Being able to live off the land is something that everyone would love to be able to do, but very few people truly know how to do it. However, just like with everything else, there are dos and don’ts that you need to learn before taking on the task, full steam ahead. If you’re wanting to get into the art of foraging for your own food, whether as a hobby and as a supplemental food source, we’ve taken the time to outline some of the basics for you.
First things first, stick with what you know. If you’ve never foraged a day in your life, and aren’t very familiar with anything beyond picking wild blackberries and blueberries, then maybe you shouldn’t go picking other wild berries to mix into your salad for supper. It’s important to know what’s edible and what isn’t. Never consume plants that you have to question whether it’s poisonous or not.
If you’re new to an area, or simply aren’t familiar with the types of plants you should be looking for, it would be wise to read up on basic edible plants in the areas you plan to forage in. For example, you wouldn’t want to be looking for ramps (an infamous cross between an onion and garlic found in the wild) anywhere but in specific mountainous areas.
Along with knowing what grows where, you should be aware of plant look-a-likes. A lot of times edible plants and mushrooms will have nearly identical inedible twins that grow alongside them. Or, in other cases, there are simply non-poisonous but inedible plants, known as companion plants, that will grow in the same area as the edible ones. So, it’s very important to make sure that you know what you’re picking before you bring it home. It would definitely be a shock if you came home thinking you’re going to be whipping up some wild ramps and morel mushrooms, only to find that you instead foraged Lily-of-the-Valley and false morels.
Last, and certainly not least, is arguably one of the most important things to know when you start foraging. Only take what you’re going to use. Just like with anything else out in the wild, it’s important to be respectful. You aren’t going to be the only person out there looking for edible plants, so you need to make sure to leave some behind for the next person who comes along. Even if the population of the plant you’re harvesting seems to be abundant, remain mindful of how much you’re taking (and how much of it you’re actually going to be able to use).
If you want to get into foraging, but aren’t sure where to start, check to see if there are any local foraging groups, or classes even, to help you get started. There’s always someone out there willing and ready to teach the ways of identifying wild eats. You just have to find them! Of course, these are just a few of the basics to get you off your feet and out on the foraging trail.
Happy hiking and happy foraging, y’all!