One of the main parts of no-cook backpacking trips, foraging for good is one of the best ways to give your camping or hiking experience a completely new point of view. It is fun because you’ll be searching for your food, it is healthy because you’ll take a long walk this way, and last but not least, it is interesting and challenging because you’ll get the chance to try something new and completely different while you learn about all the plants, insects and bugs along the way. But it can also be dangerous if you take it lightly, so that’s why it is good to have a foraging guide. In this article, we’ll show you all the things you have to know about foraging for food so you can try it out yourself the next time you hit the road.
Why You Should Try Foraging For Food?
We’ll start this foraging guide by explaining why you should try it as soon as you get the opportunity to. First of all, foraging means you’ll be collecting mostly wild plants, which means you’ll get way more vitamins, minerals, and other stuff our regular food we buy in grocery stores mostly lacks.
Secondly, as you collect all the stuff you want, your body will get its fair share of exercise and workout and it can turn into quite an adventure, so it has many health benefits. Thirdly, you’ll be able to see and feel how many wild species live and taste their food along the way. This can be especially valuable because you’ll get the chance to learn how our ancestors lived in the ancient age.
And lastly, as you forage, you’ll learn along the way about all the plants you and insects you collect, which can open a new array of nutrition options for all of your future trips.
Dangers Of Foraging For Food
What makes foraging for food even more challenging is the number of things that could go wrong. Before this scares you away – all of these things can be avoided by simply following the foraging guide and other local rules.
Poisonous Or Bad Food
The vast majority of wild plants you’ll forage will be both really tasty and have a great nutrition value, but some species can harm your health. Eating poisonous plants is mostly done by newbies in foraging for food, but it can happen to anyone, even the most skilled and experienced foragers. The plant’s poison is not the only problem, though, because even those that should be completely safe can end up being harmful thanks to possible pesticides, animal waste, or any other type of chemicals.
One of the main perks of food foraging is the chance to learn something new not only about many different species but also how to eat them. Sometimes you’ll run into a plant you don’t know how to prepare properly so you end up with something either bitter, hard, or indigestible, and you’ll end up having to toss perfectly good food.
Lack Of Environment Understanding
Sometimes overharvesting can result in permanent damage to some species, while you can also damage the soil or plants simply by walking over them. It may not seem that way, but some places are quite vulnerable and harvesting can lead to even disrupting wildlife.
Problems With The Law
Unlike the vast majority of hiking and backpacking trails, foraging areas may not always be marked and you may end up on someone’s private property which could lead to many unwanted situations. Beware as you go through the fields and parks to avoid any authority unpleasantries.
How To Forage Guide
All of the situations mentioned above can easily be avoided by following these foraging for food guidelines:
Learn How To Identify Species
Learning how to make a difference between poisonous and non-poisonous plants should be your first task once you decide to give foraging for food a try.
Eat Only If 100% Sure
If you’re positive that the plant you’re about to eat is not poisonous, then feel free to try it out. However, if there is the slightest part of doubt or something that reminds of a red flag, skip it.
Finding A Mentor
Foraging community is not as developed as hiking, camping, or backpacking ones, but finding someone to teach you the basics shouldn’t be much of a problem with the help of social networks or local societies. This way your first steps in foraging will be way easier and you’ll be able to learn how to identify edible plants on the spot.
Even if you have a mentor to help you with your first steps, finding a field guide should be included. With the help of a book you’ll be able to identify plants easier and also you’ll get the chance to learn about other, not so famous or popular plants you could run into on your way. Remember, a special thrill of foraging is finding something new and tasty. The ideal book should have many photos of these plants with a description of the main characteristics.
Inform Yourself About Dangerous Species
Like with the edible ones, you should learn how to identify poisonous and dangerous plants. This way you’ll ease up the process of elimination and you won’t risk your health. However, some poisonous plants are quite beautiful to observe, so make sure you have your camera on standby all the time.
You may wonder what does the Latin language has to do with foraging for food? The answer is quite simple – it will make things way easier for you on your trip. Names of the plants can vary from place to place thanks to language constant changing, and if you ask for a specific plant, you may get a completely different one known by the same name at a different place. Latin names, however, remain the same, so by knowing them, you’ll also limit the chance of misreading some information about the plant you’d like to try.
