My capstone truly began during my time in Australia on an overseas program. The assorted new fruits and foods from the multitude of plants endemic to the continent opened up new opportunities to taste my way through my travels. The experiences of varied levels of acidity and sweetness in different colors of finger limes and the starchy, nutty quality of bunya pine nuts instilled a curiosity to pursue new flavors within the pine forests and high desert around my home in Central Oregon. After trying my hand at foraging in my spare time, I wanted to extend this newly kindled interest in wild ingredients –particularly plants as I’m not keen on hunting—to my schoolwork.
The various challenges that I encountered while attempting to develop a framework, methods, capstone and alternative outcome for my final environmental studies course have been the most impactful and rewarding. The most prominent of these was during the preliminary execution of my proposed methods for my alternate income, which I had hoped would be a small, detailed, and personal account of my experiences foraging in the Portland Metro Area culminating in a collection of personally-developed recipes. Despite an increasingly large stack of foraging materials and cookbooks, my confidence in my independent foraging abilities began to dwindle, leaving me with a new understanding of the challenges that the practice of provisioning wild plant foods poses to an unseasoned forager.
This was largely as a result of the discrepancy in information from plant guide to plant guide. The variation across multiple sources and descriptions can blur and even contradict each other. This disparity in source information, even for plants I am already somewhat familiar with, emphasize potential risks of foraging and the small reward that it provides. Not only did this pose a challenge to the execution of my methods, but it also raised multiple points for how unfamiliar and unsettling these plants can be to individuals without training in plant identification and past experiences with foraging.
Given the prolonged stressors and strain posed by the uncertain and unprecedented circumstances during this term, I’ve found that my motivation and enthusiasm towards this topic in an educational context is close to spent. As the frustration and reluctance I feel towards the written portion of this outcome increases with every proofread and edit, I find that the information I’ve gathered while flipping through cookbooks has reinvigorated my interest in the practical avenues provided by the topics. Even small anecdotes, like the bitterness gradient in dandelion foliage, seem like fun, little ways of retaining the experience of my capstone.