Elan, our lead educator, frequently teaches visitors here this concept: what if we haven’t left Eden, but only forgotten that we are still here, surrounded by the same plants?
In the Torah, Adam & Eve are not farmers, or even gardeners. They are to “to eat of the fruit of every tree” (with the obvious exception.)
Which means: all of our food was initially provided to us.
What if our expulsion from Eden, however, was a mental one and not a physical one? An expulsion that happened in the heart, when we forgot our relationship to the plants and animals around us, and began failing to recognize them?
On my short walk to work today (about 1,000 feet), I passed these edible species:
Clover, Dandelion, Juniper, Service Berry, Redbud, White Pine, Mulberry, Cat Tail, Day Lily, Elderberry, Burdock, Wild Lettuce, Rose Hips, Ferns, Black-Cap Raspberry, Oaks (acorns), Sugary Maples, Wild Grapes, Lamb’s Quarters, Dock, Sorrell, Pigweed, and Ground Cherry.
None of the plants on this list are plants that I brought here, or plants that were planted for a deliberately edible purpose.
When I first arrived at the here, Elan and I walked around the farm as he pointed out these wild edibles. It felt like my eyes were being opened to a world that I had always lived in, but never seen.
Each year I work here, the list of wild edibles that I’m aware of grows larger as I learn from the people around me.
Pigweed is the most recent addition to the list. A community farmer who moved here from Mexico taught me about it. Where he comes from, it is a popular crop that can be bought in markets. Having spent hours weeding it out of my field, I have to stop and wonder: what for?
If I am in fact surrounded by edible plants, how might my life be if I knew and understood them in a different way? What if I could walk out in the morning, and gather my breakfast? Is it just a lack of knowledge, an abundance of forgotten things, which prevents me from doing this? Who would I be if I could?
Which begs the question: If we forget our surroundings, and the other life forms surrounding us, what do we forget about ourselves?
And maybe we’ve got it wrong – maybe it wasn’t an apple of knowing, but an apple of forgetting.