Foraging

“The fields and hills are a table constantly spread.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Isn’t that a lovely quote? Yet, I wonder how many of you truly understand it and how it relates to prepping.

Do you know what you would do WHEN (not if) disaster strikes?

A disaster could be ‘natural’, like a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or flood or it could be financial/economic collapse (personal or national). A disaster could even be a zombie/Kardashian apocalypse (sorry, Walking Dead Fans).

When. Not If

Scientists warn the Pacific Northwest is due for a catastrophic earthquake. If something like this were to occur where you live, how would you provide for yourself and your loved ones should infrastructure fail and all commerce screech to a halt?

Conventional wisdom dictates that each person should have enough supplies (water, food, medicine…) to last 72 hours – 3 days. That’s the typical amount of time it takes for infrastructure to get back up and running – power back on, roads open, outside assistance arriving.

But what if the event is so catastrophic those 3 days turn into a week or two weeks or two months or longer? What if you’re caught in a location without your supplies?

What Then?

A hundred years ago, our grandparents would know what to do. They didn’t have modern conveniences to rely on, they turned to nature and the abundance therein.

Rather than shop in the aisles of their local grocery for food and medicine, they shopped right outside their doors. What we, now, call weeds – they called sustenance & healing!

Dandelions, clover, nettle, yarrow, St. John’s Wort, lambs quarter, nipplewort, chickweed, purslane… all have value.

Yarrow & St. John’s Wort we foraged last fall in the national forest that backs up to our property.

What is Foraging

What exactly is foraging? Isn’t it just harvesting? Yes, in many ways the two words are interchangeable, however, foraging is the search and gathering of wild food sources, whereas harvesting generally referees to the gathering of agricultural crops, such as those you find in your garden.

WILD blackberries, thimbleberries, and black raspberries foraged last summer in the foothills of Mt. Rainier.

General Rules for Foraging/Harvesting

  • Make sure you know your area and obtain permits or landowner permission if needed.
  • Carry a map & compass, and let someone know where you are going.
  • Watch out for wildlife – some can pose danger. Carry protection.
  • Dress appropriately, carry food and water, and a personal first aid kit.
  • Choose plants that are at least (if not more) 100 feet off the road.  Roadsides not only are contaminated by vehicle emissions, but herbicides are often sprayed to keep down weeds.
  • Be able to identify what you are looking for …150%!! Two plants may look similar – one is safe to consume, the other is poisonous! Be careful!!  My favorite go-to book is Peterson Field Guides – Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs. I carry it with me all the time because you never know when you might have the opportunity to go foraging. Find a resource you’re comfortable with, study it and bring it along on your adventures.
  • It takes time for a plant to regenerate, so be respectful and only take what you need. A good estimation is no more than 20% of a plant (buds, flowers, leaves, stems, etc.). Also, remember some plants need their seeds to generate next year’s crop, so be respectful and leave some behind.
  • And finally – If you pack it in, pack it out!

I know I mentioned this above, but it’s worth repeating:

Be able to identify what you are looking for …150%!! Two plants may look similar – one is safe to consume, the other is poisonous! Be careful!!  My favorite go-to book is Peterson Field Guides – Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs. I carry it with me all the time because you never know when you might have the opportunity to go foraging. Find a resource you’re comfortable with, study it and bring it along on your adventures.

I hope this has inspired you to learn more about foraging and the plants available to you in your part of the world! Foraging is also a great activity for the whole family – getting outside, enjoying nature creates stronger bonds between family members and the knowledge gained will benefit everyone!

Some of the books below are ones we use for research and reference; some of them may better address where you live.

If you are already a forager, below in the comments, please share your stories and recipes. If you’re not, you really should consider it, if not for now, for later. A disaster isn’t a ‘maybe’, it’s a ‘when’. Now is the time to prepare. Do one small thing every day or every week, to prepare yourself and your family.

Join us in our Adventures of Foraging at Misty Meadows

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