Saturday, March 14, 2015

Katrina Blair's Wild Wisdom of Weeds

Katrina Blair’s audience is growing like a weed. The longtime Durango resident’s new book, “The Wild Wisdom of Weeds”, which was just published in November, has already sold out her first print run, and is on its second printing. Thanks to a heightened interest in the subject, and a favorable review in the New York Times, Blair exceeded even her publisher’s expectations by selling out 4,000 books in just a couple months.

Blair completing a walkabout, en route to Telluride, Colorado. 

            Blair, who is the purveyor of the local Turtle Lake Refuge, has spent much of her adult life advocating the benefits of weeds, as well as fighting against the use of pesticides and herbicides to eradicate said plants.

            This book, her second, highlights 13 weeds that can be used for food and medicine. Among those plants are: dandelion, lambsquarter, mallow, plantain and thistle. All the plants listed in the book grow on each of the seven continents. Blair remarks that she, “fell in love with these plants all over again during the writing of the book,” and she even had ten day period during the research where she ate nothing but those 13 plants.

            Blair notes that she considers herself more of an opportunist than a vegan or vegetarian, but feels best when she eats a local food diet. “The more we refine food the more the vitality goes down,” she says. “I thrive on fresh, wild, local food, which gives me a high level of clarity and energy.”

            Blair was raised to be resilient. Her father, Rob Blair, now a retired Geology professor from Fort Lewis College, taught her to ski, hike, and climb. Her mother, Pat Blair, who started Durango Natural Foods, imparted an appreciation for plants and nutrition. “My Dad opened the wild, and my Mom opened the doors to health,” Blair says.

            She was camping in the Tetons before she learned to walk, and started climbing at the age of 10 at X-Rock, a local crag on the north edge of town. She spent her high school years in New Zealand, while her father worked on a sabbatical, and learned to appreciate the value of travel and understanding other cultures.

            Perhaps her most formative and legendary experiences have happened in the form of what she calls a walkabout. Blair simply hikes for days, feeding herself on the food she forages. August is typically the best month, and she boasts that in one day, while hiking to Silverton she foraged 19 different kinds of berries. She’s always had a mystical connection to the land, with plants in particular. “As a kid floating on Haviland Lake (located between Durango and Silverton) I felt drawn to the plants on the edge of the lake, and they seemed to say to me, you’re going to live with us now.”

            And she has. Her most well known walkabouts are the annual week long pilgrimages she makes to Telluride for the Mushroom Festival, where she conducts educational workshops. She lives entirely on the plants and berries she forages, and is so confident in her skills she doesn’t even bother to bring a backup stove. Blair notes that the first three days she is typically lethargic. Then something happens, once the detoxing period is over, her energy reaches an all time high. “By the time I arrive to Telluride I’m riding a high, it’s as good as I feel at any point in the year. It’s like a cleanse.”

            During the walkabouts Blair also touches base with her roots as an explorer of the mountains. “I have this deep, profound, trust in nature,” she shares. “While I’m in these precarious situations I don’t have the luxury to have fear. I trust in myself and my intuition.”

            As a kid her only household rule was: be true to yourself. In all her experiences with edible plants she’s only eaten something poisonous once, a twin berry, that is only considered mildly harmful; the effects were only minimal and she recovered quickly.

            As one could expect the book is full of detailed wisdom and creativity. Blair calls it “heavy”, containing more than 350 pages of information and a complete array of photographs, featuring herself, the plants and many members of the Durango community and Turtle Lake family. Recipes range from Hollyhock strawberry baskets to a Clover Flower Apple Pie to Plantain Breakfast Porridge.

            In “The Wild Wisdom of Weeds” Blair also features her battle to discontinue the use of herbicides in Durango’s city parks. She believes that as a community Durango can lead the way for other communities to discontinue the use of herbicides, which she feels are harmful to those who visit the parks. She says that, “changing anything is challenging, but as we remove those herbicides it does increase our quality of life” and adds that she is “grateful that there has been some success in Durango, and that the City Manager and the Parks and Recreation departments have been a supporter to make this happen.”

             Blair also notes that moving towards eating these 13 plants should be a methodical one, “The integration should be small and slow. Wild food is so potent, starting with your morning green smoothie is a good idea for entry.”

            She attributes her success with the book to the growing environmental awareness of the United States. “The ground is prime. There’s so much awareness right now. It’s a small, yet perfect solution to start using these resources.”

Blair's book: The Wild Wisdom of Weeds. 

This piece was originally published in the Durango Telegraph

Blog Archive