Foraging – Using nature to nourish

We go into nature to find peace, solitude, and happiness. Nature provides so much for us and improves our mental health. It can also provide for our bodies physically. When we go into nature we are usually exercising, which helps us live longer, fuller lives. But if you look closer as you hike that trail, you can see how nature can provide nourishment for us too. Foraging, hunting, and fishing is a great way to eat clean and enjoy in the tasty goodness nature provides for us.

First I need to tell you to make sure that it is OK to gather wild vegetation and hunt where you go. Some places, like many state parks or national parks prohibit hunting, and some may prohibit gathering as well. They have good reasons and you should abide by their rules. Check out my post on leave no trace principles to help be a better steward of the land.

Ok, with that said, most places like the national forests, national grasslands, and Bureau of Land Management lands, do allow hunting and foraging. The taking of prehistoric artifacts, rocks, and other things that cannot be replaced, should be avoided no matter where you are.

Elderberries

Also while foraging for things like wild berries, remember that that is food for animals too. It is important when you do go foraging to do it responsibly. It is also extremely important to know what you forging for. Some plants are not edible and can make you sick, so you are going to want to be knowledgeable enough to stay away from those.

While I was hiking in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, my friend and I discussed our hike with a park ranger. She said when we got to certain spot, there were wild blueberries that were ripe. When we got to that spot, I was 99 percent sure I was looking at blueberries, but because I didn’t know anything about wild blueberries I didn’t want to make a mistake and eat the wrong berry.

The type of foods you can forage for depends on where you live. I live in Arkansas and have collected wild persimmons, blue berries, black berries, elderberries, and black walnuts. I have been hunting for turkey and deer, but only one time each.

With the persimmons, we made a sweet bread as well as a preserves. Persimmons have many seeds, which are hard to get out, so you have to work a little harder with them. Most people do not forage for wild persimmons because they don’t want to deal with the seeds.

When we gathered wild blueberries, we did not get enough to make preserves, so we ate them fresh. They were extremely tasty.

Wild blueberries

However, you also need to research what foods can be eaten raw. You cannot eat raw elderberries. Raw elderberries will make you sick, but if you cook them, the toxins cook out. When I gathered elderberries, I made syrup with them. I attempted preserves, but it was my first time canning, and I got syrup instead.

The blackberries were probably my favorite tasty treat obtained by foraging. They are definitely not my favorite to gather though. Blackberries are in a thicket and I have many scrapes and bug bites to prove it. Also if you forage for them, watch out for snakes.

Wild blackberries which I ate with cream, drank in mojitos, and made preserves with.

We gathered so many blackberries, we were able to make a full recipe of preserves (eight pints), as well as fresh blackberry mojitos.

There are several great books that can show you what you can gather, when you can find it in season, and what to do with it after you gather it.

Foraging for wild foods is a great way to open more of your senses to nature. But always remember to be safe and know what you are doing. Even those with experience have made mistakes while foraging for wild foods.

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