Foraging

As economic times crunch down upon us, we need to learn to go back to some basic things our ancestors did. When you think about it, we live in an artificial society and have forgotten some really important basics.   More people are expressing an interest in foraging, so I decided to come up with some starter information. This is just to give you a little nudge.  

You can do more extensive research and find foods indigenous to your own area.  As with anything else, this country is so vast, there is very little that can cover every group, climate, and altitude… all these things affect what will grow in a particular area.  

 I am including forging information because it is related to food and food preservation.  Foraging goes hand in hand with dehydrating because since the dawn of history, that’s what people did. They gathered wild foods and dehydrated them to see them through the winter.  

 Why Foraging?

  • There are many reasons to forage today.   It’s a source of free food that is packed with nutrients. It’s natural food, just as God created it. 
  • Many wild edibles also have medicinal properties.  For example, willow bark is used to make aspirin. When I had an abscessed tooth last spring, I actually nibbled on some willow buds and it did give temporary relief while I was out in the field.  I was quite surprised.  
  • It’s a way of wresting control back from the mega conglomerates to being in control of your own life.  By foraging, you know that someone else is not in charge of the food you put into your mouth.  You can make those choices for yourself. An observant stroll through the grocery store will show you how much garbage is put into foods to entice you to spend your money.  

Foraging isn’t like stepping out into your garden.  It’s a process that takes some time.  You might walk quite a while before you find a suitable plant; then quite a distance more before you find the next one. 

It is not convenient, but if you enjoy being outdoors, it’s a heck of a lot of fun.  That’s why I’m so thrilled that Mike has decided to join me and take the class this spring.  It’s something we can do together that is productive and helpful for our family.   Besides, it’s good exercise! <grin>  

One note, don’t expect everything to taste and look like domestic veggies.  Some of it will, and some of it won’t. Some will definitely be a culinary adventure.  However, more and more restaurants and fancy eating places around the world are considering wild edibles as delicacies and charge you top dollar for the privilege of eating what grows wild, sometimes in your own back yard!  

As popularity in foraging increases, one can find a wide variety of books on the subject; ranging for identification to medicinal uses, to recipes. I recommend that the books you select be for plants that grow in your own area. Also if you can find them, select books that give you the chemical components of assorted plants and warnings about poisons and other natural toxins that may be harmful…  

Be careful about books that spend a lot of time with … “the ancient… (whatever people) believed that….”  Often these things are quaint lore, but may not have any valid practical information, especially when it comes to medicinal properties.  

 Foraging Resources:

The New Age Herbalist by Richard Mabey is one of my personal favorite books, which has stood the test of time. There are photos of every single plant in the book. Not just pics of them in the ground, but laid out with root stalks and everything.  It has a description of each plant, the chemical analysis of each plant, and the medicinal properties of each plant. Additionally, it has indices of medicinal uses and gives instructions for making tinctures, poultices, and syrups, etc.  



I also have a copy of Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies by Linda Kershaw.  This book is specific to the area I live in. I believe it is one in a series for different regions of the U.S.    

 Since the New Age Herbalist talks about plants from all over the world, I have taken my “Rockies” book and cross referenced the two.  That way it’s easier to check to see if a local plant has medicinal properties not mentioned in one book or the other.  

Additionally, I keep a little notebook in my foraging bag to make notes of the plants I have positively identified, where I found them, and how they can be used.  Eventually, I think I will have a pretty good personal reference for wild edibles in our area and the best locations to find them.  

WARNING !

Never eat anything you can’t positively identify! 

  • Be sure to do your homework and research before eating wild foods. Some have adverse affects on pregnant women or women of child-bearing age; or on people who have heart conditions or allergies.  
  • Make sure the area where you are foraging has not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides  

Here are a few positive wild edibles that cannot be mistaken:  

  • acorns
  • cattails
  • fern fiddleheads
  • figs
  • dandelions
  • mulberries
  • pine nuts
  • prickly pear cactus
  • rose hips
  • stinging nettle    
Each season as you go out foraging, try to learn to identify at least one or two new plants per year.  

Here are some links you might want to look over.  


Urban foraging… interesting concept:

5 comments:

  1. I 'discovered' autumn olive berries this year and have loved the idea of foraging for them. They make a great juice and jam and people are dehydrating the pulp into a leather. I haven't tried that yet. But what a great use for something that grows as an invasive shrub all over the area.

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    1. Sande, are those what I might know as "Russian Olives"? We used to have some around where I lived in Alabama. My dad planted them because he was a bee keeper and the bees loved them. I used to munch a hand full every now and then.

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  2. My fav. book is Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas, PhD - in it I've found many wonderful meals that I can make with the wild foods and found a way to make identification easy . . . I grow a wild garden bed! If I can grow the wild things in a bed, I can make 100% identification in the wild safely. I hava grown a LOT of Chickweed for example - we feed it to us, our animals and make medicinals out of it - - - I don't have to go searching for it and I know when I stumble upon it in the wild, exactly what it is. Thanks for your great website - I too have been drying everything and putting meals aside and it's a huge benefit to our budget . . .

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    1. Yes, chickweed is easily recognizable. I know it grows in many parts of the country,but haven't seen any here in the wilds of Wyoming. I live at 7,000 feet and and challanged to find enough recognizable wild edibles.

      If you click on the listing for books, you will find a few more foraging titles I have purchased since posting this page.

      Growing your own wild edibles is a good idea. They are perfect for the environment in which you live. I went on several foraging classes and got a healthy respect for the native American gatherers. It didn't take long for me to realize that you didn't go outside your teepee and pick a mess of greens in fifteen minutes. You spent hours and walked for miles to find enough for today's supper!

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  3. Hi Linda,

    Thanks for putting this post together, I am really interested in foraging and this is good information. These look like links I am excited to follow too!

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