Eat Wild Plants! – How to Safely Forage Wild Edibles
Morgan Rogue 10.20.21
I love being able to find free food in the wild. Searching for and identifying wild edibles seems intimidating because of the mass amount of plants, as well as the consequences in case you identify incorrectly.
I get that.
That’s what this post is about! To give you confidence to get out there and start positively identifying wild edibles.
Let’s get right down to the info.
Here’s how to safely forage for wild edibles:
Get a book
Honestly, the best way to positively identify is to get a book for your specific region. It should have color pictures to help you identify. They have wild edibles books for the desert, they have it for the northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, they have it for various areas. Get a book that is closest to your region. Even better if you can find a book that is specifically for your state. Study the book, head out on a hike and begin identifying plants from the book.
I do not recommend simply doing a blind internet search or using any kind of app. If you must, go to a reputable website or ask an expert in the community if they can help you identify a plant. When taking pictures of plants, take a broad picture of the area around the plant, take a close up of the leaves, bark and even around the dirt, as well as the berries or other fruits or flowers.
Season and region
Many edibles will be seasonal. This is where a book comes in handy as it should tell you what time of year they’ll start appearing and be ready to harvest.
Wild edibles also vary greatly from region to region. More so, they vary greatly from micro area to micro area. I’m 1 mile from my nearest neighbor and I have wild edibles growing on my property that they don’t have on theirs. The type of environment varies greatly from spot to spot. And even if it’s the ‘right’ area, you may still not find the wild edibles that are ‘supposed’ to be there for various reasons.
Be 100% positive
You must always be 100% positive of plant identification before deciding to even touch the plant. I would not recommend doing the ‘survival taste test’ because while that may have been the way people used to it before they were knowledgable, we have all the information we need about the majority of wild edibles in book form today.
One of the other reasons we want to be 100% positive is because there are some look-a-likes. Some look-a-likes are harmless, but others may be toxic.
Get the book. Study the book. Pay attention to the very minute details such as the leaves, bark, color of everything, smell, surroundings, etc. Be 100% positive before ever consuming.
Know what to do with the wild edible
Sure, you may be able to just eat it raw, but that’s not always the case. And sometimes, you may be able to eat the flesh, but not the seeds. Or maybe just the leaves are edible. Or just the root. Knowing how to identify the plant is really the first step, next you’ll need to figure out what are the best ways to harvest and eat them, how to cook/bake with them and so on. There should be recipes online and in some cases, you can find whole books devoted to cooking with wild edibles.
Results will vary
Just like with foods we eat from the grocery store, some people can have adverse reactions to wild edibles. Even if it says it’s edible, take it slow and eat just a few at a time before you know how it affects YOU. There are plenty of wild edibles out there that are even so debated whether they’re edible or not because of how wildly different it affects everyone. So take it slow at first until you know how it affects you personally.
When picking wild edibles, leave some for wildlife, to seed for next year and to generally leave some for others. Best not to strip the plants of every single resource.
Lastly, be aware of your surroundings. Animals rely on many types of wild edibles and you don’t want to stumble across an animal in the middle of feasting. There may also be spiders and other insects that make their homes around plants.
Not just that, but if you’re picking a prickly pear fruit, for instant, gloves are recommended.
You will be absolutely addicted to wild edibles once you start positively identifying a few. It is so fun and such a rush to know you can pick and consume food from the wild!
Be safe and have fun!
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