Epic Suburban Bicycle Foraging Tour, aka Tour de Ditch


I grew up playing in the local ditches, some of which are natural creeks (pronounced "cricks," make of that what you will), and some are irrigation ditches.  They were an endless playland, full of wonder and discovery.  Back then, I spent my time sliding down the steep sides of the ditches, splashing in the water, catching snakes and crawdaddies.

Now those same ditches have captured my attention anew.  Because they are often the best source of water in this dry climate, they can be an ideal place to forage in the heart of suburbia.  Lucky for me that most of the ditches are traced by bike paths.  Foraging has taught me to "read" these meandering oases.  And make no mistake, what is written on this land is a love letter - spelled out with roots, leaves, and flowers.  The language is heartbreakingly beautiful, as old as time, and as new as spring. 

Here are just a few of the plants that are thrilling me right now.  I'll use most of these plants medicinally, although many of them can be eaten as well.   I took these pictures during a day biking most of the local ditches, an exploration that I dubbed "Tour de Ditch" (catchy, don't you think).

Star solomon's seal
Hawthorn, looks so pretty, smells so bad
Horsetail, the herb I credit with healing my knee
Old (brown stalks) and new (green undergrowth) motherwort
The unmistakable bottle-brush of choke cherry in bloom
The holly grape leaves are green again
Wild plum will fruit peachy-pink orbs come autumn
Asparagus just peeking out of the ground

I'd just like to insert the standard warning here to always forage responsibly and safely.  Never ever harvest plants for food or medicine which you even suspect have been sprayed or otherwise polluted.  Don't forage ditches that are downstream of conventional farms.  And if you are foraging in the ditches, it's probably not a good idea to eat plants that are growing in the water, like cattail roots and shoots, and watercress.

Comments

  1. How very interesting. How did that herb Horsetail help your knee? Like in arthritis? Great post and photos.

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  2. I had some long-standing connective tissue damage made worse from cycling. It had gotten to the point where I couldn't bend my knee because of the pain. Now, I can both sit cross-legged and squat, two things I had thought I'd never do again.

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  3. What a great adventure! I would love to forage with you - never really tried it - too confused!

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  4. Wahoo - your foraging is in full swing I see!! I have never played in a ditch but my husband I think almost grew up in one!!

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  5. Belinda - If foraging interests you, hop on in. Just learn one local plant at a time, rather than thinking you need to know every plant and getting overwhelmed. That's how I learned, anyhow.

    Christy - Playing in a ditch is one of the finer pleasures in life :)

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