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Most food bought today are from grocery stores; it’s nicely packaged, perfectly shaped, and has the ingredients listed on it – ideally. Produce comes shiny and in pleasant shapes. It’s not too difficult to find organic produce these days, or to go to a market even. But then you might be paying more than you would in one of those giant grocery stores. Increasingly, an overlooked way of getting food is from foraging. It’s certainly cheaper than a health food store, but does wild food contain other benefits? Read on to discover how heading into nature for some food is beneficial to not only you, but also to the environment.

1. Money.

Picking berries, and pulling weeds is, of course, absolutely free. It’s just important to be aware of whether the plants you are picking from actually belong to someone, and to always respect nature and to treat the plants with care. Depending on where you live, you’ll be able to find sources of protein, vitamins, minerals, and herbs in the wild, meaning you could save money on a variety of grocery items.

2. Health benefits.

It’s surprising how healthy and beneficial wild food is. Lots of species have survived a long time without cultivation, so their genetics are clearly strong and their immune systems functioning well. Read here about why eating wild food is super healthy.

3. Getting outside.

Food foraging can be combined with a hike, a stroll, or any other kind of exercise. There’s really no need to explain why this is beneficial! So, next time you’re out walking, keep an eye out for what’s available to snack on, there’s no need to put more time aside for this (unless you would like to).

4. Care-free.

Worried about GMOs or pesticides? Do you carefully shop organic and fair trade? Casually eating wild foods alleviates these worries, and of course for vegans, there are no hidden animal product worries. Eating out-of-season isn’t even an option when eating wild food. Of course, there are different concerns when foraging, just be sure to read up before heading out in order to be safe.

5. Reduce your carbon footprint.

No one used machinery to grow or transport this food! Nor were chemicals used for its production and packaging.

6. Discovery.

By foraging for wild food, you’ll discover an enormous amount of biodiversity, different recipes, and preparation ideas.

Here are some foods you can find in the wild or forage for that are enormously beneficial:

1. Nuts.

In North America, there are 60 species of oak trees, all of which grow edible acorns (source). Just be sure to prepare them properly! Other common nuts are chestnuts. Of course many are cultivated, and plenty of parks offer them roasted this time of year, but there are plenty of wild chestnut trees around. Horse chestnuts are beneficial to your health, contain protein, and are also medicinal.

2. Mushrooms. 

Mushrooms are ridiculously healthy for you, and offer a wonderful variety of flavors. These fungi offer tastes and textures unavailable in other plants. There are lots of identification sites online for different varieties, as well. Wild mushrooms contain medicinal benefits, and also have the potential for saving the world.

3. Yarrow.

An ancient plant, and medicinal in the same way that dandelions and plantains are, yarrow resembles a wild carrot. It’s most common healing use is as an anti-inflammatory, in herbal uses such as tea, but it can be used in several ways.

4. Dandelions.

Sound weird? Dandelion greens and roots are in fact full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In addition to this, they have medicinal qualities as they can be a great tool to cleanse and detox. They’ve also been used to treat eczema and arthritis. When prepared properly, they are also delicious. Read more here. In fact, there are lots of other flowers you could be eating, so get reading!

5. Berries.

Everyone loves picking blackberries, so this one is no secret! A late summer treat, blackberries are lovely raw, in fruit salads, as garnishes, or prepared and cooked up. There are, however, a bunch of other berries that can be consumed from the wild. Bramble fruit, raspberries, wineberries, and dewberries all exist in North America in “wild” situations. Just make sure you know what you are looking for in your area!

(*Note: If you don’t know what you are looking for here, stick to the safe foods like chestnuts, or even to foods that are not necessarily “wild”, like blackberries. Wild food can be harmful if you don’t have previous experience foraging for food, mushrooms being the obvious example. Ideally, you’ll be looking for those kinds of foods with someone who is sure of what is safe!)

Food foraging is becoming a part of the mainstream, which it hasn’t been since our modern industrial agriculture was invented. So go ahead and jump on the bandwagon; Mother Earth News has a list of “how to’s” and a list of common plants in North America- get outside and enjoy!

Image Source: Jeff Turner/Flickr

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