When I was in elementary school we read a book called “Island of the Blue Dolphins.” It was about a girl who had to survive alone on an island. I don’t remember much else about it, but I do remember that it got me real interested in “survival.”
Every day for a long time after we started reading it I’d come home from school and go out into the backyard and harvest wild onions. There was some kind of old shed at the edge of the mountain in our back yard, and I’d spread out all of my wild onions there to dry. It was fun to pretend I was alone on an island and the onions were my only food.
I didn’t taste one. I don’t eat onions, never have.
It’s been many years since I harvested them and pretended to survive on those foul smelling little things, but my interest in the spirit of depending on the land has not waned. I guess that’s why I like shows like “Alone” and “Mountain Men.”
As you know, or may know, I’ve never done anything much close to having a real adventure in my life. If you’ve ever read “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” you will know the type of character I am — an ineffectual daydreamer. After college I vowed to hike the Appalachian Trail. I bought one of those hiking backpacks and a set of maps. I found the maps, unruffled and unused, at my parents’ house last week. The backpack hangs covered in dust in my laundry room.
I guess I never hiked the Appalachian Trail for the same reason I never went up to New York City to try and become an artist … Mama said I’d wind up murdered. It’s just as well that I didn’t go I guess.
A few weeks ago my phone, after reading my mind as it does, advertised to me an app that identifies plants. I’d been thinking about needing something like that because there are plants I see in my yard and I don’t know what they are. I decided to download the app. It’s called PictureThis. All you have to do is take a picture of a plant and it tells you what it is.
I am not a hundred percent certain of its accuracy, because it identified one plant in the woods as a potato and I don’t know how a potato would be growing in that spot, but I guess it is possible.
It’s interesting to me that so many things just growing out in the yard are edible, and not only are they edible, but they also have medicinal uses.
I identified the pretty little flowers that grow all over my yard in the spring. According to the app they are Virginia spring beauty, and they grow on a tuber that is edible and tastes like chestnuts. I tried to dig them up but didn’t see any tuber, so I haven’t tasted it yet.
So far I’ve only tried tasting plantain, purple dead-nettle and common selfheal.
I’ve already identified more that 50 things. Maybe I’ll learn to make all kinds of tinctures and teas.
I don’t expect to crave any of it over chicken fingers anytime soon, but it’s nice to know what’s what and searching for wild cures lends a little attention to my daydreams in the meantime.
Danielle Wallingsford Kirkland is a former Sentinel staff writer and correspondent. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.