Foraging is searching for wild food. You can forage food from the woods, from the sea, or anywhere you can find wild food growing. So, why would you forage when you can just go the grocery store? Because foraged food is free. It can help you have a closer connection with your food. And it’s also a great way to spend a day exploring nature, while getting some fresh air and exercise.
But, before you go foraging, you should know some ground rules. Here are my top six foraging tips…
1. Stay safe
Make sure you know where you are going, and bring a friend, maps, a cellphone, and GPS. Getting lost in the middle of nowhere can be dangerous and scary. Make sure you have proper supplies in case you do get lost or injured. Bring a first aid kit, water and snacks. You should also make sure you are on public land or you could get in trouble for trespassing or theft. Make sure you have the correct permits if you are fishing or collecting shellfish.
2. Know what you are looking for
This is especially the case for food like mushrooms — if you pick the wrong one, it could be poisonous. Berries and other plants can also be harmful to humans, but look deceivingly delicious. Consider taking some classes on plant identification, or take someone with you who knows what they are doing. Consult field guides before you pick, and only eat a small amount the first time you collect a new food in case you have identified a plant incorrectly. Better safe than sorry.
3. Don’t over-harvest
If you pick too many, you may pick them all. This is what happened with several varieties of mushrooms in our neck of the woods. Too many pickers picked, and now it is rare to find mushrooms like morels out in the wild. When foraging, make sure you leave plenty behind so that the plant can reproduce. Try to take mostly mature plants (unless the plant can only be harvested when it is young) so that the young ones can grow and go to seed.
4. Ask permission
If you are urban foraging (foraging in an urban area) make sure you ask permission if you are collecting things like berries or fallen apples that are at the edge of someone’s property. Most people are happy to share as long as you ask first. If you do not ask first you are stealing. Not cool.
5. Don’t harvest in toxic areas
Make sure you are foraging in areas that are free from pesticides and other harmful toxins. Be careful about harvesting too close to the road, as exhaust and other chemicals from cars may contaminate the plants.
6. Know which parts of the plant are edible at what time of the year
Some plants are only edible are certain times of the year. Stinging Nettle for example should only be harvested before it goes to seed. There are also some plants that you can only eat part of like the stem or the leaves. Make sure you know what you are looking for.
What are your best foraging tips? Share in the comments!