Foraging wild foods is a great family hobby. It takes you out into nature and provides you with some great exercise which is hopefully followed up with a fun and healthy meal. To forage wild foods you don't have to have hundreds of acres to roam in. You can even do it in a city lot or a city park. There are many, many wild foods available and many of them taste delicious! Foraging is a delightful way to get your children interested in eating some healthier foods.
Step 1: What Do You Need?
- Identification Manuals
- Baskets, buckets or bags to collect things in. I like Baskets because they look neater and also when you collect mushrooms it might allow their spores to drop and spread as you continue on your hike. I do prefer a bucket when I am picking juicy berries.
- Pocket Knife (sometimes scissors can be nice as well)
- Water Bottle - it is always good to stay hydrated!
- Optional -A Compass - this is especially good when you are hiking deep into the woods. It would not be needed if you are in a small city park or an abandoned lot. Use common sense. A map could be a good addition as well depending on where you are going.
- Optional -A small first aid kit. For a big hike this could possibly come in handy.
- Optional - an extra jacket.
- Optional - bug spray
When collecting wild foods you do want to know what you are getting so using identification manuals are very important. You can also find a knowledgeable mentor which makes foraging lots of fun. With mushrooms especially I would recommend identifying them from a couple of sources. You want to be ultra sure that you know what you are getting before you eat it.
WARNING: Though many plants in the wild are edible, and many more that aren't good to eat still won't hurt you there are some that are deadly! So be sure you know what you are eating!
Step 2: Dress Correctly!
When hiking through the woods it is beneficial to be well covered. This makes it so you come away with less scratches as well as being able to keep the ticks off. Good sturdy shoes are best when out hiking as well.
Tick borne illness are a real problem in our part of the country so we try to avoid them the best that we can. Pulling socks up over our pants or wearing tall boots can help with that. Also wearing light colored garments does make them easier to spot. There are various methods for helping to repel ticks as well which you can check into. One person in our group used a chemical spray and came away with no ticks, 2 of us used a drop of Cedarwood essential oil on our shoes and only found a couple of ticks crawling on us, the other person used nothing and did find many more ticks crawling on her clothing. So that might be worth looking into.
Step 3: Start Looking
Once you have gotten to your destination or truly whenever you are out at a place where it might be okay to forage keep your eyes open!
We were particularly looking for Morel mushrooms on this outing and they can be a little hard to spot. We kept our eyes to the ground much of the time. We also ended up finding fiddle head ferns and violets that are also edible.
While looking for food that is currently ready also keep alert for food that will be ready later. On our hike we found a bunch of blueberry bushes that were blooming (future blueberries!) as well as blooming Service Berries and Strawberries.
Step 4: Harvest
When harvesting wild foods be careful not to take so much that you hurt the plants ability to grow and survive in the future. If you are collecting fiddle heads for example, don't take all of what you find. Leave plenty to grow and propagate for the future.
Also when you are harvesting be careful not to harvest in an area where pesticides or herbicides might have been sprayed or where car exhaust might be heavy. Be alert to what is around the area where you are harvesting.
Step 5: Have Fun!
While out in the woods don't forget to explore and have fun. If there are logs that need bouncing on- then bounce :-)! If you find a whole clearing with dead trees on the ground then you can declare that the dirt is hot lava and you can't touch the ground without getting burned. Who can make it across the clearing first while jumping from log to log? Enjoy the beautiful flowers. Bring a camera along to take pictures if you like. Just enjoy being outside in God's beautiful creation!
Then go home with your lovely harvest and figure out a delicious meal to make from it. After this outing we enjoyed creamed fiddle heads and morel over baked potatoes with a salad with violets in it on the side. Delicious!