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As a beginner, foraging doesn’t have to be a scary or intimidating thing. With a few tools and a bit of advice, you’ll start recognizing what’s safe to forage, how to collect and how to eat! Here’s some “Foraging Tips for Beginners” to get you started!
So much delicious, diverse, organic (and did I mention FREE?) food waits for us to discover and appreciate! There’s so much wild food around us that we walk past most of the time and don’t recognize it! What a shame! But that stops right here!
Foraging defined means “to search for wild food sources.” I find that sometimes people are uncomfortable with foraging, I felt the same way back in the day. But don’t ignore the enormous benefits of foraging until you understand a bit more about it. Americans are the most unfamiliar with foraging, while other cultures make it a daily habit. Foraging is an ancient practice with a new spin for the 21st century!
Here’s some food for thought:
Foraging isn’t Weird
Yeah, I know that the term “foraging” can bring to mind some unsavory characters out in the woods who haven’t bathed in a while.
Our grandparents foraged on a regular basis, picking dandelion leaves for dinner that evening on the way home from school. Grandma collected herbs for healing salves, wild mushrooms to make a filling meal with and even hiked to that special place to forage wild blueberries! Back then, foraging wasn’t a hobby! It was a necessity!
You might remember the children’s book “Blueberries for Sal“, it’s one of my favorite books to read to my children. It’s about a mother and little girl foraging for wild blueberries!
Foraging for beginners starts with education.
Foraging for Beginners Isn’t Hard
Foraging can be fit into anyone’s schedule, because you can forage so many different places! You always want to forage in places that you’re sure haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, but with a little effort, you can find those places.
Identification Can Be Easily Learned
Every foraging beginner should learn how to identify plants in your area. I would suggest beginning with a field guide for your part of the country. Learn to recognize the most common wild edibles like dandelion, mulberry, wild blueberries, chickweed, blackberries and morels.
Never touch a plant if you aren’t 100% sure what it is! Keeping your field guide handy will enable you to look up the plant at hand. Hiking with a naturalist from your area will prove to be a very educational time, many of the metro parks around here offer those opportunities.
Every city offers some kind of foraging class! Check out your local extension office, nature centers and parks for classes to learn to identify edibles in your area. Search for “foraging class Ohio” (insert your state, obviously) on the internet.
Education will help you to gain confidence about what you’re picking and help you to avoid poisonous plants. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can learn to identify 5-10 plants with just a little instruction from a qualified herbalist. Remember, you only need to know about plants in your area, not the whole world.
Wild Food Brings High Nutritional Value
How much more fresh can you get than picking your own? Not only are wild edibles fresh to your harvesting, but they have usually been growing in soil that is very fertile and undisturbed. This enhances the nutritional value!
Foraging can contribute to your overall vitamin and mineral intake, in a form that the body can readily absorb.
Take calcium, for example. The average adult man or woman needs 800-1200 mg. of calcium every day. Most of the time, people relay on milk to provide calcium in their diets. But did you know that Lamb’s Quarters provides more than twice the calcium that milk does?
Most people depend on meat, shellfish and whole grain for their iron. Men need about 10 mg. of iron a day, women need about 18 mg. But did you know that mallow or primrose-willow provided nearly twice the iron that liver provides?
Foraging Boosts Mental Health
Foraging requires “mindfulness”, in other words, paying attention to what you’re doing. Your eyes will be searching and looking for specific mushrooms and greens, so you can’t be thinking about what happened at work today. When I’m in the woods foraging, I can think of nothing else. It’s all-consuming and so relaxing.
Foraging Brings Self-Satisfaction and Joy!
What a thrill it is to bring home a little basket of wild greens that you can serve as a salad to your family for dinner! While your family may not always share your enthusiasm for what you’ve foraged, take the time to find ways to prepare what you’ve found. Good taste will sell them!
Then hopefully, you will be able to take your family out to forage with you next time!