Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

What skills to learn, what tools to get
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mooretrees
Posts: 409
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by mooretrees »

I've been getting interested in wild foods and medicine recently. I did a brief check to see if there were other thread about this topic. I did see the Rob Greenfield thread but that seemed so localized to his example and some offshoots that I felt okay starting a new thread.

I'd like to hear if others are foraging, what they're doing with what they forage, books, youtube channels that are useful and anything else that seems relevant.

So far I've foraged elderberries, rose hips, apples, pears and acorns.

I've made elderberry syrup for hippie medicine (supposed to be good for fighting off viruses), dried rose hips for tea (really high Vit C content), and dried apples for eating.

I have pears to make vinegar for salads and cleaning and acorns for food.

Acorns seem to be an especially amazing for food. While in the shell they can store for years, their high tannic acid content acts like a preservative. Once processed, they should be eaten soon or frozen, I think. Folks use the caps for tanning leather as well.

There's a lot of great videos about acorns, this one was really useful and considered energy and water use during processing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QitkIGNwUgs

This is a fascinating look at one woman's experience harvesting acorns in Greece:
Woodlanders - acorn harvest
http://www.woodlanders.com/blog/2017/10 ... rn-harvest


Some practical considerations I've come across during my limited forays into foraging include not knowing how the plant I'm gathering materials from was treated. Mostly it seems like the plants and trees I'm harvesting from are forgotten plants out of the beaten path so I'm not too concerned about this issue. Two apple trees I've got my eye on for harvesting are outside a business, so asking for permission seems necessary? Foraging from roadsides in national forests is a non-issue, it's my forest too. It is legal to harvest food from national forests so that works great for wild edibles. In our area that would be huckleberries, elderberries, mushrooms and more I don't know.

Knowing what plant you're harvesting from is essential, which is almost too obvious to write. I've got an horticultural background so I have experience in plant identification and comfort reading plant id books. So far I've only harvested plants I was totally clear what they were, and will be researching more 'weeds' during the winter. Another issue that I don't have but have seen in others, is the feeling of risk that comes from eating something outside of the normal food chain. I didn't realize that was an issue, but a friend harvested elderberries and was nervous about them. I can be obtuse, so maybe that's my blind spot.

The main issue for foraging is just having a plan for the food and dealing with it in a timely fashion. It's surprisingly easy to harvest five pounds of acorn in a short time. Now I've got to dry, shell, leach out the tannins and actually process them into meal or flour. However, that's the lovely trade off, isn't it? Free food means spending time instead of money.

I live in a small town and I already have ten plus apple trees with fruit hanging that I can harvest. Oaks are planted in every city and are native to most parts of the world. Weeds grow everywhere. So I think foraging is an option for everyone who has any interest in it in any part of the world.

Some books I'm considering reading:
Scavenger's Manifesto (thanks 7W5)
The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 essential plants for human survival by Katrina Blair
The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: exploring the exotic gastronomy of local terroir
by Pascal Baudar

Curious if anyone else is foraging and what successes and failures they've had. What have you learned? What would you do differently?

7Wannabe5
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Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

My note would be that “The Scavenger’s Manifesto” is more about scavenging for free stuff than foraging for food, but it outlines a code of practice that applies equally to both activities, and is generally a great read.

I also recommend “Botany, Ballet, and Dinner from Scratch” by Leda Meredith, an expert on urban foraging, and “It’s Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It” by Bill Heavey.

I like foraging, but my recent lifestyle has included too much free food for me to do it very often. Also, my social circle includes too many people who don’t even bother to harvest their own gardens, so I could just constantly be picking and processing without ever getting to the point of foraging. That said, I still auto-pilot scan when I am out hiking and I did munch on some river grapes recently.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by classical_Liberal »

I've foraged acorns the last two years. I've boiled the hell out of them to get the tannins out. Still, I find the flavor "ok" at best, and overwhelming at worst. I've used them as flour mixed with regular wheat flour with some success. Both years I tried roasting them whole as well, and the flavor was just not good. It may be the type of oaks I have access to locally? I'm not even sure what they are. I give my attempts 2 of 5 stars here.

Apple trees are common near me, folks actually post ads on craigslist asking people to pick them from their yards. I've done that the last couple years as well. They're great in everything from raw, to apple sauce, to pies, to wines/ciders. I give this 5 stars.

I put very little effort this spring in mushroom foraging. My GF's mom is really into this is and was great help identifying what I found as edible or not. So basically, I was lazy in learning myself with the easy resource via phone pics. The results were good for what I did, my effort was minimal.

From an urban foraging perspective, I found a local area downtown where the city plants edibles instead of flowers. This year I got a ton of green beans, cherry tomatoes, leaf lettuce, eggplants, cucumbers and even a couple watermelon from that plot. The year before had broccoli but no eggplants or watermelons.

I don't know why, but there is something really pleasurable about foraging.

Laura Ingalls
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by Laura Ingalls »

Foraging for mushrooms is addicting. Two years ago I knew one mushroom. Last year I knew three. I am currently up to seven types.

