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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Foraging

Frugal Kitchens 101
Many do not consider foraging for wild foods when trying to pare down their food costs. Unfortunately they are missing an excellent way to supplement their food dollars. You need only to look as far as your own back door for foraging starting with dandelions! Foraging in the wild is not exactly free if you have to drive but it is about as free as you can get. If you forage in your area or within comfortable biking distance it is free. It is an inexpensive hobby that provides good exercise while increasing your knowledge base and at the same time puts free food on your table! Foraging really is a win-win activity. I highly recommend you read through Foraging the Edible Wild! Before you start foraging there are few things you must know.

  1. identification - Many wild plants and plants we consider as weeds are edible (eg. Ground ivy, dandelions, chickweed, wild sorrel, wild mushrooms and etc.). Buy a good field guide to help you identify edible wild plants and carry it with you when foraging. Know what part of the plant to harvest and how to prepare it. Know when the plant is available for harvesting. If in doubt, do not pick!

  2. harvesting - Any wild plant that is endangered or protected should not be harvested. Whether a wild plant is classified as endangered or is protected will depend on the location so do your homework first. Never harvest wild edible plants from locations that have been treated with herbicides or insecticides. Never over harvest an area! Over harvesting of plants such as fiddleheads can eliminate the entire patch! Conservation is a must! Over harvesting of berries (eg. mulberries, wild raspberries, wild blueberries) removes the food source for local wildlife so never strip a bush of all fruit. When harvesting plants make clean cuts with a sharp knife or scissors. If harvesting roots use a hand held garden trowel. Quite often when you are foraging you will find more than one kind of plant you want to harvest. Keep them separate. Carry wet wash cloths or paper towels in a container to wrap the cut ends to keep plants like wild mint from wilting. Use recycled buckets with handles for berry picking and re-usable cloth bags for plants and roots.

  3. dress appropriately - This is quite important! You may encounter biting insects, snakes and poison ivy or poison oak when foraging in some areas. Some areas may be marshy. Wear long sleeves and sturdy shoes, preferably hiking boots. A hat, sunblock and insect repellent are also recommended. In some areas, especially when foraging for wild blueberries you may be in an area where there may be bears. One trick from hiking is to wear a bell or make noise while foraging in that area.

  4. private property - Woodlot owners and farmers may allow you to forage on their property. Never assume it is ok to forage on property without permission. Ask first! Whether on private or public property, always use consideration. Do not damage other plants or leave rubbish behind. Carry a garbage with you to remove any garbage you may find. This eco-friendly practice of leaving the area in a better condition than you found it ensures that private property owners will continue to allow you to forage. If you notice a potential problem where you are foraging, report it to the land owner if private property or the municipality if public property. This practice also ensures that you will be welcomed to forage in that area.

  5. safety - Before going foraging let someone know where you are going. Carry a cell phone with you but be aware that in some areas you may not get a signal. Park well off the road. Carry a small first aid kit with you. Foraging is a great activity for families, couples and friends so take someone with you.

  6. protect your source - Why is that? If I discover a lovely patch of fiddleheads or other foragable wild food I'm not going to tell anyone because if I did it wouldn't be long before that patch is picked cleaned and likely destroyed by those not realizing the importance of conservation. Yes that sounds selfish but it is really the only way to help ensure your foraging location remains as is.

2 food lovers commented:

Phyl said...

Wonderful post, with lots of good info!

Have you seen anything from Forbes Wild Foods? They had a table at an organic and local food fair in Toronto recently, and I got their pamphlet. I couldn't buy anything at the time, but they had such interesting things, and I really liked the idea that they, too, foraged for wild foods.

John | English Wilderness said...

Some great tips, I hadn't considered some of these. I know a few edible plants, but I'm always wary of mushrooms.

Foraging is great while hiking, the more you find on the trail, the less you have to carry.