Saturday, October 28, 2006

Alley Grazer

After moving to town twelve years ago, I missed the wild abundance of country greens. For many years, I had slaved to plant, tend, harvest and process a garden. Simultaneously, Ma Nature was lavishing the countryside with super nutritious stuff that grew wild everywhere. The irony was not lost on me. 'Weeds' like lambs quarters and nettles put spinach and chard to shame with their show-off vitamin content.

In the alleys of my town, I rejoiced to see the countryside bonanza of delicious plant life. Wonderous edibles like chickweed, burdocks, lambs quarters and pigweed explode out of sidewalks, balloon around trash cans, surround car parts, and climb over tilting fences. Parks, playgrounds, roadsides and alleys are rife with edible wonders. This is a fact of towns and cities to which most of my friends and associates seem strangely indifferent.

My first foraging in Polson 12 years ago initiated me into bushels of Lamb's quarters. Veritable forests of tree like stalks sporting a profusion of arrow head leaves circled telephone poles close enough to my back door that I could start the pot boiling while I rounded them up.

Polson, Montana, a rural town halfway between Kalispell and Missoula, looks out over the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississipi. Winters are mild by mountain standards. In addition to the annual crop of Flathead Cherries, this area produces literally tons of fresh plums, apples, walnuts, chokecherries, hawberries, elderberries and edible greens. Cherries and apples are the only commercially harvested crop here.

The house I bought last April sits on the same, original alley where I began my career as an alley grazer. Just feet from my garage door, I can spot my harvesting grounds of 12 years ago. How ironic. Twelve moves in 12 years and I end up where I began. In addition to lambs quarters, I have discovered a veritable lawn of Stellaria (chickweed) next to my garage. The earliest and tastiest salad and pot herb you could wish for. If I juice them I could harvest a lifetime of chlorophyll. Wheat grass, step aside.

One of the reasons I wanted to blog is to alert my neighbors to the cornucopia that could be filling up their freezers too. When you adore foods that are unpopular, there is always an abundance. So I am taking a risk here letting the cat out of the bag. Maybe one day my precious alleys will be striped bare of vegetation. I think I'll take my chances since the company would be absolutely great. See you in the weed patch!


Shorewood High School Class of 1976 said...

What a GORGEOUS blog!!! I'll keep tuning in, Ms. Forager!

Mountain Angel said...

Great blog, forager. I look forward to scouring the back alleys, side streets and abandoned lots for yummy edibles. Urban harvesters unite!

Sugartooth said...

Awesome blog - I have only foraged the fields and side roads for potential desserts - serviceberries and rosehips for jams and pies. You've inspired me to widen my horizons and eat my vegetables first!

funforager said...


a week ago a couple friends and I revisited the orchard behind the hospital and my collard patch and hauled away a mess of greens and bushels of apples off the ground after snow and many freezing nights.

The week before that I was picking plums off the ground in my back alley that had likewise been roughly weathered. They were sweet as candy. This is the luckiest fall foraging ever for this gal.

Vagabond Dreamer said...

Alley Grazer ~~Hurray, found you!
Bring it on. Hardy pats to Sam & big hugs to you. Graze away. Love, BJ

Big Sky Dreamer said...

Writer Grazer !!!!! Graze on little Sister.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alley Grazer
I'm hungry for
-more photos of the authentic you
-more insights into the welcoming arms of Polson
-more thoughts about that wide open territory
- a story or 2 about your your varied career
Keep up the wondre of it all...
Love to you and Sam,

funforager said...

Big Sky Dreamer
So glad you're back to the blog. Your sojourn south is treating you well. I bet there is some interesting foraging that direction. Someday I want to take this show on the road and find out what other regions have to offer.

funforager said...

Welcome to Planet J. Hope to see you in the flesh some day soon and Happy Birthday you wild thing.