High quality, nutritious plant-based foods may seem rare, exclusive and expensive. However, they’re far more attainable than all the marketing hype would have you believe. The truth is, you probably have some of the most nutrient dense foods on your doorstep! This article will demystify the misconception that organic plant-based foods cost a fortune, and show you that they can be found for free in nature, are you ready for the fun of foraging?

Back To Nature

Organic produce can be expensive. Unfortunately, we have to pay more for fruits and vegetables untampered by pernicious processes. Buying healthy food can feel like a compromise, where you have to make a decision between your health or your bank balance. But why spend money on food when it grows by itself in nature for free?

Foraging for wild food is a deeply satisfying activity that “sets two birds free with one key”: it’s an adventure in nature and an enrichment to your palette and diet. Foraging for food empowers self sufficiency, in food and health. Nature is so resplendent and abundant, if we were to take notice of the food growing right under our noses, we would realise that we don’t need supermarkets to feed ourselves.

Foraging Fulltime

Expert forager Garry Tibbo is living evidence that humans can live and thrive completely from wild food. He illuminates the possibilities: “everything you need is within one mile of where you live. It doesn’t matter if you live in suburbia… or live where it snows in the winter… Nature is perfect and has all the answers.” When he began eating foraged food, Garry’s “untreatable” health afflictions disappeared. Wild food often has a much denser nutrient profile that selectively bred consumer brands, even the organic ones.

Foraging is also health enhancing for the wider ecosystem: the only footprints you’re leaving behind are the physical ones on the ground. For example, last night I prepared a salad, and we had no lettuce, so the main ingredient was wild chard which is growing by the steps of my friend’s front door. It made the perfect accompaniment to our meal plus it was free and literally growing on our doorstep!

Picking Awareness, Tips & Etiquette

Remember you must always identify the plants before you pick them. This is incredibly important, as there are some species that look similar to edible variations but can actually be harmful if ingested. It’s wise to identify the small number of plants that can be poisonous (such as foxgloves, which are lethal if eaten by humans) to ensure you never eat them accidentally.

Be careful if you see an insect or bug on a leaf, as a precautionary rule, don’t pick it. When you take your pickings home, thoroughly wash them with cold water before eating. You can dry them with a dehydrator or by leaving them outside, or put them straight into a fresh salad, soup, stew or your favorite vegetable concoction. If you’re new to eating wild foraged foods, we recommend that you start with small amounts to see how your body responds.

Get a physical resource, whether this is a guidebook or a smartphone app, or best of all an expert forager to go with you, this will be an invaluable help in identifying edible plants. Ultimately, if in doubt, don’t stick it in your mouth!

When you pick wild foods, make sure to leave at least ¼ of the plants behind, this will ensure enough remain for them to reproduce and for future foragers to enjoy.

The following foods can be found outdoors, some literally in your backyard.

Acorns

Encased in a tough shell, the nut of the majestic oak tree has been enjoyed by cultures around the world for thousands of years. Acorns are a good source of antioxidants, vitamin C and rich in manganese, calcium copper and potassium. When taken from the tree they have a bitter taste due to the tannins, but this can be dealt with by boiling them in hot water for 15 minutes. Rinse and repeat until the water is clear[1].

Beech Nuts

A small, triangular nut that grows on the beech tree and is available to harvest in fall. Beech nuts are protein rich, and a good source of vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese. To enjoy them, peel off the husk with a fingernail or a knife. They are delicious roasted in the oven or on a fire. The leaves of this tree are also edible and make a tasty accompaniment to a salad[2].

Hickory Nuts

Hickory trees can be found in oak forests or alongside the roads in eastern US. This tree has various species, the most common being the shagbark, whose nut is encased in a spherical green husk, and the pignut, whose nut is the same color but has a more oval, pointed shape. Hickory nuts are a great food for people who want to gain weight due to their calorific content and healthy fats, and also offer a great source of protein and fibre. They need to be dried in the sun for 1-2 weeks before they are fit for eating, which also makes opening them with a nutcracker or hammer much simpler[3].

