#1,000 Learn How To Forage

22 Oct

Walnuts. Apples. Figs. Persimmons. Chestnuts. Clams. Mussels. Berries. These are just a few of the things I’ve foraged over the years. What better way to be thrifty then to not spend any money at all yet get something in return? Foraging falls into multiple thrifty categories; a fun day out with the kids or a quirky date idea while saving you money and putting food on the table. Not bad for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Foraging means going out into glorious nature and finding wild edibles, which you gather and bring back to prepare for breakfast, lunch or dinner or eat right then and there. Man has been foraging since hunter-gatherer times when humans were much less evolved than we are today, so it’s really a no-brainer activity that anyone can do. Man see berry, man pick berry, man eat berry. Simple.

Suburban and city landscapes are just as promising as country ones. My grandmother lived with us when she had early stages of Alzheimer’s and would wander off through our suburban neighborhood and come back laden with apples. She was shocked that the people down the street were letting the apples go to waste. She would cook them up into apple compote and chow down. I thought she was a crazy old bat at the time, but it’s true – why should suburban fruit trees go unpicked now that farmers no longer work the land?

Chanterelle mushrooms or poisonous? Find out from someone who knows. Chanterelles go for $40-$50 per pound!

Of course you don’t want to poison or kill yourself, so stick to things you know or go with a guide to learn how to forage the first few times. In the Northeast, “Wildman” Steve Brill, gives tours on a donation basis.

I grew up in the country, so it’s one of those things you learn – what’s edible and what’s not. Fruit – berries especially – are usually easy to identify and find, and a traditional foraging item.

Mushrooms are another traditional food to forage. But mushrooms are definitely one of those things that you want to be absolutely sure of what you’re eating, so learning from someone who knows is your best bet. All the books in the world can’t replace someone actually showing you which mushrooms are safe to forage and which ones will make you ill or worse, die.

Websites like Neighborhood Fruit can help you find fruit trees in your area that are on public land or people willing to share to get you started in suburban or urban foraging. Before you start picking away, make sure you have permission of the land owner. Public land is free game for foraging. If you’re in the middle of nowhere and can’t seem to find anyone around to ask if you can pick a massive patch of blackberries – go for it. As the efforts of the Lemon Lady and the Concrete Jungle attest, so much fresh produce goes to waste. Foragers do great work feeding the hungry and homeless.

Once you get good at foraging, you can delve in way past apples and blueberries. There are a wealth of plants out there waiting to be foraged and eaten. A bonus is that the food you forage is organic and super-fresh. I picked several pints of blackberries in August during a casual stroll around with my husband and daughter and thought, how much would one pint of organic, sun-ripened blackberries be in a grocery store or farmer’s market? $4.99? $5.99?

I never buy them in the store because they’re always tasteless or super mushy. So here I am with a basketful of tasty berries after a nice weekend afternoon foraging in the sun. Total cost – $0. That’s thrifty. Try it out – you’ll probably find that you get what I call my “squirrel gathering nuts” fever – you just can’t stop yourself from foraging more and more and more, ending up as happy as a pig hunting truffles.

Check out  my recipes for Lemonade and Sticky Buns, two results of my foraging forays.

2 Responses to “#1,000 Learn How To Forage”

  1. mmmarzipan October 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more… and there is so much satisfaction in foraging too. We were just doing it on the weekend to make some decorations for our home :)

  2. Wildman Steve Brill October 24, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Thanks for mentioning me. I also have books you can get, signed, from my site, as well as an iOS/Android app, Wild Edibles.

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