Nature on your plate

Aya Tager
Foraging tour feast

SPNI Foraging Tour

One sunny Saturday in November, I participated in one of SPNI’s Foraging Tours along Nahal Taninim (Crocodile Creek).

We are all familiar with the term ‘hunter - gatherer’ which relates to mankind’s food sources prior to agriculture, when human communities relied on naturally growing fruits and vegetables  as a main source for food and medicine. 

SPNI Foraging Tour Modern agriculture and urban living enabled humankind to produce food and on a much larger scale. A relatively comfortable routine was born, but this evolution entailed a down side; we lost touch with our gathering traditions, and most botanical information, that was once common knowledge in every household, was forgotten.

In modern times, the uses of Israel’s wild plants are mostly remembered by women in Druze, Bedouin or Arab rural communities and with every new generation less and less of this herb lore is being passed-on.

Luckily, some professionals have made it their mission to provide us with first-hand experience of traditional harvesting and cooking of commonly -found wild plants. 

One such culinary educator is Yatir Sade, whom I met on SPNI’s guided gathering tour, which took place along the Taninim stream one Saturday in November.

Sade’s family name fits him well – it means field in Hebrew and he certainly possess a field of fascinating knowledge on wild leafy greens.

Yatir opened his tour with a brief introduction, and made it perfectly clear that we will pick only wild plants that are abundantly found and under no risk of extinction.

As we made our way towards the stream, he picked seemingly different plants only to show us it is actually the different development stages of the same plant; thistle (Gdilan in Hebrew).

he informed us when will be the optimal picking stage and what will be the best use of each stage.

Rumex stew

The Taninim stream was chosen by Yatir since it is one of the few clean rivers left in Israel - another SPNI success story - so the wild vegetation that grows along its banks are safe to eat.

The first plant we encountered grows almost everywhere in Israel but is often overlooked, maybe because it has no remarkable features -  rumex, (Humea in Hebrew) has medium sized leaves that form a basal rosette at the root. But don’t let the plain-looking weed deceive you; once stir-fried with a couple of chopped onions and mushrooms it creates a delicious dish, prepared in no-time!  

Rumex is also considered as possessing anti-oxidant qualities and the ability to alleviate skin irritation. 

The second plant we gathered was watercress (Gargir Nahalim in Hebrew) an aquatic plant and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by humans. Since it only grows in fresh flowing water, you need to get your feet wet to pick it - but it’s truly worth it! 

 Watercress is botanically related to mustard, radish and wasabi and is often added to salads in its fresh form. We turned it into a mouthwatering pesto spread; balancing the piquant flavor with roasted cashew nuts, traditional olive oil and crushed garlic. Watercress was traditionally used to ease digestion and raise low blood pressure. In Arab culture it was believed to prevent impotency in men. 

wild celery and tangarine salad We collected three more wild herbs that are found in wetlands - a type of wild celery (Apium nodiflorum) and two types of wild mint which we used to season a fresh tangerine salad.

The rising awareness of sustainability and the growing realization that nature is disappearing around us does not mean we can’t enjoy the great nutritional and medicinal benefits of native plants – it’s simply calling on us to get educated and learn how to do it responsibly.

 

If you want to join one of SPNI’s tours please contact our call center +972-3-6388688

Category: Nature Trips