Include Other Senses
Looks can be deceiving, so you shouldn’t count only on your eyes. Let your other senses participate by learning how to identify different species by their smell, feel… A combination of smell, feel, and look should be enough to give you the information about the quality of that plant. If these three give you “a green light”, then you’d most likely be safe to eat it.
Learn The Difference Between Poisonous Plants
Many poisonous plants can seriously harm you and cause damage to your health, but not all will have the same effect and power. Some can be fatal in small doses, while others can make you weak, which can also be deadly in some situations. If you know how poisonous some plant is, you’ll also know how to react and how quickly should you rush to the nearest medical center.
Inform Yourself About Plant Attributes
Not all plants grow everywhere. Some can be found on the higher terrains, while the others prefer water areas so you can spot them near the river bank or in a swamp. Also, a possible clue can be the closeness of some species. For instance, some plants love to grow near the other species, so by finding one of them you’d know the second one is probably somewhere near.
Learn How To “Read” Seasons
This should also be one of the first things you should learn when you start your foraging for food career. Different species grow in different seasons, and this information can be literary life-saving in some situations. Some of the poisonous plants tend to look a lot like non-poisonous ones during some seasons, while the difference can be easily spotted once they reach their full size. Also, this is valuable knowledge, because some plants become unusable after a certain period and it is good to know when it is the best to harvest them.
Not All Pars Are Safe
This part is a bit tricky. If you find a wild edible plant, make sure you know which parts of it are safe to consume. Some wildings have edible fruits but the other parts may have a certain amount of poison in them, for instance, leaves or roots. Also, make sure the time is right to use that plant because some are good to go during one season, but when it passes they become poisonous and should be avoided.
Keep Your Track
If you haven’t done it in your elementary or high school, now it is time to write a journal. But not a regular journal, you’ll need to start keeping a foraging journal. In it, you should include all the species you’ve found and tried along with all the poisonous plants… And if you go by date, after some time you’ll see a pattern and it will become really easy to track when and where to expect certain fruit. This way you’ll get additional input and you’ll know what to expect on the field.
Avoid Over Harvesting
Overharvesting means you’ve taken more than you need. Respect the area and respect the population and don’t forget – there will probably be people after you that will like to try the same thing. Most foragers advise not to take more than 10% of the area but do your best to stay way below that number. And harvest only if you plan to use it! This also goes for those plants with parts you don’t want to use. If you don’t need it, skip that part and let it stay where it is. Take only what you need.
Skip Rare Plants
From time to time you’ll run into endangered, rare, and protected wild edible plants. Avoid harvesting them. It may not sound like a big deal, but every single plant counts and if you happen to affect not more than one, it can end up being catastrophic for the whole species.
Information And Permissions
Before you book your trip, make sure you’ve gathered all the information about the location you’d want to forage for food in. This means you’ve learned all about different plant species, and also got information about all the areas where foraging is allowed. While at it, if needed, get all the needed permissions and make sure to get the newest information about any possible changes, if you’ve been here earlier. Some parks don’t allow it at all, others have unclear rules, so it is best to ask around on time. And do your best to stay out of the private property!
Cultivating Is An Option
Taking a piece of wild plant and bringing it back home to your garden to transplant it can not only improve your knowledge and experience, but it will also help that plant in further development, protection, and preservation. This becomes even more important if you run into some wild but rare plant that can live in an environment similar to the one at your home, cultivating will mean helping its population. Just make sure you’ve gotten any needed permits or you’ve checked with authorities before you proceed.
Other Safety Tips
Safety is the main concern, and here is what you should do to stay safe as you forage:
- Make sure the area is not toxic. This means you should avoid areas located near busy roads or any kind of junkyard. Plants are known for their ability to absorb even heavy metals from the air, which is then transferred further. Also, do your best to avoid areas treated with pesticides.
- Learn when to eat what and when it is better to skip it and wait for the next opportunity.
- If foraging near the water, make sure that the body of water is healthy. If it is not, even cooking outdoor won’t be able to remove any chemicals out of the plant. If the water is contaminated, or something doesn’t feel right, skip it.
- Forage only healthy plants! Avoid the ones with any sign of sickness.
Globo Surf Overview
Foraging for food is becoming more and more popular in recent years, and with the help of this foraging guide making the first steps shouldn’t be any kind of a problem. The rest is up to you.
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- Foraging, wildedible.com