Food Freebies in Your Own Backyard
by Tess Pennington
by Tess Pennington: Cash
Is Out, Bartering Is King
Even if you
live in a city, you might be shocked to find out how much food is
available, free for the taking. Im not talking about shoplifting
from the corner store Im talking about foraging.
times, humans were hunter/gatherers. Gatherers spent the day seeking
nuts, berries and edible plants. These items were then turned into
a nutritious meal or beverage.
The first rule
of foraging is BE ABSOLUTELY SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOURE EATING.
Foraging can be deadly if you eat the wrong thing.
The best way
to learn to forage is to find someone who knows how to find all
the best goodies. A teacher can speed the learning curve up immensely,
and they are likely to know the best local places to find the items.
we cant always find a willing instructor. If it turns out
that youre on your own, the next best option is a good field
guide with photographs. You can often find field guides geared to
your local terrain at hiking and camping stores. Your local bookstore
and Amazon are other good resources. You can buy a more general
guide, say, for North America, but there will be a lot of information
that isnt pertinent to your area.
in an urban environment, you have to be very careful that your finds
are not contaminated. They can be contaminated with many different
toxins, from pesticides to pollution. You will want to stay away
from major roadways and railroad tracks, for example. If you are
in farm country you dont want to be in an area that may be
contaminated with animal waste from runoff.
I strictly avoid mushrooms in my search for wild foods. The edible
mushrooms and the toxic ones are very similar in appearance, and
not something you want to learn by trial and error, as the error
could be fatal. There are many books on the subject that cover proper
identification if you are a braver soul.
In the city
you can often find fruit trees like mulberries and apple trees.
If it appears that the fruits are not being harvested, ask the owners
permission and bring a bucket! In the wild, you can find blueberries,
blackberries and huckleberries in great abundance. These fruits
are easily recognizable and a great place to start.
There are many
edible greens but none more recognizable than the ubiquitous dandelion.
Every bit of the dandelion is edible, from the flower right down
to the roots. Pick them in the spring when flowers are still yellow
for the mildest flavor.
To get started,
make a list of in-season items that are familiar to you. Choose
a hiking destination, grab your field guide, bring along some containers
and start gathering!
Earth News compiled a brief list of some edible plants that
can commonly be found in North America:
Curly dock (Rumex crispus)
Fiddleheads (various fern species)
Lambs quarters, goosefoot (Chenopdium)
Miners lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)
Seaweeds dulse, kelp, laver, wrack
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)
Wild asparagus (Asparagus officinalis ssp. prostratus)
Wild mustard (Brassica)
Wild horsemint, bee balm (Monarda punctata)
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joined the Dallas chapter of the American Red Cross in 1999 Tess
worked as an Armed Forces Emergency Services Center specialist and
is well versed in emergency and disaster management and response.
You can follow her regular updates on Preparedness,
and a host of other topics at ReadyNutrition.com.
Best of Tess Pennington