Foraging for Food - Part One, An Introduction to Foraging
Okay, so back in Part One at the bottom of the page I listed the following:
A Few Quick Foraging Tips
- Improvise a piece of fabric to gather food into so you can carry it easily without dropping any.
- Use a digging tool, like a stick or sharp rock, when digging for roots.
- Find other people who are more experienced at foraging for food. They can teach you more about what foods are good to eat and what ones to avoid.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help.
- Research any foods you find that you are unsure about BEFORE eating them.
- Don't wander too far into the woods that you might get lost. Keep your bearings.
- Start off simple with common plants that you recognize. You will start to become an expert at the stranger plants over time.
- Learn how to mix various foods together, such as dandelion bits with slices of apple. It tastes better that way.
- Your body may not be used to eating wild plants - nibble a tiny bit at a time. Don't try to make a whole meal out of them if you are just doing this as a hobby and it is not an emergency.
- Even if it is an emergency and you are worried about how your body will react to a new food, stick to nibbling and snacking on them. Don't just gorge yourself on dandelions.
#1. Keep a Notebook
When you find a new plant, take a sample of it and mark down in your notebook where you found, how wet the soil was, any interesting landscape features that were nearby, the date you found it, and possibly even sketch a few details of the plant.
Then when you are home, research the new plant to find out whether it is good to eat, poisonous, toxic, bitter, useful for medicinal reasons, makes a good spice or garnish, etc - and make any important notes you learn in your notebook.
#2. Don't Assume that if a bug, bird or animal ate it that it is safe to eat
In fact, try to avoid making any kind of assumptions at all. Always research the plants before you eat them. For all you know the bird that ate is now dead and rotting somewhere, for being foolish enough to eat something it didn't know was toxic.
#3. Rip out any Invasive Species you find
Sometimes you might find a plant that the Ontario government wants you to get rid of because it is ruining the local ecosystems. If you do find such a plant, rip it out and get rid of any seeds you find. Do your part by getting rid of it.
Once you have ripped it out however you might also research it and determine if it is useful for anything, good to eat, etc. Just because you ripped it out doesn't mean you cannot use it for something such as eating it in a salad or grinding part of it up for a spice.
#4. If you find a plant which is "At Risk of Extinction" take the time to collect seeds
And then cultivate them in your garden. The reason why is because some plants are in danger of extinction and you can do your part by cultivating those plants in a garden and later returning them to the wild. You could also share the seeds with friends, family and fellow people who are interested in such plants.
During this whole process you should also research what the plant is useful for - food, spice or medicinal. It might even make a great rat poison.
#5. Do not eat raw mushrooms!
This really should not be understated. Do not eat raw mushrooms! Mushrooms in general need to be heated to at least 212 degrees Fahrenheit in order to neutralize various chemicals in them to make them inert. Unless you like having stomach and gastric pain, you need to cook mushrooms first before eating them. Even the mushrooms you buy from a grocery store should be thoroughly cooked before eating.
#6. Do not eat Fiddleheads raw either!
Fiddleheads pick up pathogens and bacteria regularly because they grow in wet areas. They need to be fully cooked to kill the bacteria / pathogens.
#7. Just because it has a medicinal property doesn't mean you should eat it
Often when a plant has a medicinal property it means you need to extract the compound that is useful from it and only eat that part of the plant. Eating the whole plant could just make you sick, cause you to overdose on various chemicals, etc.
If you are collecting a plant for its medicinal properties, learn how to properly extract the part of it that is actually used for medical purposes.
#8. Just because it tastes good, doesn't mean it isn't toxic or poisonous
- Hemlock is poisonous, but tastes like parsnip.
- Death caps taste pretty good, but will kill you.
#9. Double Check plants when you identify them
Sometimes mistakes can be made. You could mis-identify a plant that is toxic and think it is harmless. Sometimes there are look-alikes that look very similar and can fool you.
"Check twice first, eat once before eating more."
Leave the rest for later so it can keep growing. It is completely unnecessary to harvest all of the plant. This way next year the plant will still be there. If you harvest it all however - all the berries for examples - how will it grow again next years with no seeds?
Well that is it for today! Subscribe to Project Gridless and come back for more Foraging Tips in the future!