Foraging for wild food is an ancient practice. Our forefathers knew this practice to be a direct physical connection to the Earth. A connection that brings a person to the deepest appreciation and understanding of the natural world.
by Bethany Staffieri
Benefits of Wild Edibles
Today's modern lifestyle interrupts this foraging tradition and is nutritionally one of the missing links in today's food system. Many folks do not even know what living food is.
Food purchased in boxes, bottles, jars, and cans is not alive. With our fast-paced lives many people neglect the simple basic nutrition that living food provides.
Edible and nutritious wild plants
Consider for a moment the benefits one derives from a common plant like Stinging Nettle. This useful wild edible belonging to the genus Urtica (the name derived from the Latin, uro, to burn.)
The stinging hairs of this plant contain formic acid, while the leaves and stems contain an array of vitamins and minerals. All which make this plant a valuable food medicinally and nutritionally.
Wild Plants are our green herb allies, and they offer numerous benefits by eating them.
Wild plants are genetically stronger and more potent than commercially raised greens or herbs. Eating local wild plants means the plant fights off the same organisms as your body does. Making the wild plant more beneficial to your immune system.
Foraging means you are walking and harvesting. And yep, that's right, you get exercise and vitamin D, all in a relaxed natural setting.
Wild plants can help treat a large variety of health conditions.
While I was in Texas with Mark Wienert, director of Lifesong Wilderness Adventures, we found an abundance of spring greens just emerging this past March during Wilderness Survival Training in Texas.
As this camp was an introduction to survival skills, the participants were interested in how to forage and eat off the land.
While foraging we found stinging nettle and had tea. Then we also used the plant stem to relieve sore aching muscles by gently tapping the affected area. One brave man, Chris Watters allowed me to treat his shoulders for soreness and later reported relief from the stinging nettle treatment.
Foraging for Wild Edible Plants
One point I'd like to make is to not forage along the roadside where you will see many of the most common food and medicine plants. Exhaust fumes and toxic wastes are consumed by these plants on roads. Rule of thumb, forage ten feet away from any roadside.
Also take note of the water runoff, where is it coming from, Chemical plant run off, cattle field, unclean wastewater? Don't pick in these areas as the plants will have the same chemicals or toxins in them as the land and water.
Once you take the time to look around and get familiar with your area you will find that clean, pristine picking spot, of healthy food and medicine plants.
Gardener of the wild
Now remember you will want to come back each year to this great picking area. So, take care not to pick it all, allow each plant to have enough of its parts left to re seed itself. I usually take 1/3 of the plant or several leaves from each plant in a cluster. Then, there will be enough for others and myself for years to come.
Also get a good field guide, Peterson's makes some excellent ones and please learn the poisonous plants first. There are fewer of them and correct ID is part of a good foraging practice. If you're not sure of the plant, don't pick it and don't eat it until you correctly identify it.
Time to get out there and enjoy spring and fall and enjoy the benefits of wild edibles!
To Your Health!
Bethany Staffieri -Certified Herbalist.