Foraging: Rules and Tools
The tools we have found to be the most essential when foraging.
Rox beside Free Burley's grave which is next to my grandparent's grave.
Growing up in the charming village of Lyons Falls, New York, which is nestled in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains with a father and grandmother who loved and respected nature was a true blessing. Our Native American heritage was always kept alive in our daily lives as both my dad and grandmother lived for the outdoors and cared so deeply about Mother Nature. They were continuously teaching us about the importance of remembering that God placed us here to watch over His land and it was our duty to protect this planet and all living things. We were always out investigating, they were always teaching. I remember the many stories about Free Burley, a full blooded Iroquois Native American, who lived on a small plot of land that my grandfather offered to him so he could build a small cabin to live in. Free Burley walked about the picturesque village of North Creek, New York dressed in his deerskin attire and carrying his needed tools to hunt and gather. He taught my father a great deal about living off of the land and the amazing bounty of wild food that God provided for us, and then my dad shared that knowledge with me! Today, I continue that tradition of passing this valuable information on to my children, my students, and anyone who would like to implement this way of living into their lives. Let’s get started!
What is foraging? It is the searching for and gathering food in the wild and even in urban areas if conditions are right. Basically, it takes us back to the start of the human race. It’s what’s kept humans alive for thousands of years before the agricultural revolution took place. Foraging is an instinctual trait that we all carry within us each day. Think about it, most of us have something that we’re always searching for, like hunting and gathering; that perfect pair of shoes, the latest cell phone, computer, or tablet to possess, a car, searching for something on Facebook or the Internet…I believe that’s because we have that need to hunt and search (forage) for something. It’s a genetic characteristic, all part of being a human. Today, many of us are realizing that we have forgotten what it means to be human. We’re taking back our lives and giving our bodies, minds, and spirits what they long for. Our sedentary, technology driven lives are taking over who we are. We’re forgetting how to move and how to eat as humans were designed to…Foraging offers us the opportunity to take back what it means to be human.
Gathering milkweed - one of my favorite wild edibles!
In this modern society, many people spend less than one hour per week outside. Lack of movement, sunlight, feeling the earth beneath our bare feet; this is taking a toll on most people. We wonder why so many are suffering from illness, aches and pains, and depression. Could all of this stem from not living as we were designed to live? Rox and I go out into nature each day, most likely you’ll find us barefoot, which allows us to come into contact with the earth. That’s actually called Grounding or Earthing. Another important topic for me to write about in the near future! This daily ritual of being out in the woods keeps our bodies actively moving in fresh air and sunlight. Two key ingredients necessary to promote optimum health and wellness. We need to fill our lungs with fresh air and allow our bodies to produce that ever so important vitamin D3 from the sun. When we are out foraging and moving naturally without the need for gym equipment, not only are we getting those important ingredients to being healthy, we’re also gathering the most nutrient-rich fresh organic food around, for free! God provides us with everything we need. As written in the Bible in Genesis 1:29 - Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you." As you can see, there are so many benefits to foraging.
Foraging Rules: To enhance your foraging experiences we have found the following rules help to keep our connection to nature pure and peaceful.
Rule #1 - Always make sure you are gathering the correct species! Use well-known guidebooks and Apps when collecting plants. Remember, there are poisonous look- alikes with some plants. Making a mistake in misidentification could be fatal. Never eat anything you have not identified 100 percent accurately. Remember, do your research using foraging guides and apps.
There are so many plants that can cause serious harm to a person if ingested, even death. Only harvest those plants that you know are safe to eat. Remember, some people may be allergic to wild food that is known to be safe for most people. This is where foraging gets a bad rap. Most of us are allergic to something. Whether it’s to cats, dogs, hay, dust, pollen, wheat/grains, poison ivy, nuts, dairy, food additives and preservatives, and medications prescribed by physicians…you get the picture. If you take the time to educate yourself on the various plants in God’s Garden and slowly introduce these new species to your system, you should find many delicious nutritious plants for you and your family to enjoy throughout the year. I do realize that many people feel it’s too much of a risk and would rather stick to shopping at the grocery store. Do what is best for you and your family. I would suggest staying away from mushrooms in the wild unless you are with an experienced forager. Mushrooms can cause a great deal of problems to the body. Remember, do your research using foraging guides and apps. Check out our video: Foraging: Rules and Tools
Our favorite books and phone apps are:
The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer
Click on Amazon.com to find these books and a host of other wonderful books about foraging .
