If, like me, you’ve seen the film based on Christopher McCandless tragic life and therefore are terrified of foraging wild berries, plants and mushrooms, maybe you would have had the same reservations about going to the Urban Naturalist walk put on my Manchester Museum. Luckily we were in safe hands with Jesper, an expert in the art of wild foraging, who showed us what Oxford Road had to offer.
We searched for plants and herbs that contained magical medicinal properties on the ground and in the beds planted around the University buildings. It seemed as though most ailments treated were in the bowel region (apparently every plant ever helps you defecate with ease), or for bronchial troubles but it was a thoroughly charming walk and provided a real insight to what we could forage and benefit from in the immediate area. Of course the most common question when approaching a fungi was ‘are we going to die/have an incredible trip if we eat this?’, and 9/10 the answer was ‘no, but you might vomit or suffer from horrendous diarrhoea’.
We came across the ancient Ginkgo tree that had gorgeous fine veins running through the leaf. Jesper talked about the amazing healing properties that ginkgo had; this type of tree has been subjected to incredible amounts of research and the results strongly suggest that its properties really do relieve symptoms of central nervous system disorders. In fact, German doctors have prescribed Ginkgo to their patients to relieve symtoms of dementia!
Of course all plants should be looked over by a professional herbalist before say, harvesting and munching on a months worth of pine needles but both my friend and I found it fascinating to see what is being used in both ancient and modern alternative medicine today, and how the results are often better than pharmaceutical perceptions. Of course a lot of my doctor or science-y inclined friends will think this is completely rubbish, I however have decided to keep an open mind, and plan to go and harvest a few ginkgo leaves for myself when they are ready to be picked. The Museum’s efforts to produce an event calendar around the fruits of the city has encouraged me to open my eyes to what I can find in my immediate surroundings, and have (hopefully) cured my fear of death by wild blueberry. LET THE EATING COMMENCE.
For more information on Manchester Museum’s delicious events and seminars then have a peek at their website.