About Foraging   4 comments

The real voyage

of discovery

consists not in

seeking new lands

but in seeing

with new eyes.

~Marcel Proust

Foraging is work.  It’s a lot of work.  Foraging is fun work, dirty work, long, tiring work; albeit ultimately satisfying work.  It will take you further than you thought possible.  Foraging is a time thief.  Hours disappear   Months fly by.  It’s consuming and addictive!  Foraging begins with a question; as in: “Hey, what’s that weed?”

And you’re off and running.  Well, for me it’s walking; railroad tracks, short cuts, mountain trails, neighbor’s yards, back roads, forest paths, coastline and back.  Thumbing through books in the library.  Scrolling through pages on the web.  One question explodes.  It’s no longer just wild strawberries and rose hips.  A universe of possibilities unfolds between your fingers.  And you become newly connected to heaven and earth; as you become simultaneously responsible for life and death.  Foraging is BIG; and it’s sacred.  Before you step into the garden, before you put anything in your mouth, stop and think about that.


* Identification, Identification, Identification.


* Purchase several field guides and read them repeatedly.  I recommend:

       NATURE’S GARDEN – A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing          EDIBLE WILD PLANTS    by Samuel Thayer.  Available through Forager’s Harvest Press, Birchwood, WI. and www.foragersharvest.com

This book is an absolute must.  Samuel Thayer shares his heart, enthusiasm, humor and fountain of foraging knowledge in an engrossing and very readable way.  If you only purchase one guide, this should be it.  But, really, you also need:

     PETERSON FIELD GUIDES Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson.  Available through Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

I take this book everywhere.  Often I wish it were larger, with more photos.  More often I’m glad it is small and easy to carry!

* Get confirmation from another live body.  If you can find an expert, go to them!  Most folks are happy to freely share their knowledge.  Taking classes, watching videos and attending seminars and workshops is invaluable.  At the very least have another pair of eyes study your find and your field guides.  If they don’t agree, whole heartedly, leave the plant alone and go back to researching.


It is always far better to be safe than sorry or dead.

* Pay attention to details. . . NEVER substitute the tiniest detail.  When you are out hunting Wild Carrot and come across a plant that fits the description except it’s stem is smooth, it becomes good to know that this plant is NOT Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, it’s Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum.


* Know which parts to use, when to pick and how to process.  Not all parts of all edible plants are edible; all of the time!  In fact most have a small window of edibility.




Be careful of crawling and flying predators! Remember, if you get bit or stung, there is always something growing, nearby, to help remedy the painful reaction; such as, Plantain, Plantago spp., Red Clover, Trifolium pratense, and Yarrow, Achillea millefolium; any of which can be crushed or chewed and applied to the site for immediate relief.  Thank you Gaia!

* Protection, Protection, Protection

* Protect yourself.  Whenever possible go with a friend.  We are always safer in number!  Let someone know where you are going and when to expect your return.  Know the territory and weather report.  Dress appropriately.  I like layers.  Never wear open toed shoes.  A good, natural insect repellant is essential.  I, also, carry a can of wasp spray.  Wasp spray is designed to spray 15 – 20 feet away.  If I ever happen across an unfriendly predator (bear or wasp) I hope I remember it’s in my bag!  A cell phone is a good idea!  Make noise.  Well, except if you’re fishing!  I put bells on my shoes and hang a small wind chime from my bag; to let the critters know I’m coming.  Most wild animals, elves, trolls and fairies will leave the area, before you get there; avoiding the possibility of confrontation.

* Protect the environment.  Every step you take has consequences.  Be responsible.  Carry a garbage bag and pick up trash along the way.  If you’re going to take something away you better be willing to give something back.  I like to leave a place better than I found it.

* Protect the plants.  NEVER OVERPICK.  The planet has already been robbed of enough species by the hand of man.  Pick conservatively.  Leave plenty for others, both human and animal.  Anywhere you find a plant, there’s a very good chance there are more, near by.  Don’t decimate a small area and tell yourself it’s ok.  Take care to pick a little here and a little there.  Always leave grandparent plants.  Grandys are the tallest, hardiest, often center plants.  They guarantee another harvest for next year.  Judicial harvesting will actually encourage new plant growth.

* PAY ATTENTION; stay in your senses:

“But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village.  The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is, – I am out of my senses.  In my walks I would fain return to my senses.  What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?  I suspect myself.”

~Henry David Thoreau from Excursions

* Never harvest in contaminated areas.  I like to stay at least 50 ft from the road.  Be extra conservative in industrial areas, near power lines, on golf courses, in public parks, around railroad tracks, and on folk’s lawns.  Check local records for area spraying.  Find out if and when it will be safe.  Stay clear of all exposed drainage pipes.

* Always wash your harvest.  It’s a good idea to do this outside, when possible.  Also, checking for hitch hikers, before you take your harvest inside, will reduce the possibility of bug wars later.

* Less is more.  Any time you eat any new food, do so sparingly.  An allergic reaction is always possible with new foods; whether found in the field, the supermarket or a restaurant.

* Take notes

            I use composition books, a large blotter style desk calendar, sketch books, my camera and this blog to keep a record of my foraging experiences.  Noting where plants are found, what grows around them, when they are in season and what it was all like; along with photos and drawings, will help me be more successful in years to come.

* Get permission whenever appropriate.  Trespassing is against the law.  Getting arrested is not a good way to end a day of foraging!

* If it doesn’t taste right spit it out!  Many harmful plant constituents are bitter.

* Express your gratitude, in song, prayer and deed.

Most days I go foraging. Sometimes there’s not much out there to pick. But, when I walk into a field, or the woods, a transformation happens. The here and now disappear. The aches, pains, bruises and chips of life become irrelevant; or they become badges of honor. Nature restores me. I become deeply connected to all that is, has ever been and will ever be. I become timeless. I become God. And that’s the best healing advice I can give.


There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society, where none intrudes,

By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:

I love not Man the less, but Nature more,

From these our interviews, in which I steal

From all I may be, or have been before,

To mingle with the Universe, and feel

What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

~Lord Byron


In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as a snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. . . . .In the woods, we return to reason and faith. . . .Standing on the bare ground, – my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, – all mean egotism vanishes.  I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part and parcel of God.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Why should we be in such haste to succeed in such desperate enterprises?  If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

            ~Henry David Thoreau from Walden


my child

whenever you slip

into the garden of self

abandon fear

dismiss isolation

and know

you are goddess

know i am beside you


there is no wrong

no bad

no evil

we can only move away from

in fear

or closer to

in love


there is no difference

all roads lead back to source

all rivers lead back to source

all horizons lead back to source

we may choose


or joy

yet will all arrive



Posted November 28, 2010 by forageporage

4 responses to “About Foraging

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  1. These are great rules, Linda…

  2. Pingback: Itchin’ to go Foraging | A Bloggable Feast

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