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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- Avoid poisonous or endangered plants — purchase an identification guide to help you triple check the plant or fungi species you find.
- Harvest only what you need.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Obey trail signs, tread lightly and try not to trample natural areas.
- Learn animal track, scat and sign to see what else might be foraging in the area.
- Take a tour and learn from experts.
- Try new recipes.
- To increase your chance of seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, leave your dog at home.
- Start foraging in your backyard — make dandelion salad!
Have you foraged? Why? What did you find?
Sincerely, Lindsay Coulter
A fellow Queen of Green