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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sharing My Love of Foraging

Purslane- one of my favorite foraged veggies
I've been foraging for years now. Since I was a little kid, I was foraging a few things here and there (mainly jewel weed, wood sorrel, and mullberries), but I've probably been intensively foraging for the past 4 and a half years, and blogging about it here and there. (I have a whole bunch more plants I want to blog about, just need to get around to writing them up.)
Foraging, for me, is many things.

For one- I find it really cool to know all about the plants that grow nearby, which ones are good to eat, which ones can be eaten in a pinch, and which ones are gonna make you sick or kill you if you eat them. I just like the knowledge, the fact that I know about all these things that are right in front of everyone's faces yet most are completely clueless about. I can't even count how many stories I've heard about kids ingesting some plant they found somewhere, with parents freaking out, calling poison control, sure their kid is at risk of dying or hospitalization because they ate some unknown plant...

Plants are everywhere! They should not be unknown! People should know which plants are dangerous and which plants are totally safe, and even beneficial to eat- and they should teach that to their kids. My kids, for example, know to avoid the oleander plants nearby by a mile. So yea, in addition to just thinking its cool to know these stuff, I think its also imperative for safety's sake to know what is fine and what is dangerous to eat.

I also find foraging fun and provides me with some adventure- it's like I'm going on a quest and finding different things on a scavenger hunt. I never know what I'll find, which adds the element of surprise. Yesterday, for example, I found dock for the first time in a while, which made me super excited. Finding morels this past Saturday was my biggest foraging thrill ever so far.


On top of that, and probably the thing I appreciate most of all- foraging saves me money. It means that instead of buying my greens in the store, I pick them instead- my family goes through a lot of produce, so being able to cut back on my produce bill by supplementing with wild plants significantly lowers my bill. While most of what I forage is greens, I also do forage fruit (generally in the summer, but occasionally in the winter), even get spices free (like black mustard seeds, fennel seeds, sumac, and pink peppercorns), and lately have been making my own homemade carob powder, which reduces the need for expensive cocoa powder for desserts. What I like best is that the food I forage is often better quality than what I can find in the store- its organic and I only dream of being able to actually afford store bought organic- and since what is in season changes all the time, I never get bored of what I'm eating.

And lastly- I use foraged plants for medicinal purposes- so it saves money there as well, not to mention being extra beneficial, because often it even works better than the store bought alternatives, natural or not.

In short- foraging helps me feed my family healthy tasty food on a very minimal budget, and it's fun for me as well. Even if I weren't short of cash, I would still forage, because I enjoy it so much.

Because of this blog, and my general in frugality, I end up connecting with lots of people who are trying to save money, and not by buying processed refined cheap pseudo-foods, but by making everything from scratch, and using in season, cheap produce. I strongly encourage everyone in such a position to learn to forage because it can truly help so many people save money without compromising health.

I talk about foraging so much, also on Facebook and also amongst my friends, that my love of foraging has been contagious, and infected many others. I have been teaching foraging classes in parks in the city nearest to my home, nothing regular, but would like to start having it more regularly.

I had a foraging walk yesterday in the city and am having two more within the next two weeks (if you think you're local to me and are interested in learning about foraging, email me at pennilessparenting@yahoo.com to find out details about where and when).

When I was on my foraging class, I was telling those who attended that there are a few people locally who teach foraging classes and charge about 50-60 dollars for their one time class, but I refuse to charge that much for my classes- I only charge $8.50- because I love foraging so much and feel so strongly that foraging should be for everyone- not just for rich folks that can afford to drop 50-60 dollars on a one time class. I specifically say that those that cannot afford the 50-60 dollar class specifically are the ones who need to learn about foraging most and think that steps must be taken to bring foraging to the masses- because it is a super valuable skill that everyone should have!

After my most recent class, I got such great feedback- one participant said that they'd done the 60 dollar class in the past, and my $8.50 class was so much better, and for a fraction of the cost! This made me feel really good, because as someone who is a self taught forager (mainly), its hard to feel like I'm "good enough"; I'm always comparing myself to the other foragers, thinking they're the "real professionals"... so hearing that my foraging class was better than that of the "real professionals" alleviated a lot of my self doubt.

Today, a group of friends came to my house to hang out and have coffee, and one of my friends wanted to know if I had any fresh chamomile tea. I took the group of friends right outside my front door and showed them the wild chamomile growing right there! And within the same square foot as the chamomile, I also showed them mallow and wild mustard and even shepherd's purse!

Tomorrow, I'm going to my friend's house in another city. She homeschools her kids and they really want to learn how to forage; my kids and I are coming, and we're going to take them on a walk near their home and show them everything edible and medicinal that grows in their area. I'm really looking forward to this, and so are her kids! And as much as my group wild edible walks in the city are great, the best type of wild edible walk is near your house, because not everything grows in the same place- so this is how my friend and family can learn exactly about the plants available to her.
If there's anyone else interested in learning about the specific plants near their home and they live in my general area, I'm available for private personalized classes as well. (Again, email me for more details and pricing info.)

I am so excited that the foraging craze is sweeping the nation, it seems. In the US foraging is becoming more and more common, with high class restaurants paying foragers good money to forage for them to serve their aristocratic clientele... Locally, foraging is a little slower to become popular, but gradually its getting there- I'm happy to be spreading the foraging love!

Wild food is amazing!

Have you ever foraged? Are you an avid forager, an infrequent forager, or someone too scared to try? What got you interested in foraging? What types of things do you forage?

8 comments:

  1. Fantastic about the class...I'm glad you got such good feedback. Where I used to live, water hemlock was pretty common and that was the first plant I learned to recognize (that and Queen Anne's Lace). I had foraged a few things, purslane, milkweed to get rid of warts (it worked on us). Mushrooms though, mushrooms are scary. You are brave. Or I've been permanently traumatized by a Reader's Digest Drama in Real Life about four people who ate what they thought were straw mushrooms. I think they all died.

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    1. The only reason I'm not scared of mushrooms is I ONLY will pick the two types of mushrooms an expert mushroomer has showed me how to identify, and that has clear cut markings... Other than that, won't do mushrooms...

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  2. Do you find that foraged greens have lots of insects?

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    1. It depends which greens. Buggy ones often will be super buggy, so you can tell to just avoid that patch. But the bugs on foraged greens are much bigger because the ecosystem isn't being messed up with pesticides, so the smaller bugs are eaten by bigger bugs, etc... The bugs I find are easy to find and take off.

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  3. It's not the insects I mind when foraging (though I do have a phobia of daddy longlegs)--it's that little niggling voice that whispers "toxoplasmosis" whenever I come upon something worth foraging. For things like elderberries and blackberries and chestnuts, I'm reasonably certain that they're clean, but where I live everybody lets their cat out and everybody leaves their dog crap where it lies (you wouldn't think the fastidious Dutch would permit this, but there ya go) and it's everywhere. :-(

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  4. LOVE foraging. I taught my first foraging class last week and one of the ladies has already scheduled me to teach several more to her friends and homeschool group. It is a really great skill to know and you are right, it's like a treasure hunt! Yesterday I found field pennycress, wild mustard, wild garlic chives and chickweed.

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  5. I love your posts about foraging. I would like to do more myself but i fear animal feces and pesticides. Also i need more confidence in knowing what to do with the purslane, etc.

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  6. Milkweed is a good, natural beauty treatment for warts on the face and neck

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