For years I've been coming to the Creative Health Institute (18, to be exact), and with each passing season this small but potent wheatgrass institute impresses me more and more. What is it in Hodunk that affects me so deeply that I would rather spend my summer laboring in our organic garden than sitting on the beach at Cancun? Is it the good fellowship I have with my fellow raw fooders, a chance to mingle with like-minded people? Or do I simply enjoy watching guest after guest go through this remarkable process detoxification and rejuvenation, satisfied that I've helped empower another human being with this sacred knowledge? Or, could it be more basic than that? Is it the food and the way it makes me feel that draws back? More specifically, as my physiology adapted over the years to the local plants?
For years, I've also been eating the wild edibles here at Hodunk. I've actually dubbed Hodunk the "Wild Edible Capital of the World" because I've never seen a wider variety of them anywhere else. Plants such as Lambsquarter, Parslane, Queen Anne's Lace, Stinging Nettles, Plantain and Burdoch Root, to name just a few, grow abundantly on our grounds.
This year alone I've consumed at least fifty young sweet red clover flowers. I always knew red clover as a blood cleanser with anti-cancer properties, but this year I learned that it's also a powerful hormone balancer. No wonder I feel so good! (Thank you, Dr. Ann!)
And everyone should be growing Comfrey, especially if you're a vegetarian. Did you know that Comfrey is high in plant protein and as one of the only plants that draws B12 from the soil? It also contains the compound allantoin, a cell-proliferant, which means it aids both plant and animal cells in creating new cells rapidly. Taken internally it helps to build cells, especially bone; used externally it makes a powerful poultice. Personally, I enjoy eating the roots, especially on a crisp fall day like the kind are having now. Which brings me to the Paw Paw.
As fall begins to approach winter, one by one, all of the wonderful plants that I've nibbled upon all summer are beginning to lie down and go to sleep. Every day I find it more and more challenging to forage. This afternoon Donald Haughey, our wonderful founder, decided to take us to a special grove of trees to forage for the elusive Paw Paw fruit.
Now, best thing about foraging for Paw Paw is that you get to say "Paw Paw." The Paw Paw is a small green fruit shaped like a kidney. The tree is thin, almost out-of-place amongst the maple and oak. Resembling a more tropical plant, it's known as the "Indiana or Michigan banana," growing mainly in Eastern America. The early spring twigs are being studied for a potent anti-tumeral agent known as Annonaceous Acetogenins. The fruit, however, is mild and sweet, and harvesting them with my friends was a treat I'll not soon forget.
The trees were glowing with the brilliant colors of fall, casting a light yellowish-green luminous quality around us. At first we suspected we were too late, but upon closer inspection we found enough fruit to fill our buckets. By simply shaking the trees, the fruit fell easily to the ground. We harvested enough fruit so that our guests and staff can enjoy the nutritious fruit for weeks to come.
Nature is remarkable, especially if you have the opportunity to follow its natural rhythm. Here nature has provided us with fruit at the tail-end of the season that is high in the antioxidants vitamins A and C, boosting our immune systems so that we can enter into the winter months fortified.
My challenge for you is to find the wild plants in your area that are edible. Never eat anything you can't identify, so start out with something simple like dandelion. You'll be surprising a good you'll feel after juicing the plant with carrots, or blending it (including a flower), with apple and avocado.
Don't forget: if you ever find yourself in the middle of a Paw Paw grove, shake down a few for the deer. They always appreciate a helping hand!
[You can see photos of healthy, vibrant raw gardener Sara scattered about the CHI website. http://creativehealthinstitute.com]