Here at Chiot’s Run, we love finding foods that we can forage from the wild without having to cultivate them. Each year we learn more and more about wild edible plants and we’re enjoying the nutritional benefits they add to our diet. It can be an overwhelming and scary thing to learn about wild foraged food. Knowing what you can and can’t eat from the forest is one of those skills that’s been lost along the way. There are plenty of books you can read and websites where you can learn how to identify free edible wild food (see below for a few that you might find useful).
Of course you want to make sure that you’re correct on your plant identification before harvesting and eating something since some plants are poisonous. It’s also wise to harvest and eat just a small amount to make sure someone isn’t allergic to the new wild food.
I’d also suggest taking it slow and learning a few new wild foods each year. When you do it this way to learn to properly identify different edible plants during the entire growing season and you can practice cooking and using them medicinally. It can be overwhelming to try to learn them all at once and the information is often forgotten. You also run the risk of making a mistake when harvesting if you’re not 100% percent familiar with what the plants look like during each season. We make it a point to learn a few more wild foods each year. Several years ago we started eating morels that we find and last year we started eating a lot of garlic mustard as well as bittercress. We started using plantain for medicinal purposes and a few other weeds. This year I’m hoping to harvest some nettles for tea.
This summer we’ve been enjoying a lot of wild greens and flowers in our spring salads. Since I didn’t get any spinach overwintered, we’ve been relying on garlic mustard, bitter cress, wild violets, and dandelions for our salads. We’ve also been enjoying wild flowers, they really make the salads beautiful (who wouldn’t want to eat one of these salads). The wonderful thing about wild plants is that they’re nutritional powerhouses. This is one of the reasons we started eating more wild foods. We’re always looking for ways to ramp up the nutritional quality of what we eat.
As with plants you grow in your garden you want to make sure the wild plants you harvest are not in an area that is sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. I’d stay away from plants in ditches along the road as well since they’re most likely covered in exhaust and chemical and salts from the road. I’d also stay away from gathering near large commercial farms since they use lots of chemicals. I found a few nice stands of wild asparagus, but they’re in a ditch right by a field that they spray with sewer sludge, so no wild asparagus on our plates.
Do you harvest any foods from the wild? What’s your favorite wild food to eat?