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Are you a forager? Do you love the idea of picking your own wild edibles and cooking them up in the campground or backyard? You can find an abundance of plants every day without even leaving the city!
If you’re interested in learning more about foraging, here’s some important information.
Gathering wild edibles
In order to gather wild edibles, you must be well-versed in the identification of edible plants. Because they look so different from their wild counterparts, it is easy to get confused.
Before you pick anything, be sure you are harvesting something that is safe to eat. You should research each plant that you are harvesting and learn everything about it.
It’s important to understand that certain plants and berries are actually very poisonous, so make sure you are not consuming something dangerous. Don’t assume that because something looks similar to a plant that it is safe to eat.
For example, manzanita berry tea can have very powerful toxic properties, especially if you don’t know what it is. You can die of an allergic reaction from eating just a few berries if you go to the wrong kind of bush or tree.
Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so research and be aware of what you are picking before you do. Don’t eat plants you didn’t know before if you’re not positive they’re safe.
Basic identification of edible plants
Learning the basic principles of plants will make it easier for you to identify your harvest. When you first start, look for berries, which are very easy to spot because they’re bright red or yellow in color.
Look for leaves that are small, smooth and pointy. They make a good contrast to the plant’s overall shape and texture.
Common plants in your area include desert ragweed (beware of this one! It can cause severe allergies. The leaves are very similar to the manzanita berry and can look like manzanita if you don’t know what they look like.)
The best way to learn is to take nature walks. Look for things growing around your neighborhood or while you are camping, hiking or bird watching.
Picking up a detailed reference book will help immensely. It will tell you exactly what each plant is so you can identify it from a distance.
Some good reference books for wild plant and berry identification are : Wild Edibles, Foraging, & the Complete Forager, ed. by Douglas fir D. (Woodland Books) and Field to Table by Genevieve Bitterman and Peter Pringle (Ten Speed Press).
Of course these days, there is an app for everything. Wild foraging is no exception. Some useful apps for foraging include :
Wild Edible App – $4.99
Plants- A Wild foraging Guide Book – Free
Foraging Guide: Wild Edible Plants and Useful Herbs – Free
Just make sure you have enough phone battery and a good signal if you’re going to rely on an app.
Cooking wild edibles
When you have picked the plants you would like to eat, you need to prepare them before cooking them. The best way is to boil small amounts of water and drop the plant in one piece into the water.
While some wild edibles can be eaten raw, others are best cooked before consumption. There are many different kinds of wild edibles that can be very prepared, depending on your taste or what you’re trying to achieve with the meal.
A simple campfire and a pot will be good enough for most of the foods you will gather and cook. If you have a pot on your stove that has been used to cook non-edible plants, be sure to clean it thoroughly.
Have a look at some wild edible recipes and make your own! The following are just a few simple examples of food that can be made when you are gathering fresh wild edibles. Take these suggestions as starting points for making your own meals as well.
One simple wild edible recipe is to cook, mix and eat the inner bark of a tree. It’s easy to peel off with your hands and it has a sweet taste. It might not sound that appetizing but it actually is quite good!
Another one that’s really good is to boil up some cattail roots and eat them. They’re cooked like potatoes. The only problem I had was that I didn’t have a great tool to eat them with because this is a bug and they’re harder to pierce. It’s like having a hard piece of plastic in your teeth that you can’t get over.
A final recipe is also to boil chestnuts or nuts, depending on which part of the plant you are eating. It’s best to boil them before you eat them, so they are soft. If you boil them too long, they can get very soft to where it kind of turns into a goo, and that’s not very pleasant. So keep an eye on your pot!
Safety and foraging tips
As mentioned at the start, safety is very important when foraging. The following are some safety tips to consider while you’re out there gathering edible wild plants.
Foraging for wild edible plants can be a rewarding activity if you do it in a safe and informed manner. Always remember that not all wild edibles are edible, so make sure you identify them correctly before consuming.
Always try to do your research before foraging for and eating something new.
If you’re not sure, leave it. Always! You don’t want to ruin your trip by accidentally eating something that has a poisonous or toxic effect on you. There are plenty of plants that are poisonous, so don’t assume all of your edibles are safe!
When traveling in the woods, don’t forget that you are involved in an ecosystem. By eating any wild plant, you’re helping the ecosystem and the entire food chain. If you are able to utilize the energy from plants in your diet, then you are helping your body become healthier overall.
The wild edible plants in your area that you are going to eat, help control the population of animals like ticks, mosquitoes and mice. They help prevent crop damage and destruction by wild animals. So when you eat a plant, it is helping the animals to continue their population growth as well.
You should eat wild edibles as often as possible to become more in tune with nature, feel healthier and help the environment. Eating wild edibles is a great way to maintain a healthy diet. There are also many health benefits from eating wild edibles.
Edibility is never 100% certain, consider all parts of the plant before deciding to eat it. Consider what might make it poisonous or toxic, such as the type of plant, where it grows, if it grows near any industrial areas or roads, if you’ve ever eaten this plant before etc…Think about your body and what could be harmful for you.