“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” -Robert Louis Stevenson
It’s kind of weird that hunting and fishing are commonplace ways of procuring wild food, but it’s practically unheard of to see someone pluck an apple from a tree, or pull a wild onion out of the ground, unless it’s from their own garden. There is no shortage of edible wild foods available—fresh, free and far tastier than what you find lifeless on supermarket shelves—yet when was the last time you foraged for wild foods?
Here in California it’s not uncommon to regularly step over fallen fruits such as lemons, grapefruits and kumquats. There are plenty of stone fruits around too: peaches, plums, cherries, apples and pears—more than enough to eat in their peak season, and the rest can be preserved for a winter treat.
Just the other day, a friend and I climbed into a pomegranate tree in Los Feliz and snagged half a dozen of those ripe and tasty Indian apples. All right, technically we may have been trespassing, but there’s surely an argument to not letting perfectly edible food go to waste. You don’t have to break the law to forage, and you definitely don’t have to live in California either. With a guidebook, you can identify some easy regional foods safe to pluck from the canopy, the dirt, and everywhere in between. Some cities have regional meet up groups that lead foraging classes and excursions.
Foraging can even make you money. That’s right. There’s a restaurant just a block from my house aptly named Forage. Several times a week folks can come in with mushrooms, herbs, greens and fruits that the restaurant may purchase for use in their menu. Aside from common mushrooms, much of the more exotic varieties such as lobster, wood ear, morel and trumpet are often foraged. They can bring in a pretty penny too.
Greens of all kinds like arugula, cabbage and kale, cucumbers, almonds, olives, wild blueberries, cherries, mulberries, even goji berries can be found growing wild in parts of America. But maybe the greatest thing you can find out there scavenging around is that deep connection with the natural world. Scientific studies have derermined that just five minutes in nature can improves ones mood and self-esteem. Five minutes! That’s what foragers call hitting the mother load.
Follow Jill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jillettinger
Photo by Mark Robinson via Creative Commons