Hunting and fishing are amazing ways to connect with our roots and ancestors, but another less popularized connection to the good ol’ days is foraging. Our wildlife counterparts still (mostly) find their food by foraging through the woods, but it’s rare to meet many humans who do the same. However, there are plenty of tasty plants and vegetables that you can find and consume just from a trip into the woods. Here are a few tips for beginners to keep in mind the next time you find yourself wandering around the great outdoors with an empty belly.
Study What is and isn’t Edible
This is probably the most important rule, hence why it’s first. You absolutely need to research what plants are edible and what plants may poison you (or at the very least, upset your stomach). Pick up a field guide—Peterson Field Guides are particularly information-rich and helpful—and read, read, and then read some more. And then once you start foraging, if you aren’t sure if a plant is edible or not, just toss it away. It’s not worth the risk.
Respect the Plants
Different areas have different laws about foraging, so make sure to read up on the rule of the land in the area you’re trekking in. With these laws, there are certain plant species that are rare, protected, or even endangered, which means you should definitely avoid plucking those out of the ground. Additionally, never grab the entire root of the plant because then you’re making it impossible for that plant to reproduce again. And if you liked it enough to pick it, it’s almost a certainty that another creature would appreciate it as well. On that same train of thought, don’t overharvest a plant, either. It’s typically recommended to take 10–20 percent of the plant or however much you think you’ll need, otherwise you risk endangering a popular plant species.
Know the Best Spots
Are there pesticides used here often? Is this the neighbor’s favorite spot to walk their dog? Does this area attract a lot of pollution and trash? Make sure you know the area you plan to forage in well before heading over there. This is food, and you don’t want to end up giving yourself an upset stomach because you didn’t do enough research into the area.
Some Popular Choices
Foraging yields different results for everyone, but there are common plants that span far and wide, which you are more likely to come across. Keep an eye out for any of the following!
- Wild garlic
- Stinging nettle