For me, foraging starts in a comfortable seat, cup of coffee in hand. It’s important to feel rested, and energized, before heading out to forage, especially with a preschooler in tow. The act of foraging may be physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. Dennis has spent an hour climbing a cherry tree on one of our best urban foraging runs. I have often taken Darren out by myself to collect mulberries or serviceberries. The emotionally taxing part can come into play as people ask what you’re doing or you’re accosted by someone who thinks your acts are unscrupulous (this hasn’t happened to us, thankfully). So, please, ready yourself for the task.
Next, get some supplies together. You should wear closed-toe, comfortable shoes. I’ll repeat, closed-toe. I recently cut my foot on a stick. I’ve also come home with a blister or berry-stained feet. All of these are temporary conditions, but I’m most comfortable when I prevent these maladies. My new shoe of choice is Feiyue’s martial arts shoe.
A collection container is a must. Toting home a pound of mulberries will not be possible without some sort of bucket. Just for our foraging runs, we keep empty containers from peanut butter (5lb buckets from Krema), yogurt (quarts), margarine and berries that we have purchased. Soft, perishable berries will travel best in shallow, flat containers with a lid to prevent spilling. Greens need more space. The container below is perfect for greens and hardly takes up space when it’s folded and fastened. I also use it to collect ripe produce grown in our garden.
Resources are absolutely necessary for plant identification. Pictures or illustrations of the plant you’re hunting for, a description of where it grows, a timeline of when it should be harvested, lists of which other plants it resembles and recipes for using your find are all helpful topics to find in a foraging resource. Two that are proving useful for us are The Wild, Wild Cookbook by Jean Craighead George and Foraging, Self-Sufficiency by David Squire.
The former is arranged by season. It’s easy to navigate, the black and white illustrations are spot-on, and there are a number of recipes to accompany the highlighted plants.
The latter has color illustrations, great descriptions of each plants’ growing preferences and an expanded section of mushrooms (which we won’t use, because none of us like them).
We checked both of these books out from the library. It’s a great place to start, and it highlights the spirit of resourcefulness that foragers all share.
Next, I’ll profile a few plants that we can find in the Midwest right now. Until then, happy reading!
(Disclaimer: I am not an expert forager. Please consult resources, other than my blog, before consuming any foraged goods. When in doubt, don’t eat it!)