With more than 115 edible plants found across the Midwest, it’s no surprise that foraging has taken on new trends: for people wanting to discover a new form of food source to tasting wild foods on exotic plates in our restaurants. The beauty of searching for and finding wild foods is that they can be found virtually anywhere, both in urban and rural areas.

Whether you want to make your own herbal tinctures or harvest wild foods for cooking, there are many prolific plants growing all around us which can give us a taste of nature in her purest form. If you are just starting to think about the idea of foraging, it can be a little overwhelming but here are some ways to help you learn along the way.

What to pick

Foraging relies on knowing which plants to pick throughout the year, and requires a strict eye to attention in order to ensure that what you are picking is safe and edible. With so many poisonous plants, in particular, mushrooms, you should always positively identify plants if you’re in any doubt. Once you’ve collected a bunch of foods such as wild garlic and onions, morels or chanterelles, have a plan as to how you can cook up a scrumptious dinner with locally sourced foods, especially if you manage to locate wild rice; even better, imagine cooking dinner when you’re not even home from your efforts. Try creamy chicken or vegetables with wild rice in a slow cooker to come back to after a day out.

Rules for collecting wild foods

There are certain safety considerations you should follow when foraging. If you’re new to collecting, there will be certain locations where you could have to have permission from the landowner before picking plants. Many urban or national parks may have a ban for foraging activities so check before you go. Having sought permission, you should never pick all the wild species but rather leave some for wildlife and future foragers. Additionally, try not to pick anything that grows such as dandelions, burdock or cranberries next to main roads or polluted areas as this will affect the nutrients you have from the plants.

Why forage for food?

One of the best reasons to seek out wild food is that the weeds, flowers and herbs you collect will be free from chemicals or preservatives and are much more likely to have vitamins and minerals resulting in better health and strengthened immune system. Being outside in nature also means that you’ll be taking exercise while you walk through forests or close to rivers enjoying the natural beauty and fresh air around you. Besides, searching for wild food means that they’re free so they’re also helping to stretch your budget further too!

Whatever your reasons for foraging for food, there’s no doubt that it’s a rewarding activity that can provide you with knowledge and tastes that was once shared by our ancestors thousands of years ago.