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Thinking About Foraging

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If food does get scarce in this country, how many of you know anything about foraging? I really don't but I know you can eat cattails, milkweed, etc. which we have lots of with the creek and pond. So, I looked up some recipes on the internet for those 2 things. I don't think I have any interest in it unless I'm hungry and food is scarce but I printed off some recipes "just in case".


I know you can eat lily bulbs also but know it has to be certain ones so I need to look that up too.


I'm thinking more of winter eating than summer. What else is there we could forage in winter climates? Any ideas?

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Great topic.


Around here, mesquite trees are prolific. They were used, in years past, as flour and many other uses. http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/st-plains/nature/images/mesquite.html


Then, purslane is growing well, good source of vitamins. My neighbor said his 90 year old mother 'craves' it.


One thing to consider, is using our foraging before :smiley_shitfan: to acquire a taste for it.



Pondering what other options are available here in this desert.

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people gathered roots and plants in summer and fall mostly. You deal with dead looking plants , and frozen ground in the winter and if you are not completely skilled at it, best to have it dried and in your possession for winter in midwest, and north and high elevations. ground freezes deep in winter time, its like rock, how you going to dig roots and identify plants above ground safely in winter? Much is the plant, leaves and stems . Sure you can still pull up cattails as those are sturdy reed stalks , get in the frozen water to do it too. If there is wild growing water cress in creeks and ditches nearby, you can break the ice and get that out too if you want to wade.

There are some fungi that grow on tree trunks but mostly in damper climates probably. you may be able to identify and lichens on rocks that are edible that taste terrible, but you need to be able to identify things properly at different seasons and some just are not usable in certain seasons or ready yet.

You can hunt, trap, snare and fish though in winter, make pine needle tea, any evergreen that is from this continent will provide needles for tea. Alot of trees inner bark ( or is it the cambium layer) is edible but some are poisonous like black locust ) .

You need appropriate Petersens Field Guides that are new with pictures and go out now while its growing full and learn about it. Figure out where the stuff is and mark it or remember and make sure its totally edible, nothing that is questionable as a look alike that is probably deadly. Keep it simple as to what you would gather. if you gathered wild grain make sure none of it looks like it has mold or fungus in the grain heads. boil those before eating.


If you know of edible wild berries in the area mark those. You might be able to glean a few berries the birds and critters missed in deep winter. But thats a vicious place to get stuck with nothing and no resources. The western mountains dont have very much either unless you really know it well. With the drought you have a worse problem. If you can find anything now, mark it. something you can identify later, photos on your cell phone , a pile of rocks you will still notice and not likely to get scattered. How good is your memory.

Even around me if I don't gather it and dry it now and before mid fall, its all gone dormant and freezes hard. Finding caches of nuts and acorns and such , and pulling up cattails, illegal unless its an emergency and hunting and setting up fishing traps,also illegal unless you are literally surviving, would be the only way I could get by in deep winter here. Without sufficient carbs and fats though, you are not going to be very healthy by winters end, or at least I would be pretty skinny. I am probably going to have to do rudimentary hunting and snares and that depends on alot of luck, when I consider that scenario.

I know the small native lily pads plants are partly edible but I would have to look at my guide to know which parts. Not much fun going thigh deep in frozen water to go get them either in minus ten degrees if I had to either. Would it be worth the effort and would I have dry clothes and a fire and shelter to get back into.


Think out things now. Study guides for your region. Check with your local historians and museums if you live in a nifty little spot. But only gather what is really obviously safe to eat as a beginner forager. Go out and identify those things, take the kids, learn together. does lambs quarters grow there, lance leaf or broad leaf plantain. Alot of those milkweed type plants the leaves are edible but better when young and such , including the roots are only best at certain times of the year.


I wouldnt even risk mushrooms or things that have look alikes that are absolute poison. I find some of those mixed in various places, mostly old fields and swampy areas. I will choose the more common plants that I know are fine over hoping I got it right on the less discernable stuff because I know my brain doesn't sort that out on its own very well any more. Under duress its easy for anyone to make a mistake. So stick to the really easy common safe stuff that you can identify now. The Petersen guides tend to now publish medical uses too and how to prepare basically although you want herbal manuals for more variations of any one herbal usage. Read up on which trees you can eat the inner bark of. A good Petersens guide thats a recent printing should explain all of that.


Mother is probably a good one to refer your questions too. She is used to the midwest and has decades of experience I believe when it comes to such things.


