4 Foraging tips to fill your plates this fall
If you’re like me, food is generally something that comes from stores. You make a list (or not), you shop, eat and repeat. Nature has a lot of provisions to share, and why not take advantage of good ol’ mother earth when you can? Plus, free food and outdoor activities? Together? Yes please!
With that in mind, here are a few of the best fall foraging finds across North America, though some may be more plentiful in certain regions. Please note that beginner foragers should always get an expert opinion and be sure that what they’ve harvested is, in fact, edible.
Chicken of the Woods
Why should you seek out this mushroom? Because it’s a fungi! (Get it? Because mushrooms are fungus?) Chicken of the woods grows, usually, at the base of dead or dying trees. It particularly likes hardwoods like oak, cherry and beech. Unlike the caps and stems you might usually associate with mushrooms, these grow in shelves. For cooking, chicken of the woods is known for its dense, meaty-ness, almost like chicken.
Cattails are everywhere. Even though you could probably harvest them by the roadside, they are bioaccumulators, which means they absorb chemicals. So maybe resist the urge to pick the low hanging fruit, as it were, and try to find stalks growing in less human-disturbed areas, like a pond for example.
You’ll want to peel the outer layers to get to the core – ie. the good stuff. The bottom part is what you’ll want to eat. You can eat them raw (they taste kind of like cucumbers) or get creative by pickling or fermenting them. You can also use the gel-like substance between the shoot layers as a thickener for soups!
There are a range of wild onion types and any connoisseurs reading might say that this is more of a spring-time forage, but since many of the varieties can be foraged in the fall, we’re going with it! This is pretty self-explanatory; you know what onions are and how to cook them. All I can say is that, if it looks like an onion and smells like an onion, it’s probably an onion and I would like to eat it.
We know them, we love them and the ones you might forage are highly dependent on your region, but I am telling you they are there and they are delicious. Berries generally are more of a late summer/early fall forage so you may have to act fast here or wait until next year. Blackberries and raspberries are common in sunny patches and along forest edges. Strawberries also grow along the edges of forests or near streams, whereas blueberries prefer drier places and rocky areas.
Forage on friends, just remember: leave some for the wildlife… and never eat what you don’t know.