Pecans

Actually a type of hickory nut, pecans grow on huge pecan trees and offer an abundance of their delicious nut, which is easy to crack open. Pecans are excellent for brain and heart health, lowering cholesterol and are full of nutrients like vitamins A and E, various B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and plenty of protein and fibre to bulk up your wildly foraged plate[4].

Morel mushrooms (Morchella)

A peculiar, wrinkly honeycomb looking fungi, morels have been called “America’s mushroom,” due to their great taste and popularity. Although they’re expensive to buy, they’re easy to find on the edges of forests and around dying trees. Morels pop up between March and May – be sure to soak them in water for several hours, then you can enjoy their low carb, high fibre, iron and vitamin D content[5].

Puffball mushrooms (Lycoperdon Perlatum, Lycoperdon Gigantea)

Large bright white spherical mushrooms that are easy to spot in woodlands, fields and by the coast, puffballs can be as big as a soccer ball (and tempting to kick!) They are so huge that one can easily feed a whole family. Their flavour and texture has earnt them the nickname “poor man’s sweetbread,” and they’re a great source of protein, carbs and essential fatty acids. They are delicious fried and have fulfilling, “meaty” texture[6].

Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense)

A beautiful flower that may well be sitting on your lawn as we speak, the entirety of this plant including the flower is edible, and will reward the eater with a boost of minerals and nutrients including calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C[7]. Amazingly Red Clover also has a profound neurological impact protecting you and your brain[8]. It blocks the damage done by the excitotoxic and addictive additive MSG which is found under a variety of deceptive labelling in a lot of processed food.

Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale)

What many dismiss as a weed is really a nutrient thick edible plant. For example, a single cup of dandelion leaves houses a whopping 535% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K and 112% of vitamin A[9]! Any plants with the name ‘Officinale’ are medicinal in nature.

Lambsquarters (Chenopodium Album)

Another so called ‘weed’, this type of wild spinach abounds in nature and is figuratively dripping with essential minerals like folate, iron, magnesium, niacin and potassium, (being 4x as high in potassium as broccoli)[10].

Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia Perfoliata)

Looks something like an umbrella and goes great in salads, miner’s lettuce is an energising source of vitamin C and omega-3. It can be found in woodlands, hills and embedded in rock walls, and will obligingly fall into your hands with just a gentle tug[11].

Stinging Nettles (Urtica Dioica)

Looks a lot more unfriendly than it is, but when you know how to deal with those spikes, (cut them with gloves on then dry or steam the plant), you’re in for a treat. Alternatively blend them up with some healthy oil, lemon juice and sunflower seeds to make a delicious iron-rich pesto. People have been surprised when I mention that stinging nettles are very nutritious, but it’s true, they’re loaded with vitamin C and iron and they’re delicious[12].

Nutritional and Cost Benefits

The above list is just a drop in the ocean of all the nutritious, delicious organic foods living in the wilderness. It’s almost like nature really wants you to eat them! As we’ve discovered, just because they’re organic and rich in nutrients, doesn’t mean you have to spend a penny to get a plate full of goodness. Fantastic plant-based foods are sitting right outside your house, right now, waiting patiently for you to unearth them.

Disclaimer: This article is for inspirational and general information purposes only, and must be supplemented with further research. Some wild plants are toxic and poisonous, and you choose to use the information in this article at your own risk. Nature Sustained does not accept liability for any negative effect any person may suffer as a result of foraging for wild foods. Please exercise the utmost caution when foraging! Be safe but be brave, nature really does want to nurture you.

Play Your Part

Every single awakened individual has a role to play in creating global change. By sharing this article on your favourite social media channels you speed up the process of conscious co-creation. Your actions do make a difference. If just one more person reads this article they receive the gift of the increased health and harmony of plant-based nutrition. Share this knowledge now.

References