I’m a terrible forager–a scrappy forager, but a shamefully inefficient one. I don’t have the right equipment or knowledge to preserve what I find. I’m on a tight budget as a grad student, so I don’t have a lot of disposable income to buy foraging accessories. I’m also living in a rented duplex and am considering going abroad after graduation, so amassing valuable goods isn’t a smart option for me. If I had all the money and safe storage, here’s what my foraging wish list would look like.
- Car. I don’t really want a car because my city location promotes a healthy lifestyle of commuting by bicycle. If I had a car, I would get lazy whenever the weather wasn’t perfect (9 months of the year in Portland). But the best mushroom spots aren’t in the city, and while I can get to many of them by bicycle, it takes a multiple-day journey. I’ve been trading my mushrooming expertise for rides to the coast and Cascades, but it would be nice to work around my own schedule. In addition, a car is handy for mega loads of tasty goods, which brings me to the next item of my wish list.
- Bike trailer or cargo bike. You can haul mega material with a bike trailer or group of bikes with trailers. Serious Portland cyclists organize to move entire households from one side of the city to the other. The weekend before last, I participated in a bike harvest of persimmons with the Portland Fruit Tree Project. We carried ladders and harvesting poles on a long trailer and hauled the fruit in a big plastic bin on a flat bike trailer. Portland Pedal Power used their commercial shipping set-up to take 150 pounds of persimmons to the Urban Gleaners, who could distributed the fresh fruit to at least 30 families in need.
- Harvesting pole. Ladder. These are critical to be an effective tree-fruit forager. My boyfriend made a harvesting pole out of bamboo, a soda bottle, and a coat hanger. It was admirably resourceful engineering, but flimsy.
- Food dehydrator. I just borrowed an Excalibur dehydrator from a friend. It’s pretty deluxe. If I had one of my own I would use it for supreme bolete harvests, fruit leathers, seaweed. This is one of the middle-grade models for only $200! (ha!)
- Juicer. Somewhat like the opposite of a food dehydrator. Juice is easier to consume quickly than whole fruit. If I get too many apples, I can just juice the ones I know I can’t eat in time.
- Pressure cooker, canner, steam canner? I don’t know how to can. This is something I can learn. I don’t know exactly what I need for canning, but I know it is expensive.
- Food mill. No more picking out seeds by hand.
- Mushroom identification chemicals. There are a few chemical tests you can perform on mushrooms to help you figure out what they are. The most important chemical is potassium hydroxide (KOH). Others are ammonia, iron salts, hydrochloric acid (HCl), and Melzer’s Reagent. None are particularly expensive (at least in bulk) or difficult to find (try a hardware store or maybe craft store), but I don’t need much and don’t want to have a lot sitting around (especially since some are dangerous). Mostly I’m just lazy and hate spending money.
- Truffle hunting dog or pig. I’d prefer a dog. Pigs aren’t furry and I bet they’re ornery. All I have are three useless indoor house cats, and they are my roommates’, not mine. I’m pretty sure one of them could learn how to sniff out truffles, but you can’t put a cat in the woods and just expect it to come back when you call. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a truffle hunting cat, though?
- Patience. Foraged food (with the exception of fresh mushrooms and fruit) take a lot of processing. Hey, store bought food requires a lot of processing, (wheat, what the hell?), it’s just that the processing happens before we purchase it. I’d be much happier with wild nuts and grains if making them edible wasn’t so laborious. I wish someone could buy me some patience.
Consider this a Christmas wish list. Some of the items will only set you back a few hundred (or thousand) dollars.