You Can EAT That?

I’ve just recently started to go walking in the morning with my new Thai friend, Kanrutai (fondly known as Kan). I was complaining that I didn’t have time for exercise because I had so many writing projects on the go. She took me at my word and solved the problem for me by calling at 6:30 one sunny morning and asking sweetly if I was ready to go.

I do love to walk. I love to inhale all the sights, sounds and smells of nature and watch the birds and butterflies flit across my path and over my head; listen to the wind in the trees and the crash of the waves on the beach. Walking with Kan has opened my eyes to a whole new world and brought a new appreciation of my surroundings. There’s nothing like seeing a place that you’ve seen many times but through the eyes of someone else (especially a local).I’ve done lots of educational hikes in evergreen forests, thick steamy jungles, rolling hills and rocky mountains all over the globe but strolling with Kan takes the cake… literally. The first walk we went on together she took me down unexplored laneways and around unfamiliar corners. I loved every minute, listening to her stories of growing up as a farm girl on a rubber tree farm in northern Thailand. At one point, she stopped abruptly and pointed to a deep purple flower and said, “This very good in salad or can make good drink.” Huh? It looked like a pansy to me.

She proceeded to describe how to boil the flower and then drain the liquid, put it in the fridge and once it’s cooled down, pour it over ice and it’s delicious! I’m not a cook so usually when someone starts to tell me about any type of recipe my eyes glaze over and I start thinking about the next chapter of my novel or I start doing a mental outline of a client’s website navigation while I wait for the droning to stop. But, when Kan started describing what to do with these little purple flowers that hung like wallpaper along the side of the road, I was riveted. According to Kan, “It’s also good for when you hurt to make pee-pee.” So, now I know what to do when I can’t find any cranberry juice in the Tesco Lotus (our local grocery store).

The next day’s meandering didn’t disappoint. It netted us a bushel of lovely green vines that to me looked like the spouts that sprung off of the beanstalk that Jack climbed in one of my all-time favourite childhood stories. Kan meticulously untwined one strand at a time from a smattering of bushes and twigs, running up and down the main drag between Bang Tao Village and Surin Beach. She claimed that after a little steaming to take the bitterness out, it would make a perfect side dish. She was like a kid in a candy store, skipping along the sidewalk shrieking with laughter with every new find.

Kan didn’t know the English words for our culinary roadside delights so I went online in search of information to reassure me that I wasn’t being told a tall tale! I thought maybe her giggles meant that she was trying to tease me. I found a plethora of sites touting the huge variety of edible plants (both nutritional and medicinal) that can be found throughout Thailand. So, she really wasn’t pulling my leg. The best I can figure is that the vine Kan was giddily gathering was called Pak Tam Leung and, just like spinach, can be lightly steamed and eaten as a tasty and healthy side dish.

Don’t even get me started on the herbs that grow wild here. I may not be much of a cook but I do love to eat. Part of our meandering typically includes crushing a few leaves between our fingers and inhaling the pungent smell of a wild basil or coriander leaf. Yum!

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The downside to this treasure trove of delectable treats is that there’s often poisonous stuff intertwined with the good stuff and to the untrained eye it all looks exactly the same. My love of hiking in the woods started in the wilds of Canada where I always counted on my husband (or other educated guide) to watch out for any poison ivy. I’ve never been able to tell if I’m walking in it or not. So, the moral of this story is, if you’re planning to do a little shopping in the woods, you had better take a local with you.

A published author and freelance writer, Anne O’Connell, has been an expat since 1993 when she and her husband escaped the cold of Toronto, Canada and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They enjoyed the sun and sand for 14 years, while she worked in the PR field, and then decided it was time for a new adventure. Heading for even more sun and sand, they moved to Dubai in late 2007 and then on to Thailand in 2011.

Anne has been working as a freelance copywriter and communications consultant since 2007, specializing in marketing, corporate communications, public relations, social media and website content. She and her husband have a passion for travel and that adventurous spirit has taken them all over the world. Anne grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has a bachelor of public relations from Mount St. Vincent University. You can visit her website at www.anne-oconnell.com or her blog at www.anne-writingjustbecause.blogspot.com.


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