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Old 03-11-2012, 10:12 AM   #1
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Default Foraging

I have been thinking about this for most of the winter, and now it is spring, and time to start doing something about it.

I am very interested in foraging. I have listened to speakers who I consider logical and sane, and believe that there are myriad plants and even animals out there that are edible, and yet rarely eaten these days. One good example is goosefoot. Goosefoot is a non-native weed that was actually brought to the US and cultivated as an edible food. For some reason, no one farmed it any more, and now it grows wild as a weed.

I am interested in making something between 50-75% of my calories come as forged food. Obviously I can't really do that until the weeds begin popping up here. I'll begin with a small amount and work my way up from then if all goes well.

It is also said that in nature, fat and protein are the least available foods, so people are biologically motivated to eat as much of the stuff as possible. This "hording" of fatty foods is natural, but leads to overweight people in an environment where fatty foods are available in vast amounts. The way to lose weight is to avoid this kind of food. In nature, it is hard to find fat, and also sugary food. The bulk of edible food is very low calorie and high fiber. Often the fiber necessitates what we would call "processing."

Dry beans can only be eaten if they are either sprouted or cooked. Some kind of processing must occur. Many beans contain toxins, and cannot be eaten in large amounts without processing. Some vegetables are better, or more bio-available if cooked. A good example is the bio-availbility of lycopine in tomatoes.

The cellular walls of many foods must be lysed prior to eating because it is lysing that allows the many nutritional properties to move from the cell walls to the viola of the intestines. So, often it is better to cook a vegetable than to eat it raw.

I think you just need to read up on each vegetable to see how it is best prepared.
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Old 03-11-2012, 12:43 PM   #2
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It will be interesting to hear how your foraging goes. Do you live in a rural area? I live in the city but have seen and read of people foraging. I used to live downtown and saw people picking mushrooms and dandelion greens on a regular basis. I always thought but my dogs pee and poo there as do dozens of other dogs on a daily basis. Also wondered about the soil. But then again our farmed foods are full of pesticides and the like.
I have seen wild rhubarb while on walks and considered picking it. I would be afraid to pick mushrooms because I do not know what is safe or not. But when I camped as a child my Mom used to cook us puffballs we picked off the trees, yum.

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Old 03-11-2012, 01:10 PM   #3
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I think it's a great idea to supplement your diet by foraging. I think in most seasons other than late spring and summer it might be hard to get that large a proportion of your calories from it in modern days because in most places there is not the variety there used to be. The modern Greeks are the biggest foragers of wild plants that I know of in the modern day and even they mostly just supplement domesticated plants. (I"m an archaeologist with an interest in traditional foods.)

If you include starchy roots of water plants, like cattails, that would help. But a lot of marshy areas where cattails grow nowadays are also sumps for agricultural and urban runoff, which means not just pesticides etc but also potentially dangerous bacteria like e.colis and salmonella. So that is something to consider in practicing safe foraging.

Purslane is a great one to start with in foraging, as it is a common weed in many yards, and somewhat tastier than dandelion greens, I think.
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Old 03-11-2012, 02:33 PM   #4
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I forage in an urban area. I love seeing someone with a basket and a knife hunched over in a field, then walking over and chatting about what they have found and how to prepare it. Often there is a bit of a language barrier, but the language of food is universal. I don't do mushrooms as I would want to take a class with hands on experience first. I only do it well off the beaten track (LA is urban but still has lots of open space). I also consider picking up fallen avocados and sharing fruit with neighbors a form of modern foraging. For example I have gathered rose hips from yards after asking whether any pesticides were used. The owner is usually happy to have someone remove them. Fun with food that is healthy and low in calories
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Old 03-12-2012, 09:30 AM   #5
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I've seen dandelion greens in my are but I don't pick them because I know they spray pesticides. If I'm away from maintained paths though, I look.

Greens also have toxins. Also the only reason dried beans need to be cooked is because they have been dried. It is how we preserve them and makes sense to me. You can find various fresh beans in the store once in a while though.
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Old 03-12-2012, 04:30 PM   #6
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I think foraging is an awesome idea. I have a friend who forages regularly to feed her family. Unfortunately, she lives far from me or I could learn more from her. Plenty of people around here teach classes, though.

We're lucky to live in a semi-rural area and near some woods, so I do a little foraging -- mostly for nettles which I dry and use in soups, stews and spaghetti sauce. It's iron rich.

Anyhow, great idea - keep us posted on what you learn.

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Old 03-12-2012, 09:10 PM   #7
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Thanks for the answers. I guess 50-75% is a bit high. About dog pee-- usually that is right at the side of the road or path. You need to go a bit "inland."

Something useful. Even if you think the dogs are peeing on something, you can actually dig up and transplant something like purselane into a pot and grow it as a garden herb, pinching off shoots and keeping the whole plant alive. I do not know if purselane is a perennial. I know dandelions are. Some like thistles grow on a biannual cycle, with different available edible parts on each year.

I am in a town, but it is near rural areas. I live in the plains, and although there is farming, and of course, polluted runoff, there are also wild prairie grass areas and wetlands. Things like asparagus and morel mushrooms. Lots of mulberries, black walnuts, white oak acorns, quite a variety of weeds and wildflowers.

These thoughts come to me as I am trying to raise my intake of plant based nutrients. I want to also begin to eat more spirulina. At least a teaspoon a day.
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Old 03-21-2012, 12:09 PM   #8
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My wife and I have been eating jarred Nopalitos--chopped leaves of the prickly pear cactus so familiar when we lived in Albuquerque. We do well with things that are semi-wild (or cultivated elsewhere but naturalized), like bramble berries, day lily flowers, and tree fruit.

Other attempts haven't been too succesful--I once spent 2 hours "foraging" about 5 tiny little vegetables that I think were called cheeses. I mean TINY, like smaller than a raspberry! I think it is tricky because it is SO seasonal, and a lot of the traditional preservation practices that help in lean times are hard to find out about now. Also, the land accessible to us at any given time may not be particularly fruitful in that moment. Hope you are able to educate yourself toward your goal!!!!

Last edited by loofa : 03-21-2012 at 12:10 PM.
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