June 21 – 24, 2002 By John Kallas
The GingerRoot Rendezvous was designed to be a wild food intensive covering the practical roles of wild foods in survival, primitive living, and simple living.
Lead by yours truly, the idea of a rendezvous is to bring together the wild food experiences and expertise of all attendees so that learning is advanced and based on reality. The hope is that eventually, GingerRoot will grow into a larger outdoor conference with multiple leaders facilitating multiple events – all relating to wild foods.
For four days in June of 2002, participants traveled to different habitats, identified plants, learned harvesting and collecting techniques and ate wild foods with meals. There was a fairly even mix of men and women. People came from all walks of life and plant backgrounds. Foragers ranged from beginner to advanced. Some had backgrounds in outdoor education and herbalism.
Our base camp was located at Riversong Forest Sanctuary in Oregon between the Columbia River Gorge and the snow-capped Mount Hood in the Hood River Valley. The vistas were magnificent.
The Hood River Valley was selected for its easy access to a variety of habitats, microclimates, and elevations. Within walking distance were swamps, ponds, fallow fields, the Hood River Gorge, and organically cultivated soil (with plenty of luscious edible weeds). Within driving distance were the Columbia River Gorge Forests and Scenic Areas, the Mount Hood National Forest, Lookout Mountain, mountain lakes, sagebrush country, high desert, the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, some of the Nations largest waterfalls, huckleberry forests, the city of Hood River, and the state of Washington. We were 2 1/2 hours from the Pacific ocean.
The accommodations were relatively primitive. Participants stayed in tents in a meadow shaded by trees. Everyone helped to gather, clean, and prepare wild foods into simple but delicious cooked meals. On Sunday night we enjoyed campsite songs by Anne Weise.
Wild spinach, amaranth, wild mustard, and sorrel served as the base of salads that constantly changed as we added a variety of other wild foods including: wild sweet pea flowers and shoots, sow thistle, red clover blossoms, ox-eyed daisies, miner’s lettuce, mallow leaves and fruits, dandelion leaves and flowers, sheep sorrel, wood sorrel, shepherds purse greens, wild carrot, chickweed, lady’s thumb, cattail celery, and more.
Some of the plants we saw in our walk abouts included wild asparagus, Japanese knotweed, wild lettuce, burdock, columbine, St. John’s wort, oaks, bull thistle, Canadian thistle, wild chicory, wild radish, mullein, pink cluster lily, glacier lily, brodaea, wild onion, black haw, elderberry, blue camas, desert parsley, poison hemlock, broadleaf dock, curly dock, plantain, narrow leaf plantain, mayweed chamomile, pineapple weed, spiny sow thistle, horsetail, morning glory, bittersweet nightshade, bulrush, cattail at various stages of growth, cleavers, dogwoods, wild rose and rose hips, blackberries, spiraea, hazelnut, ocean spray, snowberry, several huckleberry species, ferns, balsamroot, larkspur, Juneberry, bunchberry, currents, wild strawberries, lupine, smooth yellow violet, Indian paintbrush, popsissewa, vanilla leaf, Oregon grape, and more.
Included was heavy coverage of plants useful as food in survival – particularly the cattail, its parts, uses, and survival secrets. Not only did we cover plant identification, we covered effective gathering, transporting, processing, storage, and preparation techniques. Misconceptions were displaced by useful and practical reality.
On our trip to Lookout Mountain, at high elevation, we lunched overlooking one of the most beautiful vistas you can imagine. Conversations covered wild foods, social reality, the meaning of life, and self actualization.
A good time was had by all.