A Guide to the Pleasures of Sourcing Food From the Wild
Foraging doesn’t have to be about surviving the end of civilization. It can be a very soothing endeavor, one that helps you slow down and take in your environment. But it can be overwhelming for a new forager, especially when we know about the poisonous plants out there. However, you don’t have to be a botanist to eat your way through the wild.
These days, there are apps and books to help you avoid herbs that’ll put you in a hospital bed. Though a great start, they’re not always up to date. Which is why you need to know these general foraging rules:
• Don’t assume something isn’t poisonous because you saw an animal eat it.
• Start with plants you can easily identify and observe the area it grows on. Once you start recognizing the type of places an edible plant grows in, you’re basically on your way to turning pro.
• If you’re depending on a book, make sure the book covers the area you’re foraging in. And realize that you’ll find every plant you read about in your book.
• Don’t over-harvest, especially if you notice a plant or mushroom is popular. Remember that if you take the last plant, it might not grow back the next year.
• Keep fellow foragers and our multi-limbed friends in mind when harvesting. You don’t want to be the only one enjoying nature’s gift to us.
• When trying new plants, consume them one at a time so you know what plant caused any possible allergic reaction you might have.
• Don’t eat roadside plants, as they might be contaminated with chemicals and unclean water.
• When you’re unsure whether the plant is safe, don’t put it in your mouth. But If you’re the daring kind and want to add an unfamiliar plant to your plate, do this beforehand:
— Crush and smell the fruit or leaves and smell them if it’s not foul proceed to the next step.
— Hold the plant toward your wrist for 15 minutes, if you feel an itch throw it away. If you don’t, read along.
— Rub the plant against your lips gently and wait 15 to 20 minutes. If there’s no itching or burning sensation, you’ve graduated to the last part of this guide.
— Put a pea-sized bite in your mouth. If it has an unbearable taste spit it out.
— If the taste is bearable, hold the bite in your mouth for 15 minutes. If you don’t feel nauseous or faint, go ahead and add the plant to your favorite casserole.
This guideline is just the tip of the iceberg, but if you suddenly find yourself lost in the woods, or simply want to start exploring nature’s buffet, it could be a helpful start.