It’s always sad to say goodbye to summer, but that just means the cooler days of fall are right around the corner.
Fall is our favorite season and we look forward to hiking through the changing leaves with our pups, sipping cider around campfires and, hopefully, doing some good foraging. And it will be even more exciting when we get to do this in different parts of the country.
We love the idea of foraging wild ingredients for salads, side dishes, and drinks. However, with so many wild foods that grow along hiking trails and streams, it can be a little overwhelming.
So, we’re going to play it safe and start slow with some easy to identify wild edibles.
We’ve broken it down into 4 main categories and we suggest having one or two in mind when heading out, because even if you’re not picking right now, it’s good to go out and familiarize yourself with them.
Berries & Fruits
- Blackberries/Raspberries/Elderberries: Sweet ripe berries can be foraged late summer into fall. Never eat unfamiliar berries in the wild. Make sure you can identify the plant without berries on it. Fresh berries spoil quickly, so they should be used the same day they are picked. Learn More
- Apples: Everyone knows what apples look like, and if you’re lucky enough to find a couple of trees on a walk, grab a few ripe ones and taste them. Sweet ones can be used just like popular cultivated varieties. The more bitter “crab apples” make excellent ciders & wine. Learn More
- Rose Hips: If you have rose bushes, you can find these in your own backyard. These are the fruit of the rose that look like large berries in late fall. Discard the seeds and use the flesh to make syrup or jelly. Turn them into wine or dry them for tea. Learn More
Caution: Make certain the rose bushes haven’t been sprayed with pesticides or any other chemicals. Yuck!
- Cattails: The roots are tubers that, once peeled and cooked, have a potato-like flavor. They are a great source of starch for flatbreads and as a soup thickener. Roots can also be dried and made into flour. Learn More
- Dandelion Root: The roots of this common flower are a natural detoxifier and when roasted it can be used as a caffeine free coffee replacement. It’s best to harvest the root in late fall or early spring, as the plant stores up its energy and vitamins in the roots. Learn More
- Chicory: A cousin to the dandelion, its bitter roots aid in digestion, contain inulin for your gut bacteria, and are also used as a detoxifier. Most recipes recommend roasting it, which makes it easier to store and use. Learn More
- Sweet Chestnut: These prickly shells are easy to spot, but wait until mid to late fall to forage when they are a deep reddish brown all over. Find shells that are only open slightly, and roll on the ground to retrieve the nut inside. Soak then roast/dehydrate the nuts for long term storage. Learn More
- Pear-Shaped & Giant Puffball Mushrooms: Amongst the easiest mushrooms to identify, these mushrooms grow on decaying logs, debris, and open pasture. With colors ranging from white to olive brown, only the white ones should be picked for eating. Learn More
- Hen of the Woods: This giant mushroom has a greyish brown cap and often blends in with fallen leaves, however the size often gives it away. Delicious in a variety of dishes, it can also be canned and/or frozen. Learn More
- Oyster Mushrooms: These delicate greyish-brown mushrooms are wonderful when sauteed with onions and garlic. It’s a prolific fall variety found in dry creek beds and around softwood trees. Learn More
Rules to follow:
Never eat anything you cannot 110% identify. Double and triple check. Ask a local expert and consult professional field guides. It is not worth the risk of poisoning yourself.
Do not forage along busy roadsides, highways, train tracks or commercial growing fields where chemicals may have been sprayed. Do some research on the area where you plan to forage.
Always locate the owner of the property where you want to forage and ask for permission first. Do not assume a property is public domain or abandoned just because you do not see any structures around. Research the laws in the area pertaining to foraging on public lands and green spaces and obey them.
Do not take more than you need. Always leave as much of the plant as possible so that it can survive and propagate, meaning more for next year. Research the plants you want to forage for and make sure they are not at risk of becoming endangered or already endangered. If they are, leave them be or, better yet, grow them in your garden instead.