I go out here with my eastern guides but this is such a verdant place. I found red clover by the little creek here. I let it be so it would continue to reseed for next spring and early summer. Burdock grows wild around here. I find it in alot of spots. I found chicory and plenty of other things out near the ditches in Westport area. It probably grows nearer to me but I would have to keep looking. There were plenty of the common weeds you can eat or cook or use for herbal use too. There are ground nuts but I havent explored but was told where they typically grow and may yet find some.

They are like a wild potato, its flatter and all knobby. You peel it and cook it, but there is also a small wild potato and that one does grow out in the midwest, too, that looks more rounded like the ones we grow and eat commercially. Small though probably. I certainly know where all the cattails are in walking distance but we have to leave them alone because its a state park unless you are surviving and even then you leave enough to reestablish. Its one thing if I am on the move going elsewhere, travelling , then I could gather what I needed per day and if done with some stealth so tis not obvious you can get away with it. I would use the cattail rushes for baskets and grease tapers too or weave for mats.

Best thing to do is prep for winter and early to mid spring at least if you get cold winters. That is bare minimal preps really. If you get alot of snow come winter or ice its next to impossible to gather diddly squat as a beginner. It changes everything.


Gleaning from the edges of fields after harvest , when its been a decent year.... not exactly best quality but its calories. Wont be much out there to do that with this year in many midwest areas.

Acorns can be leached with several changes of water after you break them out of their shells over two days then ground and or boiled , cooked to eat in some way. Do hazelnuts grow wild out there? They might here, but not sure. Those are good to gather and they grow on a bush. I know they grow in the appalachians and may be this far north but I dont know yet what they look like as far as the bush and leaves yet. Although I know what the nut and shell looks like.

Old orchards and homesteads and old farms abandoned around here have alot of stuff that I might be able to glean things from too through out the area. There is more out there than I know at this point, but its easy to spot stuff on google earth , lol that has been abandoned a long time that may still have some produce to gather if you come across it.


Maybe I gave you some ideas to look into. Get guides for your area. Petersens seem to be about the best and most compact especially the latest printings for general knowledge of all types of plants you could make use of or which ones to avoid. And when they are good and which parts of the plants during its life cycle each year. Descriptions and pictures are clear and detailed. But if you simple work to identify maybe twenty plants and trees you are better off if they grow readily around you than trying to memorize a huge variety, the safest ones. If you have any friends there that are into bush craft, wood craft, foraging ask to go on an outing with them to learn from them too, but be cautious about the things that can be toxic at all and look too similar to other plants. No matter how they may be confidant. They may have it down but you are just beginning. Collecting wild carrots is one example. Mix that one up and it only takes a couple bites for a child to die. I think the toxic plant that looks alot like it is poison hemlock? Im not sure just at the moment but it could be. I would have to look it up. Id rather dry my own carrots I got from the store or grown myself and carry a container of dried carrots if I want carrots at supper time or go with out. Seed for next year. In the winter with the plants dead, you could end up digging up the wrong one. Many green plants and herbs provide Vit A actually, so you don't absolutely have to eat carrots for that or squashes.

Jerusalem artichoke can be like that too, there is toxic tuber that looks alot alike. ( I am tired and need to go to bed, but just trying to remember a couple typical ones that folks generally like to gather). I think I have about four edible and medicinal books and its helped to at least have two or so to study and get used to. I have had so many things going on I havent been able to sit and study those in peace for a while too, so its just the concept , make sure to gather exactly what you know is obviously safe if need be or you want to try stuff. Leafy stuff usually can be salad makings or cooked like spinach or greens, the typical weeds. Isn't lambs quarters also called pigweed? You can harvest the seeds of pigweed and grind it into a flour or eat the seeds if you can eat tiny seeds and digest them ok. They are full of protein and nutrients. I need to go study more myself, obvious, isnt it? Well have had my minds on other things. I take my books with me when I go for walks to look around so I can study in place . its a good time of year here to do that too :D


So just stick with the obvious things until you are really much better in your own knowing as time goes on , that are safe. A note book and sketch pad also help you memorize it and great for referral as needed later too. Pressing leaves in an old book, the stems and such too , flowers, for reference. Just always leave enough to regenerate it where it is growing. Nettles can look a little different, purple thistles ..... depends on what region of the country you are in.


Do wild plum trees grow there? You might find some still clinging. they tend to be tart and probably stewing them with anything sweet would make them taste better and be a hot dish.


