Wild Foraging and Gleaning For the Greater Good
As locavorian, sustainable eating goes, how about giving wild foraging a go? Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, farmers and fishermen. They’d gather, raise, and serve their food fresh from Mother Nature’s pantry.
With my farming and organic background, I’ve done my own share of foraging from my community and geographical area. In food foraging, look for wild foods and edibles in your local fields, neighborhood and backyard. It could be as simple as taking advantage of the pear tree down the way as it drops fruit in an empty lot. Or picking those young asparagus shoots from the local ditch. Collect foods that you can easily identify and know are edible, such as apples, apricots, plums, citrus and other tree fruit, as well as blackberries, rose hips, nasturtiums, or wild violets. One cautionary note: if wild harvesting items like mushrooms or herbs—know your stuff, as poisonous/toxic species are at hand. And always practice sustainable principles and leave plenty for Mother Nature’s replenishment. This can become quite the hobby, and you’ll have lots of fun while you’re at it!
To go yet deeper into this practice may take a bit of research (and a learning curve), but books and classes abound to further your study. Perhaps your community has a nature center or botanical garden that offers natural-food seminars, where you can learn about gathering and preparing these kinds of foods—from nettle, strawberry leaf, or burdock as tea (they’re everywhere in my neighborhood—great blood and kidney detoxifiers!) to dandelion greens (with a bit of goat cheese and walnut oil), fiddlehead ferns, rosehips, or acorns (acorn pancakes with freshly tapped maple syrup are simply divine! With this awareness, perhaps I can inspire you to dabble in your own version of wild foraging from your yard, neighborhood and parks. One caveat: make sure to wash your bounty well.
As much as wild foraging is so on-trend now, and sprouting its own micro-industry of new-world culinary dining experiences, education, products and services, a very noble adjunct to this is the old-school (but new again in these lean economic times) practice of “gleaning.” Gleaning refers to committed individuals and organizations who harvest unwanted or leftover produce from farms and gardens and re-direct it to those in dire need of food from homeless shelters to food pantries, and more.
Consider the following excellent resources for your foray into wild foraging:
*Wild Man Steve Brill, one of the best-known wild foragers on the planet, Brill offers every possible resource that you imagine.
*Wild Food Adventures numerous resources including the book: Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt To Plate by John Kallas
*Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons.The first foraging book
*Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer. A self-published book covering plants east of the Great Plains.
For areas West of the Great Plains:
*Edible and Useful Plants of California by Charlotte Bringle Clarke
*Gathering the Desert by Gary Paul Nabhan
How to get up to speed on gleaning and how to become involved:
*The Center for Food Safety - This is my numero uno resource including list of gleaning organizationsforaging, gleaning, organic, raw foods