Want to live off the land? Playing a survival game? Or maybe you just want to see what all the ‘foraging’ fuss is about? All it takes is a little know-how to find your next feast.
Before you forage on your own, take a walking tour or field class with a native plant expert or foraging group. Those in the know can help you locate and identify plants that are safe to eat, as well as offer advice on preparation. (Some have specific cooking requirements to make them safe and palatable.) Look to your local Native Plant Society to find an expert near you.
Familiarize yourself with what plants, bushes, and trees grow in your area, even in your own neighborhood. Invest in a quality field guide that offers detailed descriptions and color photos. Don’t be afraid to jot notes in the margins or include your own photos to help you remember where and what time of year you found a particular plant.
Popular Foods to Forage
Weeds: Purslane, stinging nettle, dandelion
Greens: Watercress, wild mustard, miner’s lettuce
Mushrooms: Morel, oyster, chanterelle
Fruits: Raspberries, rose hips, blackberries
Roots and bulbs: Wild leek (ramps), wild garlic, onion
Nuts: Acorns, black walnut, beechnut
Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t eat a wild plant without having it checked by an expert first!
- Don’t eat plants from a questionable environment, like a golf course, farm field, parking lot, or manufacturing plant. It’s possible there could be chemical run-off or pesticides present.
- Do go slow. It’s hard to know how your body will react. Eat only a little to check for an allergy or intolerance.
- Don’t collect from nature preserves, harvest at entire area, or pick a threatened species.
- Do only pick as much as you need — overharvesting can easily lead plants to extinction.
- Do harvest in the morning after the dew dries, but before the heat of the day.