Thursday, April 24, 2014
Foraging for Edible and Medicinal Plants at Ramapo College
By Kyle Van Dyke
On Wednesday, April 23, Ramapo College's Masters Program for Sustainability Studies hosted an event with Wildman Steve Brill entitled "Foraging for Edible and Medicinal Plants at Ramapo College."
The event began in the Sharp Sustainability Center classroom, where Steve Brill, otherwise known as the Wildman, introduced the topic of foraging – seeking and gathering wild-growing food – and what drove him to become interested in this odd activity. One of the key points the Wildman made in the beginning of his lecture was that the activity of foraging is actually the least odd activity he could do.
“Humans have been foraging for thousands of years,” he said. “It's only been over the last several hundred years that we have become exclusively dependent on agriculture, which has now become a chemical and fossil-fuel dependent, genetically engineered, toxin and food-look-a-like producing, industrial machine owned by the capitalist elite.”
An extremely knowledgeable and theatrical 65-year-old man, he stood at the front of the classroom with his white beard and odd-looking hat, and explained his perspective and life story with the help of his young daughter Violet.
Following his lecture, the group of 40 left the classroom to watch and learn from the Wildman's foraging. The first plant Wildman noticed was called Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), which was found on the grassy median between lots B1 and B2 of the student parking lot. “Yarrow is mainly useful for medicinal purposes, and looks like a miniature fern,” he said. “This plant was used in ancient times to bind the battle wounds of soldiers, which is made possible by the chemical compounds in the plant that constrict body tissues, making it what is known as an astringent.”
With his daughter Violet's help, each plant that was noticed became another opportunity for teaching, and with the Wildman's humor, another opportunity for a witty joke. Other plants found include Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), Field Garlic (Allium vineale), Whitlow Grass (Draba verna), Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana), Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva), Wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris), Long Leaf Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), Bitter Dock (Rumex obtusifolius), Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), Juneberry Bush (Amelanchier sp.), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Mullein (Verbascum thaspus), Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea), and Poor Man's Pepper (Lepidium virginicum).
More information on these plants, foraging, and the Wildman can be found at his website: www.wildmanstevebrill.com