Wild black berries, we called them Himlayan black berries in NW California. they were just fine to me. Wild grapes, they grew there and in Oregon and they certainly grow here and whooo weee they are tart,but they make a killer white wine . might sweeten if dried into raisins? I havent tried it yet.


There are wild edibles in every region even the desert but you have to know your area. I have the hardest time identifying hardwood trees and the oaks here. the maple trees look different with the way the bark goes too around here, than what I thought just looking at a tree identification photo. I need to study ash trees. They grow right on my block and behind me too but there are some tall oaks there too and other stuff. Thats a good one hour lesson to go do sometime in the sunshine, you know? They each can serve a different purpose if needed and grow all over the place here really, but these are by the little creek out back.


I grew up mostly with conifers and valley oaks and spent time in the redwoods. Very different than a truly mixed forest is. So I am still having to learn alot.

There are even parts of birch that are edible . I know I read about it, other than tapping the sap or gathering chaga mushrooms from them.... those grow way up the trunks though, still something about new twigs and such can be used too. But I need to spend more time studying that making a note book of what I am learning to help me get it locked in better. For me just studying a couple or a few at a time and if I go out and do it a few times then I remember better. Some people are photographic minded or can memorize almost instantly or have terrific recall. I don't so it takes more exposure and practice and doing things like sketches and making a display of stems, twigs, leaves and flowers and labelling them like scouts do and such are good things for me to do too. Perfect time of year here for it too.


So, just tossed out some ideas for you. Dont get scared because I mentioned toxic look alikes. yes they are out there, just stick to the simple one that you can be sure of for now. Stuff like plaintain leaves can be dried and ground and bagged up and will retain its food values and used in soups and such in winter and for medicine for scrapes and wounds and things too.


I think even golden seal root grows near the marshy areas too. Would be good to collect some of that if I can get some and clean it and dry it for bulk usage. I even got my mortar and pestle now.


I even found out earlier that slices of onions are good for blistered feet and I had onions in my kitchen when I got home two weeks ago with blisters and inflamed soles.... I would have used them up to fix my footsies had I known it at the time. LOL . And now I do :eclipsee_Victoria:


:sleep1: I need to recline and snooze for a good long while. busy day.

take care and I hope you can get the midwestern guides, depending on if you are near the eastern edges of that or down by TX you can get other books for those regions too because you will have cross over plants. Like the genuine wild potato, it actually goes from the midwest and all the way over to my area here and may be in some nooks and crannies around me.


What about wild rice , does it grow in the rivers anywhere nearby? It did up in Minnesota. I dont think it grows around here. But that would not be that hard to glean from if there was any left come winter time and the ground is frozen up already.

Just dont do it in sight of the native americans without permission. I think its one of the wild crops that is specifically for them to harvest and sell and eat. But in a survival situation, you do what you have to. :thumbs:

Start small, test out the greens you find that are typical and easy to identify and try eating them in some recommended way. then branch out to edible berries and tubers if you like, know your trees and what you can use them for . The various grasses . Any vines that grow wild. All of that is useful in some way or another. Even dried, pieces can be soaked to use for various containers and baskets and twines.

Edited by arby
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We try to sample some new wild edibles every season. Some are very good, some are good for a famine situation and some are not good at least to us. There are some really good web sites on this. I don't know them right off but google Steve 'Wildman' Brill and Holly Drake along with wild edible plants and you'll find them.

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I'm thinking any bad patch in winter will be more difficult than anyone will be able to deal with. People would be forced into government shelters because there just aren't too many other options.


An EMP in winter would be a killer. :(

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Boy, I don't know Arby, you did a wonderful job of suggestions. Didn't leave much for me to add. Good for you!!!


I would like to mention something that very few people think about when putting foraging on their list of things to do to survive. You have to consider the amount of calories spent in that foraging in respect to the amount of calories you take in from the food you find. There is a wealth of wild foods out there but a lot of what we consider forage food is low in calorie and work intensive to harvest, especially so in the winter. And as Daylily says, some are okay and some take a real getting used to.


In the winter, in cold climates like ours, it is very difficult to gather enough food to sustain one let alone a family if needed and gathering it can be cold, wet, and hard work taking a lot of calories. Acorns and nuts, like Arby said, can often be found and they can be a good source of calories, protein, and fat but with our overabundance of critters that compete for them, they aren't always easy to find in winter and it's often burried under snow. What is found then is often what had bugs in them earlier and therefore left by the animals and birds. Believe it or not a good find for winter survival would be a rodents stash of seeds and nuts to 'rob'. If that seems yucky to us, it certainly won't when we are starving. Another way to 'glean' wild food is to 'harvest' the animals that are your compitition. They are not only a good source of nutrients but also a source of other survival needs like pelts, bones, sinew, and such.


