It is estimated that approximately 815 million people go to bed hungry every night, according to The United Nation’s report entitled The State Of Food Insecurity And Nutrition In The World 2017. Furthermore, in The United States alone, the number stands at around 40 million people with 12 million children, according to feedingamerica.org.. Even in the largest food production nation on The Globe, people still struggle for adequate nutrition.
For all those who cannot afford to eat every day, or for those living off-grid, or for those just looking for information on alternative food sources, Foraging may just be the answer!!! Being able to find food right in your backyard (or nearby) would greatly reduce the hunger crisis and allow people and whole communities to become empowered and thrive.
I know what your thinking! You don’t have the time, patience, and/or energy to learn what plants are edible and which ones you’d rather not mess with. Rather than spend a long time learning about what plants do what, this article focuses on easily identifiable vegetation that is edible and easy to source. Whether your hungry, paranoid, or curious, this How To – Foraging article should help you out!
What Is Foraging?
The search for wild edible plants and vegetables found in their natural environment. It is the process of checking your surroundings for an easily identifiable food source consisting of flowers, leaves, seeds, seedlings, etc. Foraging has the potential to turn victims into survivors, empowering the hungry and reconnecting people with nature.
Did You Know:
- You can forage for both vegetable and protein food sources.
- In many parts of The World, foraging for bugs (i.e. beetles, ants, butterflies, stinkbugs, etc.) is common place.
Interested in trying out foraging but have no idea where to begin? Luckily, there are many options available that are easy to spot and appear just about everywhere. Here’s a list of my favorite things to forage:
- Dandelions are beautiful plants that can be completely consumed, flower, leaves, stem, and root. They may be eaten raw or cooked and are a great source of Vitamin A,C, and K.
- Sunflowers are another flower which can be eaten raw or cooked in its entirety, petal, root, and seed. Sunflowers are a great source of protein, Iron, Vitamin B-6, Magnesium, and Calcium.
- Violets are quite enjoyable to not only see, but the flower and leaves of this plant are also quite enjoyable to eat and contain high levels of Vitamin A and C.
- Clovers (especially 4-leafed) are lucky indeed being that they can be entirely consumed and contain a protein source.
- Pine Tree Needles and Seeds (nuts) are also on the menu. The needles can be used to make a tea and have a high vitamin C content, while the seeds provide a source for Iron.
- Dark Blue and Black berries can be eaten without much cause for concern and contain essential vitamins and minerals, namely Vitamin K and C, Fiber, etc. A word of caution however, White, yellow, and red berries have the potential to be poisonous and/or even kill, and therefore should be avoided unless you are fully knowledgeable about these fruit plants and their toxicity.
- Wild Onions and Garlic are another option for a food source that you can eat raw or cooked. The rule of thumb is if it looks like an onion (or garlic bulb) and smells like an onion (or garlic bulb), than it is just that. However, if it looks like an onion (or garlic bulb) but does not smell like onion (or garlic bulb) do not eat it! The onions contain Vitamin C and B-6, along with fiber. The garlic contains Vitamin A and C, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Sodium, and Copper.
- Cattails, raw or cooked! You might not know what this plant is called, but chances are that you’ve seen them and have pass by them many times. The lower parts of the leaves, young stems, flower (cattails), and pollen are all edible and full of Vitamin K and Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, and Sodium.
- Wild Asparagus can be easily identified and eaten raw or cooked, and is a good source of fiber and Vitamins A,C,E, and K.
Did You Know:
- Aggregated berries and fruit are usually edible (Blackberry, Raspberry, Salmonberry, Thimbleberry, etc.).
- Single fruits on a stem are usually considered safe to eat.
- Edible Bugs Worth mentioning: Grasshoppers, beetles, ants, butterflies, moths, Wasps, termites, scorpions, earthworms, flies, mosquitoes, locusts, stinkbugs, tarantulas, etc.
One of the biggest dangers associated with foraging would be making the mistake of eating the wrong plant, many of which are poisonous. Many edible plants have doppelgangers that if eaten, would make you sick or even be fatal. A few examples of this would be:
- Sweet VS Bitter Almonds (Toxic)
- Wild VS Fox Grapes (Toxic)
- Wild Blueberries VS Tutsan Berries (Toxic)
- Wild Tomatoes VS Horse Nettle Berries (Toxic)
Universal Edibility Test
Think something is edible, but not completely sure? There is a simple military protocol that will determine whether something should be consumed or avoided. The basic procedure goes like this:
- Decide on one part of the plant to test for edibility and do not eat for 8 hours before the test is to be conducted. Purified water is ok to drink during the testing period. *Make sure there is an abundance of the plant material being tested to not waste time.
- Separate the plant into parts (i.e. flower, stem, leaves, roots, etc.) and smell for strong acid odors.
- During the eight-hour fast, test for contact poisoning by placing a small portion of the plant on the inside of the wrist or elbow, and letting it stay on for 15 minutes.
- Take a small portion of the selected plant and prepare it the way you intend on eating it. Then, touch a small portion to the outside of the lip and test for burning and/or itching.
- If there is no reaction after 3 minutes, place the sample portion of plant on tongue and wait 15 minutes.
- If still no reaction, chew up a pinch of the plant material and hold in mouth for another 15 minutes.
- If no burning, itching, numbing, stinging, or other irritation, swallow the food.
- Wait 8 hours to check for any ill effects. If any should arise, immediately induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.
- If there is still no reaction, eat 1/4 cup of the plant part selected and wait another 8 hours. If still no reaction, the plant part selected, as prepared, is safe to eat!!
Did You Know:
- In nature, poisonous plants do not taste good. The taste and poison acts like a deterrent to predator insects and animals.and spread seeds.
- Good tasting plants (i.e. fruit) are incentives to insects and animals, encouraging them to eat and than spread the seeds.
- There are also plants that serve as natural repellents to insects and animals but benefit humans, like onions and garlic.
- “Leaves of three, let them be.” Used as a way to avoid Poison Ivy.
Every day, people are starving and missing meals when adequate food sources are literally all around us. We as a society have lost touch with nature, replacing the hunter/gatherer lifestyle for grocery stores and government dependence. It is pastime that we empower ourselves as a people and regain control over our lives, starting with the very food that we eat!