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Where does your food come from? If your answer is "from the supermarket", but you crave fresh home-made food and would like to spend more time in nature, it may be time to discover the joys of foraging. What do you need to know before you start, what produce is generally readily available, and what can you do with it?
Before You Start...
Before you start foraging, you'll want to grab a book about local plant life — wild flowers, fruits, nuts, roots, mushrooms, and herbs. People who already have extensive plant knowledge may want to skip this step, but knowing what plants you have around your neighborhood, and being able to tell edible plants from poisonous ones is a real bonus.
Here are some general tips:
- Aim to become very familiar with the vegetation in your neighborhood, starting with your own garden if you have one. What are the names of the plants, trees, bushes, and mushrooms you have around? Which ones are edible? Which ones are dangerous? When do they grow?
- Commit yourself to never taking all vegetation from a certain patch — not only do you want to make sure you leave enough for renewal so you have enough for next season, you also want to leave enough for birds and other animals.
- Do not litter while you are out foraging, and take care not to do damage to soil and vegetation by stamping around like a Dinosaur.
Some attributes you may want to get your hands on before you start foraging include a pair of garden gloves, a pair of clippers, kitchen scissors, a knife, a basket or a bucket, a trowel, in some cases a ladder, and I often take a walking stick with me to pull down branches.
It is very important that you don't forage next to motorways or in places where the produce you may find is likely to be very polluted or sprayed with chemicals. You also want to avoid foraging in public parks. There may be scrumptious dandelions and stuff, but they are likely to be contaminated with dog pee and even poo. Furthermore, you'll want to to check you're not accidentally trespassing. If you do decide to enter a private area, ask permission first. Sometimes, people will love it if you get rid of their "weeds" for free — you can even ask if they would like a jar of your home-made produce afterwards. All in all, though, it's usually best to go foraging at nature reserves, though again you'll want to make sure it's allowed.
Your own finished products will taste unlike anything you will ever find in a supermarket, and if you put your stuff in cute jars, it will make awesome gifts for your friends and acquaintances.