It has been a wild year for exploring the ancient art of foraging at our house. Our backyard has always been a primary resource for me whether it’s for gathering natural materials to work with or simply for inspiration. This year, however, things elevated to another level as we really started to delve into all the native plants that are edible. We were busy introducing new foods into the menu such as milkweed pods, young maple seeds, chicory root, cattails, sumac, burdock, and wild bergamot. Wild greens like solomon’s seal, bristly greenbrier, nettles and lambs quarters were plentiful and found their way into refreshing new salad combinations, teas and smoothies. The wild berries such as elderberries, gooseberries, raspberries and mulberries were harvested with vigor and preserved for continued enjoyment throughout the year.
I reached out and connected with other passionate foragers and was excited to learn of the varied reasons each of them got started with their own daily foraging efforts. Some are cancer survivors who strongly believe that these natural offerings are incredibly beneficial to their health and wellness while others have simply been very connected to nature since childhood and love the variety, the flavors and the overall nutritional benefits. For me personally, foraging has been a healthy, rewarding adventure….one where I’ve gained some very useful knowledge about nature, health, and nutrition.
Here are some of the foraging tips that I have learned along the way:
- Connect with other foragers through groups in your area or online. It’s an excellent way to learn and get your questions answered from other experts.
- Plant identification. It’s important to positively know your plants so get a couple of field guides to help you learn a plants’ features, where it typically grows, the parts of the plant that are edible, when to harvest, and how it can be prepared.
- Pick a handful of new plants to learn about each year. Don’t try and learn them all, all at once. It can be overwhelming and take away from really getting to know a plant. Just pick a few to start with and keeping adding to the mix each year.
- Know your area. Only harvest from areas that you are familiar with and that you know haven’t been sprayed with chemicals and other undesirables. Ask for permission if you’re wanting to explore on someone else’s property.
- Be a responsible, conscientious forager. Just collect what you need and leave enough for future harvests and other wildlife.
- Research different ways to prepare. Some plants are better ingested cooked rather than raw and vise verse. There are food and medicinal uses for a lot of plants and some of that may be determined by what parts of the plant you’re harvesting and when, as well as how they’re prepared after harvest.
- Exercise moderation. Refrain from going overboard your first time out and dining solely on the wilds. Do a sampling and consider mixing the wild foods with other ingredients as you experiment. Add to it from there.
There really is an abundance of food that just naturally grows all around us and it’s my hope that we all do a better job of learning more about the different plants and making the effort to be more resourceful with all that is naturally available. Wild edibles truly are natural delicacies we can benefit from nutritionally and economically.
Tune in tomorrow for the premiere of Season 3…we kick things off with another show on foraging, featuring our friend Andy Benson from Dubuque, Iowa……We’re always looking to feature other foragers, so if you are one, or know one….send them our way. Valuable stuff to share and learn.
Cheers everyone and thank you all so much for watching!