, with a little ingenuity and effort, our diets could be more environmentally conscious and sustainable.

Eating local foods is a sound choice in our illogical world.  It supports local farmers and producers. It mitigates some of the energy costs associated with moving food hundreds of miles to the consumer. It honors our origins and connects us to our ancestors who lived their lives more simply and locally.

Into this concept of eating local, I include the idea of eating wild foods whenever possible. My mother grew up in a time when bulging grocery carts were unheard-of. Without subscribing to any particular theory of eating local, she supplemented her food with wild edibles as a matter of habit. In addition to using rhubarb and currents from her garden, she picked berries when they were in season, tried to convince her family to join her in eating dandelion greens and sour dock, and showed us how to pick spruce gum from spruce trees as a chewy treat.

Eating ‘very local’ has many benefits.  The edible plants growing right outside our doors are filled with nutrients, many are very palatable, even delicious, and they are present in great variety, and in all seasons.  They are free and are easy to harvest and prepare.  Picking berries or chewing spruce gum puts us in touch with nature and helps us to understand our role as a member of the ecosystem.  It honors the people who came before us and helps us connect with the way our parents and grand-parents lived their lives.  Identifying and picking wild plants for food is an enjoyable activity and a way to show your children how to be thrifty, engaged members of the ecosystem.

In an upcoming post, I will look at some of the ethical issues around using wild plants as food.



six bottles of jam


I reach up, for a cluster of pin cherries

and stop –

above me, my grand-mother’s hand

dry as a page from her recipes,

age-spotted, worried at the edges

her ankles are swollen, but she is determined –

enough berries for a half-dozen

bottles of pin cherry jam



© Jane Tims 2012

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

13 Responses

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  1. Your Mum sounds like an interesting character. How fun to grow up with a parent who teaches you “how to pick spruce gum from spruce trees as a chewy treat.”
    Love the poem. You achieved so much with so few words.



    June 26, 2012 at 1:51 am

  2. Beautiful poem. The description of her hands is so lovely and and speak so much about life. reminded me of making marmalade with my Nana when she was in her 90’s and her determination to make it in the ‘proper’ way with the hand crank food mill. Very evocative poem.



    June 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    • Hi. Thanks for the comments on the poem. It means a lot to me to know it reminds my readers about their own memories…. Jane


      jane tims

      June 23, 2012 at 7:26 pm

  3. Hi Jane, The local produce we buy surely tastes better!

    I’ve been buying my clothes and other things at Bethesda Thrift Store in Sheboygan Wisconsin, which is a Lutheran Ministry for people with disabilities. Another good way to support local efforts to “recycle.” Love the old sweaters for a few dollars with bright colors. Ellen


    Ellen Grace Olinger

    June 23, 2012 at 6:53 am

    • Hi. You are right… it’s one reason I love antiques and second-hand shops so much! Jane


      jane tims

      June 23, 2012 at 7:15 pm

  4. Oh, Jane, I love your use of poetry in bringing your grandmother to life, especially since now both the pages of my own recipe books and the back of my own hands LOOK like my Grandmother’s! Although things change, for some things what goes around comes around. 🙂


    Jane Fritz

    June 22, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    • Hi Jane. As I grow older, I look in the mirror and see the ones who have come before me. Jane


      jane tims

      June 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm

  5. Fabulous poem and post Jane.



    June 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm

  6. A great post. We struggle constantly with the balance between eating locally and perhaps paying a bit more money, and with buying at the stores because it’s easier and cheaper. It’s laziness for us at times to go the easier route. We are conscious of the local food available and of the benefits of eating better, healthier and at times, from the wild. It is a struggle to educate ourselves and to be more careful of the environment. But, is is a struggle we are determined to win.


    Carol Steel

    June 22, 2012 at 9:54 am

    • Hi Carol. Well-said. Even a few changes in the right direction are worth-while. We are lucky in our area to have Farmers Markets and truck-vendors who make a lot of local foods available in-season. Jane


      jane tims

      June 22, 2012 at 11:15 am

  7. Great poem – just the right details to take you back decades to similar moments…



    June 22, 2012 at 9:12 am

    • Hi. Thanks for the comment on my poem. It is comforting to me to connect to the past by doing simple activities like picking berries. Thanks for coming to my blog! Please visit again! Jane


      jane tims

      June 22, 2012 at 11:17 am

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