I agree, it is much better, as the others have said, to learn now before we need the food. Our bodies aren't used to eating the wild foods and even if the food turns out to be palatable we might not be able to handle them if we aren't used to them. It is better to aclimate our systems to the different foods or at least know our reactions to them. The last thing we need is a severe case of diarrhea or vomiting when we need to retain every nutrient we can find. Besides that, wild food now, can save us money at the supermarket which in turn leaves us more for our other preps, like buying some good field guides. Not to mention that some of those wild foods are deliscious and SHOULD be a part of a balanced diet.


We eat lambsquarter, purslane, and nettle regularly here except this summer they've been a bit strong and bitter just like some of the garden crops. We encourage them to grow around our property. I always gather some for drying to use during the winter months and in the past have gathered the seeds of lambsquarter, clover, alfalfa, and other weed seeds to use as sprouts in winter. That, too, is pretty labor intensive, one that has to be timed well so as not to lose the seeds but is well worth the extra nutrition they give in the winter months. Pigweed is a different edible plant but it is often called lambsquarter and visa versa in our area. They are not, however, the same taste. Neither of them are available to us in winter though and as we're talking winter foraging here, best to get them now and have them on hand. Many wild foods can be frozen and even canned for later use. Lambsquarter is so much like spinach that you can interchange them easily in any recipe. Many wild roots and tubers can also be stored ahead either canned, frozen, or in the root cellar in damp sand.


A really good web site to learn about edible plants is http://www.eattheweeds.com/. Green Deane has a wealth of You Tube videos explaining each food and he gives you instructions on how to identify them and any poisonous look alikes that might be out there. He is in Florida I believe but he talks about other plants around the country and world as well. His web site is just chock full of info.


I can't stress strongly enough how important it is to correctly identify the plant and the part used before you try it. There are all sorts of suggestions about how to 'taste' the plant using tiny amounts and working up but as Arby says, sometimes a tiny amount of a poisonous plant can be deadly. I once attended a forage class where the instucter, a well renowned wild food expert and botonist, was showing us wild parsley. He took a taste of the plant and then immediately spit it out and told us to get him to the hospital as fast as we could. He'd just eaten a bite of deadly hemlock. He lived but it left a lasting impression on all of us at that class. It hasn't deterred me from foraging but it has made me extremely cautious. For winter use, it might be helpful to scout out the root plants early in the year, perhaps when they are flowering. Make sure there are no poisonous plants in the area and then mark the plot so that you can come back later.


Or you could do like I do and move some of those plants closer to the house to have them more accessible if needed. We've often talked about stealth gardening, the hungry hoards, or even our government coming in to take our food. If you make wild plants a part of the landscape no one will suspect you have a food crop and foraging will take less energy.


On this same line, There are many garden plants that you can save seeds from for sprouting. One of the most interesting is garlic chives. It's a bit work intensive to gather the black seeds from the dried flower heads but they are delicious when sprouted as part of a salad sprout blend. Regular chives work too but are less giving. Radish, broccoli, and so many other plants that tend to get away from us and go to seed give us good sprout seeds. Even if those seeds are from hybrid plants, they will still give you a good sprout. You might even consider leaving some go just for that purpose.


Either way you look at it, winter survival in cold areas is going to depend on being prepared ahead of time, if not with stored foods, then at least with knowledge and experience and some thinking ahead. This is a good thread to have now so we can all think about what it might be like this winter. Thanks for bringing this up Wink.



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Sprouts from lamb's quarters? Who knew? :thumbs: EVERYONE should learn to identify lamb's quarters cuz it grows everywhere I've ever lived.



Look up the Native American tribes that lived in your area. Find REPUTABLE data on how they survived and what they ate. Make sure you aren't confusing old names. In the wilder regions, those plants might still flourish.



EMP in winter? :o:frozen: The BIG reason for having AT LEAST six months of food stored. Many of us will be having enough trouble just keeping warm without having to look for food the first weeks/months after any big Hooey. Course...something can happen to your preps.....



MtRider [...hoping foraging can be put off til summertime! :( ]

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High Alpine Desert:






yarrow [medicinal]

thistle root [survival food]

cattail root/unripened pod

rose hips [Vit. C ]

pine needle tea [Vit C ]





For that reason, I'd stay outta the wet areas unless I could ID something 100% positive. Don't make a flute outta the really cool tubes those kind of plants make either. :shakinghead:



I might know more but....I'd have to refresh my memory with my reference books. We just do NOT have the lush variation of plantlife up at these altitudes.


