Issue #048, November 5, 2013
Finding Food for Free in the Wild
Foraging Guide, Part One
Learning how to forage for food is a lost art. Most people have no clue where the common foods they eat come from, let alone the foods that grow around them in the wild. But learning to recognize and prepare wild edible plants will provide you with a valuable skill that could save you and your loved ones in an emergency.
In these current times of uncertainty, it's wise to learn from the past. In the early 1930s Ukrainian villagers, who were forced to endure a politically-induced famine, were faced with two options: cannibalism or eating boiled weeds to survive. I personally prefer the latter, and I suspect you do as well. Should an economic collapse, an EMP attack or other calamity occur that prevents you from buying food at the store, knowledge of the wild food growing around your area could be life-saving.
So how do you learn about free food in the wild? A first step would be to look for local foraging groups in your area. I found one near my home by typing the word "foraging" along with the name of my state in my search engine. Foraging groups will often hold field trips where they will point out edible foods. They will also hold workshops to show you how to prepare these foods.
One or two good foraging guides are also a must-have in your preparedness arsenal. A really good reference I came across is The Forager's Harvest by Samuel Thayer. Also the Army has a good reference called The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants with several tests on determining the edibility of plants and tips on plants that should be avoided.
In addition, I have listed a few plants that are common throughout North America and some parts of Europe that have provided free food to the self-reliant for centuries.
The burdock plant is infamous for its nasty, stick-tight burs, but before you make plans to completely eradicate it from your yard, hold on! The burdock is also a great source of excellent food and medicine. Learn more here.
Pies and jams, anyone? Pick this fruit for free from your acreage or an open field and either make jam, dry the berries for a snack or make your own self-reliant desserts. Elderberries are also good for relieving the symptoms of colds and flus. Learn more here.
In the early spring, use the leaves of this plant for salad greens. The plant can also be used to fight an infection or ease the sting of an insect bite. Learn more here.
Don't spray these plants; harvest them instead. In the early spring, pick the leaves to make a salad. Chop and roast the roots for a coffee substitute. Dandelion tea is also good for easing constipation and will strengthen your immune system. Learn more here.
If you're looking for an extra zing to your salad, you can't beat wood sorrel. The leaves of this edible plant have a lemony zest. Only don't make a steady diet out of wood sorrel or eat them if you have a history of gout, rheumatism, or kidney stones. Learn more here.
And as always, happy homesteading!
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