Foraging is the most basic skill besides breathing and drinking and it is seen by all animals. Whether we are herbivores or carnivores, all animals need to eat. When we look around we can see birds eating, squirrels looking for acorns, deer for leaves, pigs for roots and veggies, and humans for the grocery store. While there are still some tribes that are hunter gathers, and some people in modern society that forage, most people have ditched this most essential and basic skill for a trip to the supermarket. Is the trade off of convenience and an illusion of stability creating long term shortages and instability?
While it can seem scary or unnecessary to a beginner, foraging can be fun to learn as well as useful for finding fresh foods and medicines. There are many plants and fungi that are very hard to misidentify, and some become obvious once you learn them. It’s as easy as distinguishing an apple from a banana. As long as we stick to plants and mushrooms we know for a fact are what we think they are, then there should be no issues from foraging. This is not to discourage anyone from looking at species that haven’t they haven’t seen before or can’t identify, just make sure to do research and preferably ask an experienced forager, or a few of them. Foraging is definitely one of my favorite activities, I especially love finding fungi.
It is easy to start just go outside and look around. Can you notice any plants in multiple places, that you can tell are the same species? It is common to find lots of herbs in grassy fields or lawns, you don’t need to pick anything, just look at the plants. It is great to get a foraging guide, even better is one specific to the region you are going to be foraging.
Foraging is relaxing and primitive feeling, it helps me feel balanced, connected to nature, and organic. I know that what I collect did not require any fossil fuels, excessive transportation, low paid workers, mono crops, corporation, and instead is a balanced way to maintain life, especially if we compost too.
This is even great for kids, it is beneficial for a child to feel exploration and curiosity. It can be a bonding experience for parents and kids in a completely healthy way. Imagine the awe of a child being able to find food in its natural environment. Its much less toxic then teaching kids our cultural addiction of eating for taste instead of nutrition and buying food that is low quality and made from harming the Earth and taking advantage of people. The alternative to natural way is conditioning social skills that we can learn to function in a “False Matrix” in which we need to work “Against” nature in order to survive in a world of lack.
Foraging can help us balance and heal our mind, body and soul. There are unimaginable variety of plant medicines that can be used to treat almost any illness, sickness, or symptom. There are even plants that can help heal the mind, lions main mushroom to boost the brain, st johns wort for depression, and mint for headaches . Foraging has healed my soul because it shows me that the universe/god really has provided all we need, for there is food growing all around, as long as we don’t continue to destroy it and distance ourself from nature.
I believe that if we turn to the natural world for our physical and mental healing instead of pharmaceuticals, our society would be more connected to nature, and feel healthier and happier. I have found so many medicines just walking around in nature.
If you are interested in starting to forage and aren’t comfortable going alone with a book or phone resources, then it can be a great idea to take a foraging class or walk. There are many foraging and mushroom groups all around, and there is probably one by you. It can help gain confidence if you see and hear from an expert with the actual plant in front of you.
In the Northeast United Stated I have found mugwort, lions mane mushrooms, turkey tail mushrooms, broad leaf plantain, wild onion, dandelion leaf and root, chicken of the woods mushroom, hen of the woods mushroom, indigo milk cap fungi, mullein, amanita muscaria, mulberries, raspberries, pine needles, wood sorrel, chickweed, wild mint, sassafras leaf, thistle, jewelweed, wild garlic, puffballs, reishi, and more. I was traveling thru the northwest for the fall and found lots of apples, blackberries, raspberry, dandelion root, mullein, and chicken of the woods, and I wasn’t even looking much. Hawaii is the most abundant, I have seen wild jackfruit, avocados, guava fruit and leaf, passionfruit, squashes, chayote, sapote, bananas yellow and cooked green, soursop fruit and leaf, broad leaf plantain, mullein, tarot, cassava, psilocybin mushrooms, ginger, tumeric, spinach, noni fruit and leaf , breadfruit, lychee, papaya, pineapple, mountain apple, and much more. These are only wild things, not including everything else that people were actively gardening. It was a great feeling to walk down the road and find a bunch of avocados on the ground or walking by a noni tree with ripe white fruits. All this food and medicine was free, and I had a great time finding them, and felt healthy eating them. I have never felt more connected to nature. Each part of the world has special plants and mushrooms growing. It may not always be enough to sustain oneself, but if combined with gardening, permaculture, preserving foods, and going to a farmers market, it can create an almost completely sustainable diet.
If your interested, then get out there and start looking around. It is a skill that grows over time, and can be taught to others easily.