From city tours and extended vacations to backyard explorations and dumpster diving, foraging for food hasn’t been this hot since “gathering” was the number one occupation of most human beings. Although our ancestors foraged for most of their meal components, today most humans in America depend on a large-scale agricultural system to produce their foods. While a trip to the grocery store might be considered a form of gathering, in reality the earth is still a rich source of food for foraging – if you know where to look.
Here are some of the top foods to forage:
1. Mushrooms – You’ll find fungus among us whether there are wooded areas or even grassy lawns. Appearing most frequently in the fall, mushrooms should be cut from the ground, gathered in a non-plastic container and double-checked for their ID.
2. Berries – In forested areas like the Pacific Northwest, blackberries grow along the roadside in hedges – and taste better than anything you’ll find in a store. Down south you can look for mulberries, and you can also find raspberries and huckleberries throughout the country. Be gentle when you pick berries, and try not too eat more than you gather or you may wind up with a tummy ache.
3. Clover – With three heart-shaped leaves and a bright green color, clover is easy to find and it grows in cities and the countryside. You can eat the seeds, dry the flower heads and use for tea, or eat the leaves raw. Like many wild greens, blanching the leaves in salt water first will help your body to digest them.
4. Dandelion greens – The bright yellow flowers are a popular symbol of spring, and considered a nuisance weed by many. But the greens are delicious when chopped and added to a salad, stir-fried or thrown into a dish of fried eggs. Dandelions grow everywhere, even in the city, and are easy to spot thanks to their bright yellow color. Just be sure that you’re gathering the greens from a spot where dogs haven’t already anointed.
5. Seaweed – If you live by the coast, these wild ocean plants are easy to find and feature high levels of vitamins and minerals. Look for a beach with exposed rocks, and gather seaweed when the tide is low. Make sure you leave the roots intact so that the weeds can grow again.
6. Nuts – Dropping from trees throughout the autumn months, nuts offer a bounty of proteins. Depending on your location, you can look for pecans, walnuts, chestnuts, beechnuts and hazelnuts.
7. Cattails – Growing in marshy areas and near bodies of fresh water, cattails are long, furry-looking plants with an edible white core. Simply peel off the brown outer layer, rinse off the tails and enjoy the tender shoots. You can eat them raw or sauté them lightly – and you can also eat cattail roots.
[Note: There is a good chance that the inexperienced forager who sets off on his/her own to find dinner may wind up with a bellyache – or worse. This guide is meant to give you an idea of the top foods around that you can forage. But before you take a bite of that tasty-looking mushroom, you probably want to consult an expert or local foraging group.]
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