Plant Awareness Exercise (try this exercise the next time you go outside):
Pick up a plant. Any plant. It could be one that you know or one that you have never seen before. Look at it for thirty seconds. Notice any striking characteristics this plant displays. Does it have any markings or discolorations? Are the edges of its leaves smooth or serrated? Are the leaf veins easily distinguishable? Does the top of the leaf have a different hue than the bottom? Crush the stem and smell it. What does it smell like? Notice how your body reacts to the aroma. Does your mouth salivate, or is the smell repulsive?
Be creative and come up with your own questions. You don’t have to be too scientific. Ask yourself the kinds of questions that will help you remember the plant you are studying. You are creating a mental map. This hands-on approach is the absolute best way to get familiar with new plants.
Finally, if you don’t know what you’re looking at, take it home for identification. For this step, it is helpful to have a plant reference book, such as Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon. Such books make it easy to identify unfamiliar flora by giving you the ability to search by leaf shape, flower color, the number of petals, and so forth. If you don’t have a plant reference book, you can describe your plant to Google.
Once you determine the name of the plant you have collected, you can then consult a book or video on wild edibles (such as Common Weeds And Wild Edibles Of The World on FMTV) to determine if it’s edible. If you do this once a week for a year, you could learn fifty-two new plants by year’s end and be a foraging expert.