Foraging for Food: What You Need to Know

Interested in foraging for food? All it takes is a little know-how about plants, from weeds to mushrooms, to find your next feast.

Young Woman with Backpack Picking Wild Huckleberries While HikingPamelaJoeMcFarlane/Getty Images
Woman foraging for huckleberries in British Columbia, Canada

Learn From a Food Foraging Expert

Before you forage for food on your own, take a walking tour or field class with a native plant expert or foraging group. Those in the know can help you locate and identify plants that are safe to eat, as well as offer advice on preparation. (Some plants have specific cooking requirements to make them safe and palatable.) Look to your local Native Plant Society to find an expert near you.

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Start Local

Familiarize yourself with what plants, bushes and trees grow in your area, even in your own neighborhood. Invest in a quality field guide that offers detailed descriptions and color photos. Try the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms and the Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Don’t be afraid to jot notes in the margins or include your own photos to help you remember where and what time of year you found a particular plant.

Check out the 9 best mushroom growing kits and logs.

Dandelion, foraging for foodCourtesy Bev Miko
Dandelion

Popular Foods to Forage

Weeds

Greens

  • watercress
  • wild mustard
  • miner’s lettuce

Mushrooms

Fruits

  • raspberries
  • rose hips
  • blackberries

Roots and bulbs

  • wild leek (ramps)
  • wild garlic
  • onion

Nuts

  • acorns
  • black walnut
  • beechnut

Check out 10 fast-growing vegetables you can harvest quickly.

morel mushroomBryan Eastham/Shutterstock
Morel mushroom

Foraging for Food: Do’s & Don’ts

  • DON’T eat a wild plant without having it checked by an expert first!
  • DON’T eat plants from a questionable environment, like a golf course, farm field, parking lot or manufacturing plant. It’s possible there could be chemical run-off or pesticides present.
  • DO go slow. It’s hard to know how your body will react. Eat only a little to check for an allergy or intolerance.
  • DON’T collect from nature preserves, harvest an entire area or pick a threatened species.
  • DO only pick as much as you need—over-harvesting can easily lead plants to extinction.
  • DO harvest in the morning after the dew dries, but before the heat of the day.
  • DON’T ever eat a plant you can’t positively identify and deem safe

Next, learn how to grow wildflowers for butterflies.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She enjoys growing vegetables in containers and raised beds and watching for birds in her backyard.