The Do’s and Don’ts of Foraging

Food foraging is something I feel very interested in, but truthfully I didn’t know much about it until recently. I’ve always been super freaked out about picking something and poisoning myself (hello ending of “Into the Wild”) or it tasting just plain bad. Since the pandemic began, I think a lot of people have been leaning towards growing or foraging some of their own food for convenience and as a way to keep the boredom at bay. I love the idea for those reasons and the amazing connection to nature it brings. After doing some digging (hah garden jokes), I’ve found it’s a lot easier to forage food than I thought! Plus, the risk of poisoning yourself is truly quite low, as long as you follow a few simple do’s and don’ts.

Do:

  • acknowledge the First Nations history of living off the land
  • reconnect with nature while you forage
  • harvest between 5-10% of the patch
  • keep upstream of agricultural/industrial areas and away from unclean water
  • spread seeds after you pick
  • leave behind some plants for animals to eat
  • start with easy plants like fiddleheads or berries
  • bring the right tools: trowel, reusable bags or containers, field guide, gloves
  • wash all foraged food
  • wash, cook or dehydrate the food
  • look out for these beginner species to try: ox-eye daisy, dandelion, berries, asparagus, cattails, fiddleheads, mushrooms
  • pick on private property after asking or on crown land

Don’t:

  • pick too much of a species essential to the ecosystem
  • over forage (especially wild leek and ginseng in Ontario)
  • pick endangered or vulnerable species
  • forage on private property without permission
  • eat if you aren’t 100% sure if the item is edible (look out for look alike mushrooms and water hemlock that look like carrots)
  • remove the entire plant (usually)
  • eat any unfamiliar or new foraged foods if you are nursing or pregnant
  • pick wilted or browning plants

Most importantly, we want to have fun and enjoy connecting with the land and our food, so why not give it a try! I am so excited forage this spring/summer 🙂

Here are a few essential guides to foraging (these are Ontario/Quebec, Canada based since that is where I live but they apply to many areas):

Forbes Wild Foods

Ontario Nature

Beside Magazine

I hope you guys get out there and try picking your own food with me this year! Head to my Instagram and chat with me about foraging and anything else sustainability related: @sustainablesydb.

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