BACK­YARD BOUNTY

Lo­cal woman cul­ti­vates for­ag­ing re­nais­sance Life­style em­pha­sized at Holis­tic Health Fair

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By M. English For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

PLY­MOUTH » Don’t as­sume the weeds in your back­yard are … well, weeds. Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal for­agers, they could ac­tu­ally be lunch or din­ner.

In fact, hunt­ing and gath­er­ing food and herbs that grow in the wild — for­ag­ing — are age­less and pro­duc­tive pur­suits. Ask Marie Cooney.

“For­ag­ing for greens is so re­ward­ing and tasty and, of course, healthy … I wish more peo­ple did it,” says Cooney, fresh from a trek through her Ply­mouth Meet­ing back­yard “to see what I could find to add to my salad or, maybe, use to make some tea.”

“I first found pur­ple dead net­tle … not a good name for such a pretty flow­er­ing plant,” she says. “It’s in the mint fam­ily and grows all over the place. I’ll use a lit­tle in my salad and the rest in a nice, nu­tri­tious tea since it’s sup­posed to be good for sea­sonal al­ler­gies.

“Next, I picked chick­weed. I love the

fla­vor, so I’ll use a good bit of it. A tea made from chick­weed can be used as a di­uretic, and it’s said to help with weight loss. Some­times, I make a pesto with it. I just love it.

“Then, on to the most well-known — the dan­de­lion. I picked a lot of the leaves to use as the base of my salad. The young leaves are not that bit­ter, so this is a good time of year to give them a try. You can use all parts of this plant — the roots, leaves, flow­ers. It’s just so good for you and has so many healthy at­tributes.

“I like to put wild vi­o­let flow­ers in my salad … or [use them] for a tea. They’re so pretty … and good for you. But it’s just a lit­tle early for them in my yard. It’s also too early for purslane, which is one of the more tasty wild plants you’ll find. In fact, they sell it in the gro­cery store along with dan­de­lion leaves. I munch on purslane when I’m out work­ing and weed­ing in the gar­den. Since I have to pull them out, I might as well en­joy them. Plus, there’s a whole host of vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and pow­er­ful an­tiox­i­dants in them, as in most for­aged plants. There’s re­ally a mil­lion more out there … plus lots more ways of us­ing them than just fresh for sal­ads. This is just the tip of the ice­berg.”

Cooney’s per­cep­tion of back­yard as buf­fet is rooted in child­hood mem­o­ries of her mother, a reg­is­tered nurse, send­ing her and her eight si­b­lings to the yard of their Chest­nut Hill home to pluck dan­de­lion greens for sal­ads.

“There’s so much out there, too …if you know what to look for,” she says. “For ex­am­ple, mush­rooms, which are great in the spring. There’s a de­li­cious mush­room called chicken of the woods that’s pretty com­mon

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ply­mouth Meet­ing’s Marie Cooney sup­ple­ments her fam­ily’s gro­cery pur­chases with food she for­ages in her back­yard and be­yond.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Marie Cooney’s son, Sean, of­fers vis­i­tors to her Holis­tic Health Fair a Shamanic Reiki treat­ment be­lieved to im­part “heal­ing en­ergy” to the re­cip­i­ent. The drum used is be­lieved to cre­ate a spir­i­tual vi­bra­tion as well as a re­lax­ing beat. Ac­cord­ing to...

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Chris Mat­tingly ex­hibits the work of his com­pany, Back­yard Eats, at the re­cent Holis­tic Health Fair at Val­ley Green Inn. Back­yard Eats in­stalls and main­tains clients’ home veg­etable gar­dens.

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