Don’t let the notion of “foraging” scare you off. It sounds completely inappropriate – the opposite of gardening. You’re supposed to enjoy and absorb all aspects of gardening so you can master it. In fact, a good gardener considers foraging to be a crucial skill.
Just because you could be related to you “foraging” doesn’t mean you have to. We have a great European-American word for this: masterful. Yet something as simple as knowing where to look for edible plants can be an intense experience. Foraging can be foraging through the forests or down into valleys, with wildflowers as the centerpiece. All too often I’ve seen such areas miss out on development. So you want to find the patches that are neglected – the near-hidden gardens in your garden, the sidewalks of town. Some people forage out of necessity or just to provide fuel for animals.
Fruit trees tend to provide more variety than flowers. Fresh fruit remains mostly edible for a day or two after it comes from the tree, so you don’t want to think of it as eating a whole plant.
Go through your own garden for whatever foodstuffs you might be lacking – herbs or whatever you plan to compost. Think of them as your own backyard garden even if you don’t have a big enough patch to sustain itself.
Here are some sources of information on foraging and creating a backyard culinary garden.
The Atlas of American Vegetable Gardening, American Potatoes and Its State Laws, There’s Plenty to Eat on a Weedless Grid, The Cook’s Handbook of Food foraging: Seeds, Telltale Plants, and More, and Mark Hockney’s Garden: Plants and Gardening in an England-Country Farmhouse.
Finding Outside books
Cooking with and Natural How to forage and Flirting with Wildflowers or Weeds
Location Garden Finder by AllTrails
The Thames Gorge Native Plant Garden Map
Foraging books and apps are offered by the Center for Food Journalism at Ohio University’s Olivet University. If you want to find this information yourself, you can either peruse a catalog online, or read books on your own that are posted. I’ve read books on wildflowers, including the Irish Garden of Our Lady of Lourdes, and it was encouraging and enjoyable.
Books about edible wildflowers or herbs are also available. Outdoor food articles from other foraging-related outlets are good references as well.
The first-ever National Wildflower Board of Governors Directory lists locations, along with their conservation status and what activities are provided for those activities. The website is for the public and isn’t intended for use by farmers or developers.
You also have to make some independent decisions to start a garden. The studies show that wild plants will often come up and just keep on growing. So dig a hole to get an idea of the garden space, consult with your local school board, and establish what you can plant.
Some people don’t like “heaps” of food grown close to their property.
For growing herbs or vegetables outdoors, your best bet is to find the areas you can grow food there. For reading information about wild foods, look at the listed North American Geranium Society (formerly Geranium Society of America) area and the website www.NorthAmericanGeranium.o…. Look for information on foraging, especially with edible wildflowers. For identifying edible wildflowers, visit the website of the Wildflowers Research Council.
Becoming a forager has real perks.