5 Wild Foods to Forage For This Fall

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Whether you’re an off-gridder or simply enjoy getting out into nature and foraging for wild foods in your local environment, here are a few tasty items you may be able to forage for this fall…

Foraging was the primary way that most humans fed themselves for thousands of years. While most of us in the Western world now have many sources of food available to us – either commercially or through growing it ourselves – it is still sometimes fun and rewarding to forage for wild foods in your natural environment.

Fall is a particularly good time to forage, depending on your location. Many wild fruits, nuts, and seeds are available this time of year throughout the U.S..

Below are a few examples that you can find during the autumn months.

Note: Remember to forage ethically! Respect the environment, don’t damage plants and trees when harvesting, and don’t take more than you will use. Whatever you leave behind will feed birds and other animals and help them prepare for winter!

FRUITS

American Persimmon

Most folks are familiar with Asian persimmons—the giant neon orange orbs in the specialty produce section at the grocery store this time of year—but they have an American cousin hiding out in the hardwood forests of the eastern US. American persimmons are smaller, but they have a rich, velvety texture and taste as though they’ve been seasoned with a touch of allspice. Don’t try to eat them until they’ve become completely soft, however; the astringency of unripe persimmons is legendary for its ability to make your mouth pucker.

Pawpaw

Pawpaws are the largest fruits native to North America. They are closely related to tropical fruits like cherimoya, but are found growing in the bottomlands of the eastern US from northern Florida to southern Ontario and west as far as Texas and Nebraska. The trees are often found along riverbanks where they grow in dense thickets. Pick them once the skin turns from green to yellow and the flesh is slightly soft when squeezed. Some pawpaw enthusiasts say the fruit is best after the first frost of fall.

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ROOTS

Burdock

Also known as gobo, burdock root has an earth artichoke-like flavor. It is a popular vegetable in parts of Asia, but in America you’re more likely to see it growing as a weed in a pasture than being cultivated in a farmer’s field—it grows in every corner of the country except the Deep South. Burdock has enormous fuzzy leaves the size and shape of an elephant’s ear and taproot that can be several feet long. It’s a biennial, meaning it produces leaves the first year, then flowers, then sets seed and dies in year two. For tender, tasty roots, you need to harvest burdock root at the end of the first growing season—once the flowerstalk appears in spring of the second season of growth, the roots become tough and bitter.

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NUTS

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Hazelnuts

Grocery store hazelnuts (also known as filberts) are descended from European trees and are cultivated by farmers on a large scale. North America has its own native hazelnut species, which are just as tasty, but have never been developed into an agricultural crop. North American hazelnuts grow as large shrubs at the edge of forests and are found in almost every state outside of the Southwest. The nuts have little caps on them with fine hairs that can irritate bare skin, so a pair of gloves is recommended when harvesting.

FUNGI

Caution: Many wild mushrooms are lethally poisonous. Never consume wild mushrooms unless you are 100-percent certain of their identity.

Chanterelles

The season for each species of wild mushrooms varies considerably based on location, but chanterelles are one that is commonly available throughout the country in fall. They like cool weather and tend to emerge in the forest after a soaking fall rain. Chanterelles are one of the easiest mushrooms to identify—they have rib-like ridges on the underside, rather than the fine gills found on so many other species—but make sure to harvest them with an experienced friend until you are completely confident of your ability to tell them apart from potentially poisonous species.

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Read more about wild foraging at ModernFarmer.com

 

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