By Lindsay Suto
Spring has arrived, and just in time! The winter storage crops have reached their end, but in our region, longer winters mean shorter growing seasons and slim pickings in the garden this early in the season. Because of this, we turn to the wild edibles moon, which guides us to the native plants of our region that grow in wild abundance.
Foraging is the act of harvesting edible, wild growing plants, herbs, flowers, berries, and fungi for food and medicine. Wild foraging points us back to the traditional wisdom about the food and medicinal value of plants growing naturally in our region. Some of the more well-known wild edibles of our region include stinging nettles, morels, and huckleberries.
Our earliest ancestors relied on wild edibles to survive, as their only option was to gather their food. Hunting and farming didn’t begin until much later in civilization, meaning people subsisted on foraged food for centuries. As food enthusiasts return to the diets of our ancestors, there has been an increased interest in the sustainability of wild edibles. Foragers work with an utmost respect for our ecosystems, attempting to preserve traditional wisdom and responsibly harvest the renewable resources available all around us.
Some of the benefits of eating wild edibles are that they are free and more nutritious than the imported produce available in stores this time of year. Eating local plants also benefits the immune system, which is often the selling point of local, raw, honey. In addition, by foraging for food, you get to enjoy time in the outdoors, soaking up Vitamin D and getting exercise!
Additionally, many species of fungi provide benefits to the ecological system through the symbiotic relationships they form with trees. Truffles and other fungi depend on trees for their growth, and in return enable the trees to grow in otherwise nutrient poor soils. This important relationship allows growth in areas where it would normally not be possible.
At restaurants around the country you will see foraged items popping up on specialized menus. You will find groups gathering on the weekends for foraging adventures—not just in areas with access to forests and open lands, but in city parks around the country. There has also been a resurgence in the use of wild herbs and roots as natural medicines. Many of these healing plants are growing in our own yards, unbeknownst to us!
Education is the first step in the safe collection of wild edibles. This spring, while waiting for your garden crops to sprout, why not take up a new hobby and unleash the power of the food sources hidden right under your nose?