My town has a small children’s garden with edibles. DH’s part time job is with the park and he usually plants, cares for, harvests, and does a fall clean up. Cures were the plentiful item this year.

mooretrees
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Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by mooretrees »

@cL, I wonder if acorns from different oaks have different flavors? Seems reasonable. I agree, foraging is addictive! I'm waiting for the weather to get above the 30's to pick an old forgotten orchard with a friend. I hope that freezing weather doesn't destroy the apples? I know they have a decent sugar content so that should help.

I'm constantly scanning for rose hips and apples now. I'm finding that knowing where different plants are is shifting my mental map of my town. Also, foraging and gardening are rooting me in the actual seasons now. I didn't know I was so disconnected from the natural world.

@Laura Ingalls Mushroom hunting is more fun every year. DH is the one with the better skills with mushrooms. So far we've only eaten morels (delicious) and cauliflower mushroom (meh, too hard to clean all the crevices). I'd like to get better with them.

I don't know if it will happen this year, but I'd like to experiment with hawthorn berries. I've seen one video where they made them into a sort of fruit leather. That seems interesting. Hawthorn berries are plentiful around here.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

https://fallingfruit.org/ has good info in some places.

In the upper midwest foraging in the wild forest or prairie is generally a ton of work with little reward. You have to do it for for the love of it.

Urban foraging can provide a good amount of food for little effort. Look for community gardens, fruit trees and berries on public lands. Also ask to access private food on places like nextdoor and Facebook. If you're bold you can knock on doors. There's a lot out there that people don't care about. Also, having a pole with a basket or a ladder can let you grab fruit that no one else can reach. Or appreciating the weirder food that others don't. Or make it even easier and ask for food that has already been harvested. People have too many zucchini or whatever and hate to see them rot and will pick them for you.

For safety I suggest bringing a friend, especially if you are going in backyards, etc.

The pacific northwest strikes me as being the promised land for foraging but I've never lived there to really experience it.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by classical_Liberal »

@Gilberto de Piento
Damn! That site lists both the urban garden I was talking about and the park I get my acorns from! Plus quite a few more around town I didn't know about. Super cool! Unfortunately there's several inches of snow on the ground now, so I'm done for this year, but it's saved in my favorites tab for next year.

Edited to add. I'm moving a friend down to Denton Texas next week. Within biking distance of his new place there are grapes (maybe out of season down there?), figs and pecans listed... Looks like there's some vacation forging exploration in my future. :D

mooretrees
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by mooretrees »

That site is cool, I'll have to start adding to it for my little town as most of what I've seen isn't listed.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I agree that urban scavenging is easier than wilderness foraging, because a general rule of thumb is to look for where some other organism has done the most work to condense solar energy, and some other human is the most likely candidate.

Another rule of thumb is to consider what the wild omnivores are consuming. If the answer is the sandwiches in my picnic basket, see above. In the upper midwest forest I frequently visit, during berry season in late summer bears are able to consume 20,000 kilocalories/day over a 50 sq. mile range. The shrub layer is almost exclusively huckleberries and blueberries, so I could pick continuously over the season on the 12 acres to which I have access, but I am so much less efficient than a bear, I likely wouldn’t even be able to maintain my body weight/effort, let alone put on a layer of fat for the winter.

Another thing to consider is whether or not something is edible often depends on your ability to rid it of toxins and break down rigid structures. The modern human digestive system evolved after the adoption of fire, so being able to pop it in your mouth raw where you found it is not the definitive natural boundary. Using your hands to heat and rinse potential foodstuffs to render them softer and neutralize toxins and parasites is part of your human digestive system. Delicate vegetables which can be eaten in a salad without processing are more likely to be relatively modern affluent human inventions.

Alphaville
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by Alphaville »

just ran into a (free, open access, creative commons) science paper on mushroom hunting heuristics, for the curious
Mycological rationality: Heuristics, perception and decision-making in mushroom foraging
Roope O. Kaaronen∗
Abstract
How do mushroom foragers make safe and efficient decisions under uncertainty, or deal with the genuine risks of misiden- tification and poisoning? This article is an inquiry into ecological rationality, heuristics, perception, and decision-making in mushroom foraging. By surveying 894 Finnish mushroom foragers, this article illustrates how socially learned rules of thumb and heuristics are used in mushroom foraging, and how simple heuristics are often complemented by more complex and intuitive decision-making. The results illustrate how traditional foraging cultures have evolved precautionary heuristics to deal with uncertainties and poisonous species, and how foragers develop selective attention through experience. The study invites us to consider whether other human foraging cultures might use heuristics similarly, how and why such traditions have culturally evolved, and whether early hunter-gatherers might have used simple heuristics to deal with uncertainty.
Keywords: bounded rationality, ecological rationality, expertise, foraging, heuristics, mushroom hunting
http://journal.sjdm.org/20/200330/jdm200330.pdf

