October 15th, Jerusalem.
An interested soul who hears about my class asks me if there even is anything growing in Jerusalem.
Everything seems dry and dead. “You’d be surprised” I tell them.
The class starts out extremely hot, leaving us wanting for shade.
I ask the people to guess how many edible plants we’ll cover during the class. One person guesses 15, another 20, another 30. We’ll see, I say. It typically is over 15.
We cover 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Black nightshade, mustard, carob, amaranth, olive, mastic tree. People are enthralled by the fact that the black mustard seeds actually taste like mustard and are spicy. We walk some more, covering ground that is less typical for my class, since they decided to do construction and dig up the area where I typically teach about wild garlic, myrtle berries, white top, fig, and capers.
7, 8, 9, 10. Pink peppercorns, mallow, redbud, dwarf pomegranate. They taste the sweet and spicy of the peppercorns.
11, 12. Lavender, rosemary. Look behind you, there’s lightning. A downpour is about to start. I start speaking even faster than I usually do, seeing how much ground we can cover before the deluge. Baruch Ata Hashem, shekocho ugvuraso maleh olam. Blessed are You God, that Your might and strength fills the world. (The blessing said over thunder.)
13, 14, 15. Plantain, dock, and purslane in quick succession. Plantain to heal, dock also heals, purslane that tastes terrific and passed the taste tests. I turn around and finally see the lightning. Baruch Ata Hashem, oseh maaseh bireishis. Blessed are You God, the One who did the acts of Genesis. (The blessing said over lightning.)
We dash quickly across the field, how far can we get before we get soaked? 16 passes in a blur, Black medick, just survival food.
17, 18 have arrived. Cleavers and asparagus. Growing on top of each other. Thick droplets have finally landed on our skin.
Can we make it further? Will we become soaked?
We brave the weather, and run a little more.
19. Hawthorn, a pleasant surprise. Shehechiyanu vikiyimanu vihigiyanu lazman hazeh. Thank you God for letting me live to this day when I can try this new fruit, the first time this season. Everyone enjoys its taste.
20, 21. Sumac clusters, taste so sour. Puckered lips, they taste like candy. Fennel seeds, some hate them, some love them.
22. Bitter almonds, edible or not, debatable, but used in marzipan and amaretto.
23. Erigeron. Spicy and bitter. Got a eww gross from one. One of the most recent plants that I learned.
Finally, there’s 24. One last hurrah, while we get soaked. Pine trees. I shared the story when I lit my microwave on fire, in my attempt to procure the nuts.
And then at last, we give in to the rain, and call a halt for the day.
Yes, when the land seems dried and parched, there is so much goodness to be found. 24, in the rain. There were others that we could have covered, but the rain got the upper hand.