Why I Forage

I am not a survivalist. I don’t foresee a future when commercial food will not be available and food foraging will be a critical skill. The world is not going to end before the sun swells into a red giant, which won’t happen for another 5 billion years (and then there will be no Earth and so no wild food). I’m an atheist, so no Apocalypse for me. Zombies aren’t and can’t be real. (Why would something with a rotting digestive system try to eat me?) We humans are the greatest danger to ourselves—but despite our technological advances, I believe we are pretty much the same as we ever were. We form social systems, we fight each other, we form different alliances, and the cycling of loving and killing continues. I’m faithful that we have enough restraint to avoid nuclear war, if only from fear of mutually assured destruction.

Should there be a raging pandemic that shuts down food production and transportation, I will surely be one of the ones that die. Viral infections seem to spontaneously generate in my body. I am more likely to be Patient 0 than I am to survive.

A grievous natural disaster is possible, even likely. A 9 earthquake is expected in Pacific Northwest (which is why I refuse to live in multi-floor brick building built before 1970). According to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, the Big One could hit in 500 years, tomorrow, or before you finish reading this post. Nevertheless, if I’m not crushed under rubble somewhere, I’m pretty sure the food that I already have in my kitchen could get me through the week or two it took for aid to find me. It might mean rationing small portions of uncooked noodles, but I could do it.

I’m probably not brave enough to go on an adventure that will get me lost and stuck starving in a remote forest.

cherrySo why do I forage?

Just because I want to. Foraging turns the world into an Easter egg hunt; there’s a potential treat in every square foot of soil. It’s also practical. If I can get vegetables growing wild in my neighborhood, why spend the money and the time buying them at a grocery store? It adds novelty and challenge to my diet. I’m far less familiar with wild foods than store-bought foods and I’m still not sure how to cook any but a few of them.

I forage because I must. There aren’t any external consequences to not foraging, but I have a strange compulsion to do it. My primitive gatherer brain is alive and well. I see food and I harvest it. A ripe berry bush or choice patch of mushrooms sets off a cascade of tantalizing reward endorphins in my brain. Unlike the desire for drugs or desserts, there’s no reason to resist this urge.

7 thoughts on “Why I Forage

  1. I just went out and foraged dandelion greens and a few fiddleheads! I cooked them up and used them in my huevos rancheros recipe. I just wrote a little post about it [recipe included]. Thank you for all the great information!

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  2. I would love to forage more foods. We have our own garden, but it would be fun to branch out from that. What kind of things are easy to find for novice foragers?

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    1. I’m not as familiar with the seasons and plants of the Midwest as I am with the Northwest and East Coast. You’re in a really good area for Samuel Thayer’s book Forager’s Harvest, which is based on the plants of the Midwest. He’s extremely fond of cattails.Dandelions are one of most common plants for foraging and they’re everywhere. They are, however, very bitter. I can only eat them if I boil the leaves limp and then mix the greens with something acidic like vinegar or tomato sauce. Since it’s springtime there isn’t much other than greens.

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