(it’s really a paper on decision-making science, not about mushroom hunting per se)

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by Western Red Cedar »

I noticed a salaryman mindset limiting my desire to forage for a long time. I never made an effort to harvest huckleberries which grow prolifically where I live because I thought "I can just buy a big bag of frozen blueberries at the store for the equivalent of 15 minutes of my salary." A couple years ago I started realizing it was a bit silly to spend all of this time hiking and camping in the backcountry without putting a little effort into picking berries. What I'm really aiming for is time in nature, and I can get that through an afternoon of berry picking just as much as I can through a long hike. This year I picked a quart of huckleberries while backpacking with my sister's family. I plan on spending a lot more time picking next summer. I've picked a lot of blackberries when living in Western Washington, and would pick salmonberry and wild raspberries when out on hikes (usually never enough to bag up or bring home).

I typically forage for Morels every spring. It is a lot of fun and a little like a treasure hunt for adults. They grow on my parents property so it is pretty easy as long as I time my trips right. This year I made an effort to go hiking in a national forest a couple of hours away that was at a similar elevation and found a couple of good patches. I marked the location on a map so I can return. I also ran into some other mushroom hunters while returning from my hike and got some tips on another trail. I plan to start mapping out different locations with known patches so I can hunt more intensively when I have more time. In my experience Morels grow back in the same locations.

I planned to connect with a local mycology group and look for Chanterelles (or other species) this fall but all of their in-person events were cancelled due to Covid. I did find some chicken of the woods on a hike a couple months ago but didn't harvest it because I didn't know exactly what it was until I got home.

One of the reasons I don't make an effort to harvest apples that grow locally in the city for hard cider or other treats is that I have a limited amount of space. Berries and mushrooms can be eaten quickly, frozen, or dried so I've focused on those.

Keep in mind that there are rules and limits for picking berries and mushrooms in national forests or on most federal land. Huckleberries are big business in the PNW and unfortunately some people are using tools that damage the plants to increase yields.

Anyone have experience with "foraging" roadkill?

BookLoverL
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by BookLoverL »

I keep meaning to try foraging, but not really getting around to it for some reason. But it would be a good method of cheaply adding extra salad components to the diet, I think.

I have several books on foraging in the UK that I got hold of at some point, that include things like what time of year it is appropriate to pick different things at. It's important to look for information about plants that are actually local to you, since growing conditions can differ so much between places.

But somehow the only thing I've actually foraged is the occasional dandelion.

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Lemur
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by Lemur »

First time I foraged this year :). Thanks COVID lockdown. Anyway...I'm terrible at identifying mushrooms so will need to read a book but this year I pulled raspberries, blackberries, and wild strawberry. I may have identified some wild greens but still overly cautious about eating them...which a hunter-gatherer would have laughed at me for that.

mooretrees
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by mooretrees »

I got into a little bit of trouble during my last jaunt to the forgotten orchard Saturday. I've breezed past the no trespassing sign the last few weeks, partially because the gate was open, and partially because, c'mon, really, it's on a dead end street in a quiet part of town.

One of the board members of the conservancy that owns the property was there over the weekend and kinda gave me a talking to about being there. He was hesitant to out right say I couldn't be there, but beat around the bush. I explained that it was one of the few local, semi-wild places I could get to without a car and without crowds (like a playground). It ended up being okay, and he said I could keep coming back. It was interesting to go through the conversation. I think it helped I was white and with a small child. Plus, I offered to help prune the trees next year. I didn't tell him that I've been harvesting the apples, that might not have gone over well! I waited til he left, and then grabbed a bunch of apples for the last few batches of dried apples of the year. So, this orchard might not be an option next year. But maybe I could help prune it and still hang out in it.

Aspirant
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Re: Foraging for food, nuts and bolts of it

Post by Aspirant »

"Mycological rationality: Heuristics, perception and decision-making in mushroom foraging
Roope O. Kaaronen∗"

Not surprisingly, the author is a Finn. We have a strong tradition of foraging, hunting and fishing. Now it is mostly a hobby for everyone, but not too long ago it was a neccesity. My uncle told a story that he went hunting barefoot when he was a kid, not because it was fun but because they were hungry! I had to earn my pocket money by picking berries when I was a kid.

We pick some berries and mushrooms from the forest every year. Not much, but some to get vitamins during winter. In Finland we have strong "Everyman's rights" https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_to_roam so we can go picking berries basically everywhere. And if you look at the map, we basically only have forests.

I am trying to teach my kid about wilderness basics. What to eat, how to catch fish etc. I am not a scruffy wilderness type, but I can tie my own flies, catch fish and forage a little. I never hunted, but I think I can drop a few birds if neccessary. My frieds is avid hunter and he hit a bird 250 yards away. I have enough camping skills to survive a week in the forest during winter (mind you, we live pretty close to arctic circle so think Canada/Alaska).

When kid gets older I would like to go camping and fishing trips with him. I am scouting a stretch of wilderness rivers for good spots for future use.

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