Photo: How to forage for food

Foraging for morel mushrooms is a hobby fit for all ages. (Photo credit: Lindsay Coulter)

I grew up foraging for morel mushrooms, Saskatoon berries, wild blueberries, strawberries and raspberries in Alberta. On the West Coast now, I forage for salmonberries, blackberries and young stinging nettle.

For me, foraging is less about sustenance and more about time in nature with family and the thrill of seeking and finding — and Grandma once made me a delicious wild blueberry pie! My family looked for morels in the spring — my grandmother, Mom, my aunts and me. Last spring, my then two-year old son developed a killer eye for morels. It's a hobby for all ages.

If you're a city dweller or don't come from a lineage of gatherers, don't fret. You can take a foraging tour in a local city park. For example, Forager Foundation @ForagerFDN leads tours in the Vancouver area, ranked beginner to advanced. There might be similar tours or courses led by businesses, non-profits, Indigenous groups or parks where you live. (If so, please share below with a comment and link.)

Tips for foraging

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  1. Avoid poisonous or endangered plants — purchase an identification guide to help you triple check the plant or fungi species you find.
  2. Harvest only what you need.
  3. Obey signage. Harvest away from parks and nature reserves. (For example, Metro Vancouver Parks asks people not to harvest chanterelle mushrooms in Pacific Spirit Park.)
  4. Beware of pesticide- or herbicide-sprayed areas — if you're collecting in ditches for example, watch for signs of spraying (brown vegetation) or call your local municipality.
  5. Obey trail signs, tread lightly and try not to trample natural areas.
  6. Learn animal track, scat and sign to see what else might be foraging in the area.
  7. Take a tour and learn from experts.
  8. Try new recipes.
  9. To increase your chance of seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, leave your dog at home.
  10. Start foraging in your backyard — make dandelion salad!

Have you foraged? Why? What did you find?

Sincerely, Lindsay Coulter
A fellow Queen of Green

April 7, 2016

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May 02, 2016
4:30 PM

My daughters and I foraged for morels in Ontario. They were just 4 and 5 when we started and they called it morel hunting..they loved the walks through the forest and my eldest daughter now 47 still goes out morel hunting and foraging for berries. We also picked elderberries and red currants then came home and made pies and jellies!.

May 02, 2016
9:17 AM

Here in the east is a good time to collect new white cedar growth. It makes a good insecticide when combined with yarrow and a few drops of Tea Tree oil. Fill a jar 3/4’s full of 1 part cedar ends chopped fine to 1 part Yarrow chopped fine add oil to almost fill jar. Let stand for at least 3 weeks shake every day. Strain and add a few drops of Tea Tree oil. Use on exposed skin to repel mosquitos.

A tincture made with cedar is excellent to remove most warts, paint it on the wart and it will be gone in a short while. This absolutely amazed me the first time I seen it work.

May 02, 2016
9:10 AM

Hello, where is your spruce tip vinegar recipe?

Apr 20, 2016
6:47 PM

Hello, Thanks for the article, Camille Flanjek and myself are educators of wild foods and mushrooms and we are offering a workshop May 1st, called Food Harvest and Beyond: Plant Spirit Medicine (wild greens, plant medicine, and medicinal mushrooms). Here is the link and scroll down the page to sign up.

We hope to have some of your readers join us.

Apr 15, 2016
10:04 PM

I have just learned how to harvest mushrooms in logs. We drill small holes if logs and introduce spores in those holes.Our kids are having a great time exploring, and tasting different plants. Now, they are harvesting dandelions around the yard.

Apr 11, 2016
2:03 PM

I call it what I do “urban foraging”, looking for things that have been forgotten. Spring is a good time to forage for herbs especially mint. It will seed itself or people plant it not knowing its invasive. A few sprigs in water or soda water is refreshing. Heat it with sugar and a bit of vintage its fresh mint sauce. Put it in a glass, pound it with a spoon with a teaspoon of sugar, and add rum and lime juice. fill ice cube trays, add water and freeze for drinks or recipes later in the summer. Watch out for oregano, which can also be invasive and spread far beyond the boundaries of a garden.

Apr 08, 2016
12:26 PM

Thanks for the great post.The wooded parks Beaconsfield Quebec used to be lined with raspberry and currant bushes. For years in mid summer I would take my kids from park to park to pick them as they ripened. There was also the fun of “springing” touch-me-nots, doing the butter cup test, playing with milkweed etc. A few years ago the city clear cut the berries, flowering bushes and plants that lined the parks. They were replaced with mulch, gravel and grass — a real disappointment (I’m sure it didn’t help the bees, butterflies etc). Made me think of the Bob Snider song Parkette.

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