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The Forager's Wild Food Basics

The Forager Press markThough only a small percentage of North American mushrooms are deadly, your first mistake could be your last. There are many dangerous plants that can be confused with edibles too.

For that reason, we encourage people to learn as much as they can about the interesting sciences of mycology and botany, and to read The Forager Press, LLC disclaimer before experimenting with eating wild foods on their own. Many clubs and organizations exist around the world to share knowledge and experience.

Fortunately, many of the finest wild edibles are easy to identify with a little practice and the assistance of a field guide or two. These are the wild species that we focus on for your safety.

It is possible however, to have an allergic reaction even to a properly identified and typically edible species. We therefore recommend that you only sample a small amount of a single new wild edible species at any sitting, reserving fresh samples in case of any possible reaction.

We strongly discourage the use of any wild mushroom or plant for the purpose of intoxication. There is scientific speculation that toxic substances can build up in organ tissues such as the liver, causing potentially severe long-term damage.

On the Ethical Collection of Wild Edible Plants and Mushrooms

There are places where you're not supposed to pick anything or where some plants are protected. Know the rules, know where you are and respect private property.

There are places that wild edibles should not be harvested for safety sake, I.E. The clearing under power lines where God-knows-what was used to kill the foliage or your neighbor's lawn who uses chem-lawn and has his house sprayed for spiders.

Respect nature and she will continue to provide.

Don't leave a mess and don't be a hog. If you collect a rooting plant always leave several healthy specimens and put the ground back generally as it was, filling holes and covering the disturbed areas with leaf litter so that your presence would be hard to notice. When collecting fiddle heads never take every one from a single fern. Leave about half.

When Trout fishing I use barbless single hooks and usually only keep fish that have been injured. I wet my hand before holding and releasing them and am careful not to overfish my favorite "spring-holes" in the summer. I employ these basic rules out of respect for nature and of others who may tread in the same places.

On Cooking and Eating Wild Mushrooms

From the Audubon Field Guide
"Before you eat a wild mushroom, be absolutely sure your identification is correct and that the mushroom is a safe edible. The first time you eat any species, take only a small portion and do not drink any liquor. If you experience no side effects, try a slightly larger portion the next time. Don’t eat a large quantity, no matter how often you have eaten a particular mushroom; mushrooms, in general, are indigestible.
Unless otherwise advised, cook all wild mushrooms…Collect only firm, fresh mushrooms for the table. Cut them in half and check for insects and worms."

Remember - there are poisonous wild plants and mushrooms that can kill you!

Why Eat Wild Food?

An old timer who grew and collected much of the food he ate used to say something like this:
"The plants I grow in my garden and the foods I collect in the woods have to fight off the same bacteria, molds and viruses that I do. The ones that live in this area near my house. They've developed immunities over hunderds of years to survive here -- the fiddleheads, wild leeks, mushrooms and blackberries. When I eat them I get the benefit of some of that evolution. When you go buy  fancy vegetables from California and fruit from South America or some far away place, what good does that food do you? None of the bugs its had to fight off live here. It might even do you some harm."

It's an interesting thought that has stuck in my mind.

Collecting wild edibles is a hobby that can allow for endless learning, get you out in the woods, on the water and you might end up with a fair amount of free food. Happy Foraging!

If you are new to collecting wild foods be sure to check out our
Forager's Credo and  Disclaimer

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