I lecture on wild food frequently, discussing various issues that concern this subject to a wide variety of people. For years, the information was received with interest and people appreciated learning about this part of our collective human history and what wild food can mean for human and ecosystem health. In the last year or so, there has been an increasing number of criticisms about the message of wild food. While these arguments center on important social issues, they are representative of a broader narrative that has become very pervasive and sometimes applied to topics that may not be core to the subject of privilege and power.
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) is one of the most valuable wild plants for those following a rewilding path. It offers food, medicine, and relatively strong fibers for those that know how to identify and process this plant. One of its indigenous names is wiphunakson (pronounced weep-hoo-NAHK-sun), which means “feather-shoe” in Passamaquoddy, a very fitting name for this species’ fruit.
Asclepias syriaca is such a valuable wild food because it is available (in some form) for a large portion of the growing season. The spring shoots emerge in mid-May, and from then until at least mid-August (in my part of the world; western Maine) new foods continue to be produced by this plant, including tender leaves, flower buds, open flowers, immature fruits, and immature seeds. This time of year (Apsqewi-kisuhs, around August on the Gregorian Calendar), it is the fruits and immature seeds within those fruits that we consume as a food.