I am a big fan of plants and herbs, a big fan of the outdoors and a big fan of food – so let’s face it – foraging is pretty much my favorite thing. Why you might ask? Why would I forage for food when there are so many shiny, waxed fruits and veggies at the supermarket? It’s a fair question.
Here is why I’m passionate about foraging for my food and why I think you might be too:
- Supermarkets are boring: Everyone agrees we’re supposed to eat lots of fruits and veggies every day. And many of us try to do that, but here’s the problem – we end up eating the same 5 – 10 kinds of fruits and veggies almost every day. Frankly, that can be more than a little boring. I can’t be the only person who has gone to the grocery store and walked down the same aisle thinking “organic kale, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, bananas, apples, parsley, ginger, peppers. Yep – same as last week.” It’s not that there aren’t some exciting and wonderful foods out there, it’s that they’re hard to grow on a large scale, hard to transport, and hard to sell because plenty of people haven’t heard of them. Shake your diet up a bit and start to forage – this is the planet’s gift to those of us savvy enough to enjoy it!
- Foraging is the perfect excuse to be outside: I *love* being outside, but there are only so many walks around the neighborhood, trips to the springs and hikes I can take in a week before I’m looking for something else – why not bring a field-guide and gather some food too?
- Foraged food is sacred food: There is something so magical about being connected to the earth, and connected to the place your food comes from. This can be as simple as farmers market and visiting local farms, or it can be a little bit deeper and more vital than that. Foraging – finding food in your natural environment – gives you a profound sense of just how much you are supported by the earth, by creation, by the divine mystery at all moments. It is literally finding nourishment everywhere. Think about that for a moment because it is truly a profound idea to find nourishment all around you. This is a tangible gift to you for no reason at all – only because you are alive and have the eyes to see it.
- Foraged food is the best for nutritarians: Remember the nutritarian idea? It’s the notion that you choose the most nutritionally dense foods possible at all times. Herbs, weeds, the plants that have difficult environments and survive because they are sturdy are generally the most nutrient dense plants out there and your body will thank you for the introduction to them.
- Your taste buds need some excitement: I’m just guessing here, but you probably know what spinach tastes like. And green beans, and carrots and maybe even rutabagas. But you may not know what cleavers taste like, or the tart little pods that grow on some native clovers, or dandelion blossoms, or rose petals or juniper berries. These fresh, unique flavors can give you a whole different experience in your salad. They can enliven your dinner, your cocktails, your day. Why be dull?
- You want to survive the zombie apocalypse: Well, don’t we all really. 🙂 Might as well build those survival skills now while there’s nary a zombie in sight.
Food Foraging Tips:
- Positive identification is key: When you’re first starting with foraging and just getting into it, be sure to choose foods that only look like themselves and can’t be mistaken for something else. As your experience level grows and you get more used to looking at plants in detail then you can start in on the little more difficult foods.
- Expect the Unexpected: We are so used to the flavors that we are used to – it’s easy to forget that there is an infinite variety of taste experiences out there. Just because it’s green and leafy doesn’t mean it tastes like lettuce. Likewise, just because it has a totally different flavor than you’re used to doesn’t mean it isn’t great food – you just have to begin to create space for it in your mouth.
- Start with Yard Food: Yard food is exactly what it sounds like – food foraged from your yard. Why? Well, it’s pretty convenient for one, and there’s the added bonus that almost everyone knows what a dandelion looks like. Yard food is familiar food.
- Prepare to be Fascinated: If you’re anything like me, you’ll find an interesting clump of plants (usually in a place where lawn is supposed to be growing) that you recognize. Right next to that interesting clump, there will be another clump of different plants that are also interesting, and perhaps you haven’t seen this clump before. You will find that when you start looking there is an entirely engrossing world in your yard just waiting to be discovered and all you need is a good guidebook.
- All you need is a good guidebook: Try foraging in your yard a few times, and if you feel the fascination kick-in then it’s time to invest in a good guidebook or field guide. There are plenty of them out there – and many are specific to the area where you live. Of course I will keep writing about this because I love it, but I probably can’t write enough to keep pace with your fascination.
- Find a foraging-friendly friend: Everything is more fun when there’s two of you, and once you start doing some serious tromping around in the woods and fields and roadsides it can be nice to have company. I feel 100% confident that you will start tromping around seriously, so we may as well use the buddy system.