Within Easy ReachBook - 2016
within easy reach is a collection of poems about gathering local foods. The poems capture the experience of harvesting edible wild plants and foods produced in gardens, orchards, and apiaries. The poems also explore our relationship with nature. They seek to re-establish our connection with nature in the most basic of ways, through growing and gathering our food.
In New Brunswick, many of us eat fiddleheads, blueberries and maple syrup. In coastal areas, some still crave a feed of goosetongue greens. Families enjoy a fall outing in the apple orchard or a June morning picking strawberries. The inspiration for these poems came from an afternoon of picking blackberries with my husband on our property along the Saint John River. We were only a moment or so behind a black bear who was first at the table.
Eating wild and local foods may be part of your family history. In her diaries, written in the 1940s and 1950s, my great-aunt, Anne Ward, living in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, mentions picking berries, pickling, fishing, buying local eggs and going to nearby wharves for shellfish. Mom regularly canned vegetables and ate berries, mushrooms, and dandelion greens. Dad grew up on a farm and loved picking berries.
Nevertheless, for lots of people, the grocery store is the place to go to for food, rather than the local farmers' market, the roadside stand, the field or the woods. One purpose of these poems is to encourage the reader to reconnect with nature and use the foods it offers.
The poems celebrate the colours, textures and tastes of gathering local food. Some poems acknowledge the barriers to 'eating local' - the prickles in the blackberry patch and the year-long availability of raspberries from California. Some are about conservation. Other poems are about building relationships and sharing experiences - picking berries, gathering eggs, sitting down for a seasonal meal. Many of the poems are about place - the orchard, the farmers' market, the spring woodland.
Eating local is as simple as visiting a farmers' market and sampling local food in season. If your explorations take you to the field, roadside or woodland remember - identifying plants can be tricky. Never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification. Never eat any plant if you have or may have personal sensitivities to it or its components or derivatives. And, never eat any plant unless you have verified its edibility.