If you enjoy camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities, it is beneficial to know a few wilderness survival skills in case of an emergency. One such skill is foraging for wild plants that are safe to eat and provide nutrition to help you survive until help arrives after an accident. Foraging is also an interesting skill to learn if you enjoy cooking, want to live a natural lifestyle, or are curious about living off-the-grid someday.
For beginners who are new to looking for edible plants in the wild, here are some foraging tips to keep in mind.
Take a Class or Hire a Guide
When you are taking plants off the ground or out of bushes or trees, a lot can go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are plenty of toxic plants in the wild that can cause death, and you wouldn’t want to mistakenly identify something only to find out the hard way.
Look for local meetup groups in your area that do foraging, hire a private guide to take you out to the wilderness one-on-one, or at least read a couple reputable books before diving into this new hobby. A couple books to look at are A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Wild Edible Plants and Incredible Wild Edibles – both by Samuel Thayer.
Learn About Your Home Area
Foraging differs greatly from one region to another, so the easiest way to get started is by learning about plants in your own home area first. From the forest to the desert, tundra, and grasslands, there are edible plants everywhere, which is exciting but also overwhelming. Start small by focusing on what’s growing near you and then branching out later as you gain more identification skills.
Get Familiar with Edible Plant Types
Some edible plants are easier to identify than others, so start looking for the most identifiable ones as a beginner. For example, nettles have a unique shape and texture and are best picked in the early spring. Wild garlic is also easy to identify and a perfect addition to salads. Elderflowers and blackberries are other identifiable foods that grow naturally in the wild and that are typically safe to eat.
Get Inspired by Recipes
There isn’t much of a point to foraging if you aren’t actually going to eat what you find and make it delicious. And let’s be honest, many wild plants are not very tasty on their own without seasoning and other ingredients. For inspiration and motivation to give foraging a try, look up some recipes that sound good to you and that feature ingredients that you can find in your area.
For example, nettles can be used in soup and pesto sauce, while wild garlic is great with fish and chicken. Foraged plants often benefit from being dressed up with a little extra virgin olive oil and your favorite spices. For forage-friendly recipe ideas, check out Grow Forage Cook Ferment and Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
Be Mindful About Pollutants
Unfortunately, many natural areas have been tainted with chemicals and toxins due to agricultural runoff, landfill waste, and pesticides for insects. For your safety, avoid foraging near places with lots of human activity, such as near roads and industrial factories.
Be Sustainable when Foraging
The last thing you want to do when foraging is strip the land of its natural resources and cause damage to the environment while you’re trying to also appreciate what it has to offer. It’s important to know whether a particular piece of land can be foraged on because the practice is illegal in certain places.
However, you may be able to forage in some forests, in some public parks, along some coastlines, and on private land with permission. Take only what you plan to use and no more to keep the land sustainable for the future. Also, know when the best time of year is to forage for certain plants in your area so that you aren’t picking things that aren’t suitable to use right now.
Have you tried foraging? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.