Introduction to Foraging

by Haley Harmon

I think my main inspiration for wanting to learn about foraging came from reading The Hunger Games
{insert super nerd joke here}. Katniss Everdeen could make a mean meal even while being hunted in the woods. Those books were filled with beautiful food imagery and had me dreaming of wild blueberries. I also really liked the idea of walking down the street and seeing plants in the sidewalk as food and not weeds. I wanted an excuse to leave my concrete covered neighborhood and go exploring in the parks and to have a purpose on my adventures and a reason to inspect all of the interesting things growing there. So I googled “foraging philadelphia” hoping to find a blog with things that I could eat growing in Fairmount Park. I didn’t find a blog but I did find a meetup group and I signed up to go scouting at the oldest botanical garden in North America, Bartram’s Gardens. It was a nice introduction to foraging. I didn’t get to try very many things. I just stood quietly as we walked around the grounds and took notes on all the edible things growing around us. The two plants that surprised me the most were the common dayliliies and the red bud blossoms both of which grew in the front yard of the house where I grew up. I had no idea that they were edible. Also my grandfather lived on Mulberry Street when I was young and I just thought the berries from those trees were a nuisance that dropped on your car and you had to clean up purple goo for days. But in reality those purple berries are delicious! You can put them in jams or cobblers or muffins and there is at least one of those trees in my neighborhood that I will be able to enjoy.

Mulberries: These were the main draw for the foraging event. The huge trees produce a lot of fruit and the berries are delicious in a crumble.

Cornelian Cherries: These were not yet ripe, but it appears once they turn red and fall on the ground you can eat them but they are very sour. Here is a recipe for a tart.

Common Daylillies (NOT LILIES): The tubers and unopened blooms seem to be the best part, according to Hank Shaw.

Juniper: While it’s not recommended to eat the berries, they are used to flavor gin.

North American Ginger: Similar to its Chinese counterpart, but grows really slowly and has smaller roots. You are apparently not supposed to harvest it since it takes so long to grow back.

Red Bud Blossoms: Tastes like bean sprouts.

So here are some things that I think you should know if you’re interested in foraging.

FIND AN EXPERT There seem to be a lot of resources for foraging, search online to see if you can find a meetup group in your area or ask if one of your friend’s Dad’s knows anything about foraging. I feel like foraging is a surprisingly common Dad interest.

FIND RESOURCES The meetup group that I attended suggested this book, Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods

TAKE IT SLOW Don’t feel like you need to learn everything all at once. There’s a lot to learn and fortunately there seem to be a lot of people willing to share their knowledge.

BE ADVENTUROUS Get ready to experience some new and interesting flavors and new and interesting people!

Tell Your Friends!

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