MtRider :lois:

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Even in warmer areas with a reasonable amount of rain, it can be hard to find enough to stay alive. Right now we have tons of pigweed and epazote along with the coastal bermuda grass and crabgrass. Mesquite is putting out beans but you have to roast them and then have a good way to grind them or forget it. I can't eat much pigweed because of kidney problems. Epazote is an herb that some use for beans. Can't eat beans because of the kidneys either. Bermuda grass is too tough and dry to juice. Haven't really tried to juice the crabgrass. All the big pecan trees died last yr along with many of the oaks. Had a bumper crop of acorns last yr. May not get any this yr. The few thistles I've seen are small and not worth bothering with. You do have to take into account how many calories you expend in comparison to how many you gather. There must be a net gain or you are in dire straits.


My goats are chowing on all the weeds I cannot eat. I'm only getting about 1 1/2 gallons a day right now but putting as much in the freezer as I can above what we are using each day. They will be dried off soon enough and we'll use the freezer milk.


There is a reason that societies always moved away from hunter/gatherer to agricultural. When you have too many people in an area, it rapidly depletes the available wild foods and you cannot move around as easily to follow the food. The indigenous people who used mostly wild foods would travel with the seasons. If you can't do that, you must grow, harvest and store to survive.


Wild food can only be seen as a supplement, in season.

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You do have to take into account how many calories you expend in comparison to how many you gather. There must be a net gain or you are in dire straits.


EXACTLY!!! In survival, calories are our FRIENDS!


There is a reason that societies always moved away from hunter/gatherer to agricultural. When you have too many people in an area, it rapidly depletes the available wild foods and you cannot move around as easily to follow the food. The indigenous people who used mostly wild foods would travel with the seasons. If you can't do that, you must grow, harvest and store to survive.


When I think of how far back we could get knocked backwards by any given Hooey...I'm always hoping for no further back than "Walton's Mountain" ....or, I guess, "Little House on the Prairie". Not "Medievel Europe" or ...... :shakinghead: "Clan of the Cave Bear"! This Iowa Farm Gal wants to retain agriculture!!!! [not that my wishes have any bearing on HooeyHittingFan.... :rolleyes: ]



Definitely want to know what's edible/medicinal growing out there. Definitely do not want to try to feed myself off of what's up here. :feedme:


MtRider :pc_coffee:

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I got a feeling we would be thrilled to be at "little house" status. Just remember, they had infrastructure to support that life style. Our infrastructure is way more fragile than we like to believe and will not support that lifestyle. For example, in western Colorado there are many named places along the highway where there is no store, no place to get water, no post office, no nothing, maybe a house or two, but they are dependent on the grid for the most part. 50-60 yrs ago you could drive a horse and wagon a day's journey between these named places and you could get water for yourself and animals and frequently there would be a small store for your supplies and a post office for collecting and sending mail.


Where I was, in NW CO, I had to drive 60 miles to shop. That was about 30 min on the first 7 miles and 45-50 on the rest. I could go, shop, and get home easily in one day with time to spare. If I had to do it with a horse and buggy it would take 5-6 days each way.


There were robust train engines in the little house days and towns near the rails. There were horse and mule driven freight lines. There were telegraph lines. People had kerosene lamps and supply lines for kerosene, just to name one necessity. Farmers had horse driven equipment and most farms were small enough for a family to work with horses. The population was smaller and sanitation wasn't as much a nightmare as it would be now. When was the last time you saw an outhouse? How many people know how to make one or keep it clean and not spread disease?


BTW, polio was not going to be a major problem much longer, even without the vaccine. About the time the vaccine came out, America began to switch to septic tanks and flush toilets. Outhouses were vectors of the virus.


How many have wells or good springs these days? Even in the country you have to look hard to find a property with a well, not on public water. Dirty water spreads disease but when you are desperately thirsty, how careful are you going to be when you have no filter and don't know how to make one or purify the water.


This country is not as populated as many, particularly away from the coasts, but there are too many people in the urban areas to be able to survive without the modern infrastructure up and running.


How about Europe in the middle of WWII? That is more what I'm expecting.

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Great post CGA. I think I'm going to do some more reading about post WW2 Europe. I have been reading a little about WW2 times in the US, especially during the Depression and the Dirty Thirty era. As bad as it was in the US it was worse "over there."

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