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Gather food, or foraging involves searching for wild, edible plants, such as mushrooms, berries or greens, we can do this in both rural and urban areas.
Foraging, or searching for food can boost your nutrient intake as well as help you try new and interesting foods and being self sufficient all at the same time.
I first became interested in foraging as a young child.
It was a big part of my child hood in Sweden, foraging for mushrooms and berries. I loved it! We mainly searched for blueberries, lingon berries and cloud berries. I remember clearly the excitement when finding a good area with a large amount of mushrooms or berries. We brought picnic and spent hours in the forest. It is a good, fun and healthy family tradition that I have passed on to my own family now.
In most countries and places there is a lot of wild food to gather and prepare when you know what to look for and it’s a great option if interested in eating more sustainably.
Do research and find out how to find food in the wild and what’s available where you live.
Be sure to only pick edible foods. There are many different books on foraging and how to identify wild plants that can help you.
The forager’s harvest bible is a guide to edible wild plants. Also A field guide to the native edible plants of New Zealand and The forager’s Treasury will help you identify the edible wild food in New Zealand. Cooking with the oldest foods on earth is a guide to Australian bush foods. You can find more books on edible plants here
I often see wild apple trees around where we live. We often stop on the side of the road and gather apple from them when its apple season.
There is often a lot of fruit on each tree. They store well and can be prepared and frozen easily so it’s really worth doing if you don’t have your own apple tree.
See my apple sauce recipe
Gather green plants
There are many edible greens that we can find in the wild including wild lettuce, spinach, chicory and herbs. Wild greens are rich in many nutrients and I love incorporating them into delicious meals.
Listed below are the main ones that I use, mainly because they are easily available in my area.
Stinging nettle is a common weed. It grows wild in gardens, parks, paddocks, forest edges and around old farmsteads in spring and summer that can be made into tea, delicious soups, tarts or sauces.
Stinging nettles are an excellent food source and one of the most nutritional wild plants available
They can also be blanched and frozen. Then it’s easy to add them to a soup or pasta dish. Stinging nettle is not only extremely nutritious but also very tasty, so I love using them.
Use gardening cloves when you pick them and they wont sting you. Then blanch the nettles in hot water for 1-2 minutes and refresh in cold water. Now you can touch them and eat them and they wont sting.
Try this fresh, simple Nettle soup recipe. It’s a light dish, quick to make and has just a few ingredients.
This crumbed fish with nettles is another great dish using wild stinging nettles.
Stinging nettle has many health benefits and they taste delicious so it’s worth making the effort.
Making tea out of wild stinging nettles is a good way to get all the nutrition from the plant.
To make tea you need to dry the stinging nettles first and pick the leaves off the steam.
Pour 250ml hot water over two teaspoons of dried nettle leaves.
Allow the tea to brew for about ten minutes.
When brewing nettles into a tea it can have a mild bitter taste. You can add other herbs like peppermint or lemon balm to make it more palatable.
The brewed nettle tea can be chilled overnight and enjoyed the next day over ice as an iced tea.
Watercress can be found in many freshwater creeks in New Zealand. When you find a watercress creek there is usually a good amount of it so it can be really worth stopping to harvest some.
The bright green leaves are lovely to eat raw in a mixed salad, made in to pesto or cooked in soups or stews. It has a peppery flavor and will add a nice flavor burst to the meal as well as a nutrition boost. Watercress is classified as a super food. It is high in antioxidant and pairs well with any wild meat or seafood.
In autumn there can be an abundant of wild mushrooms in the paddocks, garden and parks if the weather allows.
When foraging for mushrooms, bring along a mushroom hunting guide that includes edible mushrooms that grow in your area. It will help you properly identify safe varieties.
Field mushrooms are best picked and cooked while fresh while porcini (birch bolete) mushrooms that mainly grow in the garden and parks, I prefer to slice thin, dry and then store in zip lock bags in the cupboard.
They store really well for at least one year if dried properly. Once dried I can easily add them to soups, stews and sauces. Read more about storing and preserving food here
I prefer the flavor and texture when dried first. The flavor tends to intensify and the texture are firmer.
That’s the only two wild mushrooms I pick in New Zealand. There are a few more edible ones but it’s the only two types that I feel confident to identify, and they are delicious.
I have tried pine bollet before, a similar mushroom to the porcini (birch bollet) but I don’t like them as much and they don’t dry and store as easily as they have more moisture content in them.
fruit and berries
Blackberries is a scrub weed and can be found growing wild in paddocks, gardens and forests in many parts of New Zealand.
It’s probably the most delicious weed you can eat. I’m lucky to have a few scrubs growing on my property.
Blackberries are great to pick in late summer and autumn.
Delicious on their own and can easily be made in to excellent desserts and baking.
They freeze really well too.
Rose hip can often be found in the wild.
These vitamin rich berries can be made in to jellies, jams or beverages.
In Sweden we drink a rosehip beverage called Nypon soppa. It’s commonly served as snack with crisp bread or as a dessert with whipped cream
Strawberry dogwood tree
This is a decorative tree found in the wild as well as in many gardens.
Many people has it in their garden without knowing that the red berry like fruits are edible.
The berries are sweetest and best consumed when bright red and very ripe. They can be eaten straight off the tree or be made in to a delicious jam/jelly
Its very easy to make jam out of the strawberry dogwood tree because there is no peeling or cutting involved. The fruit goes straight in the pot as they are straight from the tree
See my strawberry tree fruit jam/jelly recipe
Going outside gathering food in the wild is amazing! Wild, natural ingredients available for anyone to pick and prepare a meal with.
It’s the most natural thing we can do and I’m surprised that so many people don’t gather wild food.
There are many more edible plants you can find in the wild. This is only the main things we pick in our area.
Hunter gatherer food is healthy, natural and sustainable.
See also my seafood harvesting guide for collecting shellfish on the beach
You may like to read about my self sufficient food journey , my home grown food and raising animals for food on my lifestyle block in New Zealand.
Also my page about hunting for food and fishing for food.
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