Foraging for Survival
Wild animals spend much of their day foraging for their food. The human species can also forage for their food if they know where to look. Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food ~ Hippocrates.
How do you forage for food?
For most of us, our food comes from the local supermarket. We usually don’t consider where the food comes from and assume that it is good for us. However, food is growing abundantly and freely all around us if we know where to look. Open your eyes and look at the land differently. Foraging is obtaining food or provisions from nature and can be very satisfying.
Why is foraging important?
Foraging is one way of thriving. There truly is enough for everyone. Survival is the main reason that foraging is essential. You can be ready to help your family find food in desperate times. Also, wild food is free, flavorful, healthy, and sustainable. Foraging is also empowering and is an excellent way for you to reconnect with nature. A great place to look for edible plants is in your yard.
Dandelions grow all over the place and are usually considered only as weeds. In reality, the flower is edible, root, and leaves as well. Early in the spring, they are not very bitter, but later in the summer, they become very bitter. You can eat them raw or put them in a salad. You can cook dandelions as well. It can make a coffee substitute when roasted. Dandelions are a good friend of the forager.
Also known as wild leeks, Samson’s, or ramps, wild onions often covers forest floors. There are many different types of wild onions or wild garlic. You can eat the leaves, the shoots, and bulbs.
Broadleaf and Narrow Leaf Plantain
This leaf is both food and medicine. You can mix it up into a poultice, add honey, and it becomes an anti-inflammatory potion. It usually grows in abandoned lots and rural areas in the woods.
Three main guidelines for foraging:
Identify food that is available (can be found in many places throughout the world)
Make use of plants that are widely abundant and found in large quantities
Focus on plants that are easy to identify and safe
Edible Weeds and Mushrooms
Start with edibles that are easy to identify and easy to find. Given the right season and condition, you should be able to find chanterelles mushrooms.
Some plants that seem to be dangerous are okay for you to eat, like stinging nettles.
They are abundant and can be made into tea or eaten raw.
Mint is a wonderful trailside snack and a natural pick-me-up. It also helps keep your mouth minty fresh. Some mints are very strong, and you would do well to add just a bit to your salads. Also, you can brew up a lovely sun tea by just putting the mint leaves in water and leaving it out in the sun. There are many varieties of mint
Oxalis and Clover
Oxalis looks like clover and is also known as wood sorrel. You can eat the green leaves as well as the flowers. It is something that is an excellent snack for kids.
You can usually find watercress growing alongside streams and other fresh flowing water. Sometimes you can find vast swaths of watercress near streams. It is similar to wild arugula and has a strong flavor. You can eat it raw, add it to salads, or sauté it.
Out in the fields, you can find more edible plants. Mustard, cabbage, turnips, broccoli, and kale are some of the plants in the Brassica genus. You know it is edible with yellow leaves and buds. You can eat the leaves, buds, flowers, and seed pods.
Raspberries or blackberries look very similar and are extremely abundant. Learn to recognize the different berries. The leaves make a very good tea. Blueberries, strawberries, and many others grow in large fields.
Apple trees often grow wild alongside the road. Many types of apple trees grow in the woods. So many apples go to waste each year because they are not the exact type that people prefer. Crabapples are sour, tart, and you can make cider out of them.
Making Foraging Fun
Try to learn about one plant per week and share the information with family members. Learn about it, forage it, eat it, and enjoy whenever you are out in nature. You can start in your backyard and then explore the woods. It is a fun thing to do with the family. and you will learn what you could live off of if you or someone in your family become lost or in trouble.
Foraging wild food is a wonderful way to experience the natural world. The plants you forage can be much more healthy than the ones you can find in the store.
Not only are you finding wild food that contains rich essential vitamins and minerals, but foraging provides necessary exercise. It is a combination of gardening and hiking.
Proper Identification of Wild Edibles
Before eating any wild plant, make 100% sure it is not poisonous. Some people spend years learning about the wild plants that are available in the woods. If you know an expert, ask the person to mentor you. Another way to learn about foraging is to get a good book with pictures of the plants that are edible.
Learn which plants are poisonous. It is crucial that you use all of your senses and not rely solely on your visual acuity. You can differentiate plants by using smell, feel, texture, and more.
The seasons change, and so do the look of the wild plants. Locate perennial plants that you can harvest in early spring.
Unfortunately, most wild plants are a bit bitter, but when you are desperate, they can be life-saving.
Rules for foraging:
Only eat something if you are 100% certain of what it is. That is the KEY to safe foraging.
A good rule is to collect 10% or less of the plants. Never collect more than you will use. Also, only collect the part of the plant that you plan to use.
Avoid toxic areas like near busy roads. Most plants absorb lead and other heavy metals from the toxic exhaust. Also, avoid areas that are or have been sprayed with pesticides. Don’t forget to consider the water source. Check to make sure the water source is not contaminated.
There are several books available and online sources about foraging that can help you identify edible plants. The more you forage, the better you will become. Learning to forage can help you be more prepared for a disaster.
Once you know what plants are edible, cultivate them in your garden.
Keep a foraging journal, so you know what is available in your area.
Lastly, make sure you are not trespassing when foraging.