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By: Admin    August 06 2017 , 07:44 pm
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Fall is just around the corner, a time when nature’s bounty really makes an impact, and now is the perfect time to get a little bit of insight into the unique skill of foraging. In this modern age where fresh food is readily available at the nearest grocery store or farmer’s market, foraging – or the ability to detect and gather edible food in the wild – has become a bit of a lost art.

Being able to find your own edibles in the great outdoors is both a survival technique and an admirable commitment to sustainability that you will not regret learning! Among other benefits, foraging grants you a deeper respect for nature, exposure to new and exciting tastes away from the typical produce aisle palate, and an easy way to fit exercise and outdoor time into your schedule.

The most important rule of foraging is to never eat anything in the wild unless you have verified its identity as an edible beyond a shadow of a doubt. There is an inherent danger in foraging, since amateurs can easily mistake a poisonous growth for an edible one and consume it. Taking classes or lessons from an experienced forager is highly recommended for learning the art yourself.

Much of what you can forage is dependent on your geographical location. For example, a guide from The Spruce notes that “in Minnesota, one can forage for wild rice. In Florida, mangoes are foragable. In New Mexico, pine nuts can grow wild.” The first step to foraging is researching which foraged goods are available in your area and during which seasons. Below is a more general list of some of the delights that can be foraged with identification practice:

  • Berries: These sweet delights are easily accessible in most areas, especially throughout summer, and they are universally adored for a variety of recipes. Berries typically obtained at the grocery store such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries all grow wild and can be foraged easily. More exotic finds that are just as tasty, but not as well-known, include huckleberries and salmonberries.

  • Edible Flowers: Flowers are not usually appreciated for their culinary abilities, but there are actually a variety of ways that edible flowers enhance recipes. Violets are a popular edible flower, easily found during the spring, and great for garnishing desserts or making honey. Other options include daisies, lemon balm, and elderflower.

  • Greens: Many edible greens are often thought to be pesky weeds, but with a forager’s eye, you can turn them into robust salads. Dandelion greens, purslane, and ramps (which taste similar to leeks) are all delicious, oft-overlooked greens that can be foraged throughout the year.

  • Herbs: Fennel, dill, rosemary, sage, and peppermint are just a few examples of herbs that can be found in the wild, sometimes even in your own backyard!

  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and chestnuts drop abundantly from trees during the autumn season and gathering them is the perfect fall activity. Other less well-known foraged nuts include pine nuts and acorns, which are actually edible, but tend to be bitter due to the tannins inside. Acorns can be prepared for consumption by boiling and soaking them in water – once done, they are a sweet and protein-packed treat!

  • Mushrooms: Perhaps the riskiest foraging activity is mushroom hunting. Only seasoned foraging experts should attempt this, since many mushrooms are very poisonous and can be mistaken for edibles. Once foragers have done their time learning how to identify mushrooms, commonly hunted mushrooms include chanterelles, morels, the decadent truffle, and “chicken of the woods,” an interesting mushroom that is often used as a vegetarian substitute for chicken due to its hearty texture and savory flavor.

Amidst all of this exciting new information, it is important to be mindful of how much you are foraging. Many foraging experts recommend only picking or harvesting as much as you need, and not leaving a patch destitute. Once you have foraged from a particular area, do not keep returning to it – this will allow it to recover and continue producing resources in the future.

Interested in learning more? Here are some helpful resources to start you on your foraging journey: Edible Wild Food is a great online collection of pictures and thorough descriptions on various foraged foods. Falling Fruit is a website with a “massive, collaborative map of the urban harvest” that indicates a half million food sources around world and aims to unite “the efforts of foragers, freegans, and foresters everywhere.” And for foragers with a bit of wanderlust, Travel and Leisure has an excellent compendium of exotic foraging locales across the globe.

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Kristen Pesta Aug 07,2017

This is always something I have been interested in finding out about, great read!

Regina Parks Aug 07,2017

This is an awesome reference!

Trey Fitzgerald Aug 07,2017

I know people who forage for mushrooms and seem to know their stuff. As a hiker, I stay far away from mushrooms and never eat them. Berries, greens, and herbs are easier to identify and safely consume.

Todd Turner Aug 07,2017

I definitely do this for berries, great article!

Elizabeth Dietz Aug 07,2017

Very informative! Many times I've wondered what was edible while hiking!