Earth Connection is a school of primitive skills and wilderness survival located in Northern Virginia and North Carolina (Raleigh/Durham area) that has been in existence for over a decade. Our hands-on classes are reasonably priced because we don't believe in big price tags for primitive skills. That's just not natural!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

EC Spring Wild Edible Road Show

Earth Connection (EC) took its popular Spring Edibles Class on the road this spring serving eastern West Virginia and Washington DC areas. Our seasonal Wild Edible Plant courses focus on the different plants and plant uses of each season. Each course is a guided walk through different habitats identifying, collecting and frequently sampling wild plant foods, and pointing out harmful plants to avoid. It covers approximately 40 plants, shrubs and trees of the mid-Atlantic region depending on the biomes available on site. It includes proper identification and use of these plants, whether they are native or introduced, when and where to safely collect plants and conservation techniques.

On 28 April, EC conducted the class at Abram's Creek Retreat and Campground in West Virginia. We covered many spring edibles, but the star of the show was Ramps (Wild Leeks) that abundantly covered the mountain sides. I'll be honest, it was my first experience with Ramps and I am SOLD. They are amazing. I even brought some home to conduct mad culinary experiments.

All leeks belong to the lily family, containing about 325 species, and are close relative of the onion, garlic, shallot and chives. Their genus, Allium, is Latin for garlic which is what their flavor resembles to me rather than onion. Not to mention that there was an enormous quantities available. We harvested mostly a leaf or two from each plant and only a few bulbs to practice good conservation techniques.

Although the weather was initially uncooperative it cleared rapidly and made for a very productive class. EC will teach at Abram's Creek again this year. We can recommend their newly developed campground as pristine and mostly untouched. There is an abundance of flora and fauna, especially wild edibles.

On 5 May, EC conducted a class in Greenbelt Park, Maryland near Washington, DC for Ancestral Knowledge (AK), a 501(c) non-profit educational organization operated by a community of naturalists who specialize in native life skills. We donated our time to the AK mission. The class was small which allowed for more one to one with the instructor.

We even rescued a mud puddle full of tadpoles. Steve, one of the students, commented later, "Thanks again for the guided plant tour down in MD two weeks ago. Adria and I both learned alot. The tadpoles we rescued from that puddle are growing bigger every day."

Greenbelt Park is one of the largest natural sanctuaries of recovering mixed evergreen-deciduous forest located within the metropolitan Washington area. The land that is now Greenbelt Park was roamed before colonial times by the Algonquin Indians and other tribes with whom they competed for the area's natural resources. The arrival of European colonists drastically tipped the balance of nature that the Native Americans had for the most part maintained. Most if not all of the trees fell to open up farmland for the new settlers; the native wildlife and the Indians retreated.

For 150 years, farming was the dominant use of the land. The settlers, however, did not give back to the land as much as they took from it. Farming gradually ceased as soild quality declined and erosion scarred the land. Since the early 1900s, the area has been recovering from this overuse. Its current cover of mixed deciduous and evergreen woods is mute testimony to the land's ability to come back. Within a few decades, as small-scale replica of the original hardwood forest will have fully returned. The pines that now cover a large parcels will have disappeared -- an important toward an eastern climax forest.

See you at the next edibles class!

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