Ancient Foods,  Culinary History,  Food History,  Native American

Foraging the Local Land

Several years ago, my brother and I decided that it would be fun to learn about native plants and how to forage. Wow! Was I in for a pleasant surprise! I was overwhelmed at how much there was to eat sitting right outside our own doorstep! I don’t think anyone would ever go hungry again if they could learn to look around them and see the abundance of food in nature around us. Learning to look from the grocery store shelves to the fields, forests and woods for food opens up a whole new world and changes your palate.

The definition of foraging is searching for food resources out in the wilds of nature. These plants are not cultivated by humans and therefore are not found in neat rows or boxes. The Native Americans were master foragers and knew how to find all kinds of food where many people didn’t see anything.

joe pye weed: super edible and medicinal, also really hard to kill, native

How can you get started foraging if you have never done it before? Where do you begin?

I think that the best place to start is to learn the native plants of your area. Not every place has the same wild plants to forage. Each area of the world has native plants that grow in that region in particular and are easy to forage. Here in Texas, it is easy to forage for such things as cactus pads, prickly pears and dewberries. They are everywhere!

But maybe it is easier for you to forage dandelions or violets, mushrooms, ramps or wild berries. Each ecosystem is diverse in what it offers for us to forage. Get a guidebook to help you identify native, edible plants in your area. Or go along with someone who has foraged in your area before and can teach you.

There are a few important things to remember when you are foraging.

  1. Carefully identify everything before you use it or eat it
  2. Don’t take more than you can use. Leave some for others and for wild animals.
  3. Respect the land and leave it untouched as much as you can
  4. Have a plan to use what you forage

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