Phone App - Wild Edibles - www.wildmanstevebrill.com - Costs $5.99 - Created in collaboration with "Wildman" Steve Brill, Becky Lerner, and Christopher Nyerges. You can learn to identify, cultivate, and prepare over 250 plants! This app is compatible with all devices. But so worth it! There is a lite version that is free.
The Mushroom Navigator App: Mushroom App - Free! This app has a powerful GPS navigator tool for mushroom and berry pickers. I enjoy the built in species database and extensive information from Wikipedia. We can track our finds in the wild and tag various locations. All locations are stored locally on your phone. Export to Google Earth, Take pictures, Store tracks, Built in compass, and Start location.
Wild Food Map App: Wild Food App - Free! This is a giant interactive online map created by an organization called Falling Fruit. It allows you to find the nearest wild edible food sources, post your own locations and pictures, and learn about the enormous mappable edibles wherever you are located. Wild Food Map is a community-based resource to discover, identify and engage with the plants around . You can learn about useful, edible and medicinal plants. Share harvesting locations. Find and add recipes, resources. Contribute to the knowledge base.
Rule #2 – Like our ancestors, the Native Americans, we like to give thanks to God for providing us with the delicious nutrient-rich wild food and apologize to the plants that we take from their habitat. Rox and I always feel so at peace when we add this ritual to foraging.
Rule #3 – Please leave endangered species alone.
Rule #4 – Be sure you are allowed to collect in the area you’ve selected. Public land and parks are usually a safe bet for gathering, however, sometimes you may need a permit. We’ve never had that occur. Make sure if you go onto someone’s property, you have the owners permission.
Rule #5 – The 4 R’s – Never forage near the following areas due to chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, toxic emissions, power lines, etc.
-Right of Ways
Rule #6 – When gathering any plants, think about the area you plan on harvesting from: Was it once a dumpsite? Is the water clean, not stagnant, and allowed to flow freely? Plants take in what is in the soil and we only want healthy plants growing in healthy conditions. Otherwise, we end up eating plants that
Rule # 7 – Respect – We don’t want to damage anything while collecting. Leave as little of a footprint as possible. Take only what you will use. Only take about 20 percent from each plant. This will allow them to continue to grow and produce seeds for the next growing season and continue to feed insects and animals.
Tools for Foraging: We try to keep things as simple as possible. Depending upon what we’re foraging, we may need very few tools.
First Aid – Organic sunscreen (Sunny Body by Goddess Garden Organics), soap (Dr. Bronner's Liquid soap) or moist towelettes, organic bug repellant (Chagrin Valley Soap), Band-Aids, Kleenex, and water for hydration
Tools – Hoe and cultivator, scissors, foldable knife, flint stick or matches, mini garden shovel, gloves, and foldable saw
Containers – Produce and mesh bags for berries, milkweed, and other wild edibles (recycling/reusing!), glass containers and jars, bubble wrap to protect our glass containers, paper bag for larger wild edibles like cattails.
Clothing - Dress for the weather and area you plan on gathering from. Often, we are able to forage in shorts, t-shirts, and even go barefoot. Other times, we may need to wear jeans, shoes, and long sleeves to protect us from poison ivy, burdocks, and pricker bushes.
Identification Guides and Apps – As mentioned earlier in this blog, we like to have these on hand to always make positive identification of what we’re gathering. Most of the time, we know exactly what we’re collecting. If I’m not 100 percent sure, we pass on the plant. Just not worth the risk!
We hope you've found this information valuable and you might think about foraging in your area for wild edible plants. Rox and I are always learning, no matter how often we are out foraging. Safety is the key! Try dandelions and clover first, as most of us can identify these two edible plants easily. Just remember to harvest clean healthy plants that have not come into contact with chemicals of any kind. We are all a work in progress and learn from each other. We'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic below in the comment box. Sign up for our email that will keep you current on our latest blogs and videos! Thank you for stopping by to read our blogs!
Peace and Grace, 💖