Try a New Food More Than Once
I don't know about you, but in my experience trying a new food isn't always love at first bite. Sometimes I have to taste a wild plant, or a cultivated plant for that matter, several times before my taste buds adjust. And other times I simply need to locate a better-tasting sample.
For example, as I wrote about last year, I have tasted the fruit of Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa, pictured here) many times and found it hardly worth swallowing. Then, last summer, I found a delicious crop of juicy fruit and proceeded to gather several pounds. What I didn't eat fresh over the next few days, I stashed in my freezer to enjoy over the coming months. The fruit of Black Chokeberry is one food I'm glad I didn't give up on after my first few tastes.
Have you had a similar experience with a new food? Share your stories in the comments below.
This post is part of a series of tips for foragers of wild plant foods. For my core gathering practices, see Josh's Guidelines for Foraging.
Start in Your Own Backyard
In order to begin gathering wild edibles, you must first learn to identify plants, whether edible or not, as positive identification is an essential foraging practice. Luckily, there is no better place to get started with plant identification than where you live. Chances are there are some plants, shrubs and trees growing near your home. Get to know them. (I'd be willing to bet that some of those plants have edible parts.)
Start by learning to identify the trees who live near you. Just pick the five most common species. Borrow a good tree book if you don't have one, or ask a knowledgeable friend for help. Similarly, learn five wild shrubs. Then, five herbaceous (non-woody) plants -- Newcomb's Wildflower Guide is a great resource to help with this. Learning to identify these fifteen species will go a long way toward helping you develop a discerning eye, but don't stop there. Get to know all of the common plants of your yard and neighborhood. At this point, I recommend checking your identification skills with a forager or plant expert in your area.
Once you are certain of your ability to accurately identify plants, consult an experienced forager and/or a variety of trusty foraging books (I highly recommend Samuel Thayer's books) and slowly but surely add to your wild food repertoire.
This post is the first in a series of tips for foragers of wild plant foods. For my core gathering practices, see Josh's Guidelines for Foraging.