Outdoor living: A permaculture guide to food and fresh water

Patrick Whitefied
Monday, 17th June 2013

Patrick Whitefield explains how living outdoors can potentially diversify and increase your connection with the food we eat.

Your style and method of eating can change dramatically when living outdoors. During the summer, you may stock up on dry whole foods, formulate a stronger connection with your vegetable garden, or might be tempted to forage for wild food and look for clean sources of safe unchlorinated drinking water.

Dry food

Dried foods are the easiest to store. Wholefoods, some of the healthiest and most nutritional of foods, usually come in dried form anyway and are particularly attractive to those living in yurts, tipis and camping in tents.

Home-grown food

There is of course a lot to be said for eating food native to your environment, rather than imported produce; something not all health food shops distinguish. Imported food is often grown in the hungry parts of the world as cash crops on land which could be feeding the local people; and it involves unnecessary transport, with its attendant resource depletion and pollution.

On the other hand, eating home-grown food increases our connection with the earth we live on. Personally, I really like marrowfat peas and barley but there's no point being sanctimonious about food - in the end we eat what we like.

The closest food to home is what we grow in our gardens, and I never feel more than a visitor in a place where I haven't got vegetables growing. In the high summer, I often have the pleasure of preparing a meal entirely from what I've grown myself. Tipi life and gardening go so well together.

Wild food

Eating a bit of wild food is even better. It can rarely form more than a small proportion of the diet in form of bulk, but bulk is not everything. Eating what grows naturally on the piece of land that you live on feeds the body and spirit with harmony.

In the autumn there are blackberries, elderberries, hazelnuts and a host of different edible fungi. Earlier in the year comfrey and fat hen, not to mention nettles, can be cooked like greens. A salad can be made from such plants as yarrow, dandelion, catsear, chickweed, brooklime and garlic mustard - great for flavouring an omelette.

Foraging for Chickweed

Watercress is abundant in streams and ditches, but should never be picked if there are sheep nearby or upstream, because of the chance of getting liver fluke. These are a few of my favourites, and there are hundreds more in a book called Food For Free, by Richard Mabey, a book well worth having in your outdoor living space.

Safe, responsible picking and drinking

The way to pick wild vegetables is a bit here and there, passing quickly over the ground with eyes wide open and alert. Defoliating a small area is not where it's at. Watch the birds and how they forage.

A spring or a well is the best water supply. In upland areas most running water is OK, always remembering liver fluke, but in the lowlands there's more of a chance of contamination by pesticides, fertiliser runoff and human effluent.

Patrick is a respected permaculture teacher, gardener and author. See his website for information on his online course and other activities.

Sources & resources

Sign up here to receive monthly updates to our Woodlands and Outdoor Living newsletter!

Book: For more information on outdoor living and building your own tipi, see Patrick Whitefield's Tipi Living 

Read: Fergus Drennan, the first man to try and live on 100% foraged food for a year

Read: Foraging for wild food and medicinal plants - CHICKWEED PLANT PROFILE 

Read: Foraging for wild food and medicinal plants - HEDGE MUSTARD PLANT PROFILE

Read: Foraging for wild food and medicinal plants - BRASSICAS PLANT PROFILE

Read: The Feed Yourself for Free: The 12 'Survival Plants' series beginning here

Finally, check out our wonderful range of outdoor cooking devices at Green Shopping. Like Green Shopping on Facebook, use the code there and save 5% on every order!

Amazingwater |
Sun, 14/09/2014 - 13:07

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