The Essentials: Everything You Need for Foraging
Diana Faria 06.07.18
Foraging is a great way to take advantage of nature’s fruitful bounty right in your backyard. Anything from wild leeks to fiddleheads to mushrooms can be foraged, but you’ll need the right instruments in order to successfully find, identify and scavenge for food you can safely consume. You’ll be well on your way towards making dishes of ferreted finds when armed with these tools of the trade.
The first step to foraging is figuring out what you should and should not eat. We recommend picking up a copy of Sturtevant’s Edible Plants of the World, which outlines plants that can be foraged and are safe for human consumption. Another good place to start is Edible Wild Plants by Perry Medsger Oliver. If you want to broaden your repertoire, you can pick up books about other specific goods to forage like Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora. While you’re learning, it’s always best to check foraged foods against at least one other source to ensure what you are eating is indeed safe.
Look before you pick. Checking that items are edible not only requires the use of your sources (be that books or reliable internet sources) but also a magnifying glass to get a better look at what you’re gathering. Carson’s magnifier has a five-inch acrylic lens and can magnify up to two times; it’s also lightweight and scratch-resistant.
Mushrooms are arguably the most difficult food to forage as there are a few species which look identical but while one is safe for consumption, the other can send you to the hospital. Checking a mushroom’s spore print is your best bet in determining whether it is edible or not. After foraging, place the cap onto a clear glass plate (like one from this Libbey Moderno set), cover it with a bowl and wait approximately 24 hours for a spore print to manifest. Once you’ve carefully removed the bowl and cap, you can put different coloured paper under the plate to examine the markings closely for size, color and consistency and compare it to your references.
A small, handheld knife can be used for picking items like mushrooms or shaving tree bark. Available with a curved synthetic or bone handle, the Case Cutlery Sod Buster pocket knife comes with your choice of either surgical stainless steel or chrome vanadium skinner blade.
Cutting your foraged items with shears is sometimes easier than using a knife, especially if the plants are delicate and require as little handling as possible. Lightweight and inexpensive, Olivivi’s stainless steel kitchen shears enables you to cut, lift and place plants into your basket without gripping the stems with your hands. In the kitchen, these multi-purpose scissors can also de-scale fish, crack nuts, open bottles and are strong enough to cut through meat at the dinner table.
After picking your goods, you’ll need a place to store them. A soft fabric bag like a tote or backpack may not be the best place as delicate items can easily be squished or damaged en route. Instead, invest in a hard basket that will keep your food unbroken and bruise-free. These handmade fair trade baskets are made in Ghana with elephant grass and have a leather-wrapped handle for comfortable carrying.
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