In the past few years, foraging—collecting edibles in the wild—has become more popular as people have rediscovered the joy of connecting with nature and enjoying its bounty. Done properly, foraging can be a fun activity, and benefit nature too. I’m not talking about commercial foraging (which can have drawbacks), but a more fun and personal approach to the concept of eating wild food.
Personally I actually like to use the term wildcrafting, instead of foraging. The difference is subtle but important: Wildcrafting is not about taking from nature, but working with it and even helping the environment.
Wikipedia has an excellent definition for wildcrafting:
Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or "wild" habitat, for food or medicinal purposes. It applies to uncultivated plants wherever they may be found, and is not necessarily limited to wilderness areas. Ethical considerations are often involved, such as protecting endangered species.
Here are 10 reasons to start (or continue) foraging/wildcrafting.
1. Knowledge is power.
By learning about plants and their uses (culinary, medicinal and so on), you also learn to value what nature has to offer and the need to protect it for the future generations. Going foraging is also a fun activity to do with kids, they learn a lot of new things in the process. Knowing what wild plants are edible, medicinal or poisonous is also a key survival skill, and this knowledge might be called upon if you ever find yourself in a survival situation.
2. Removing invasive plants.
Locally, over 90 percent of what can be foraged are actually non-native and invasive plants. By removing them, you actually help the native environment survive. As you gain experience and appreciation for local native plants, you can also choose to grow them in your garden for food, medicine or habitat for wildlife and birds, instead of foraging them.
3. Many weeds are superfoods.
Most people don’t realize it, but many so-called weeds can be considered superfoods. Good examples are edible plants like stinging nettles, lamb’s quarters, dandelion, purslane or chickweed. Wild edibles are also a great source of truly organic and non-GMO food. So think twice before you throw away the weeds from your garden or lawn.