Foraging for free food
Benefits of foraging, hunting and fishing for food.
The season for foraging for fiddleheads, leeks, dandelions, and morel mushrooms in the woods is over, but free healthy food will continue to be available for those willing to forage for it. Michigan woods and waters are full of edible foods waiting for consumption. Besides the nutrients they provide, Michigan State University Extension will explain how foraging is a great physical activity and being outdoors is known to provide peace and serenity for the soul. Perhaps this is why many describe wild-edible food as “soul food.”
Every season the woods and waters provide food. In the spring, fiddleheads, leeks, morels and dandelions are available, including opening season for trout and walleye and other fish species. Did you know a cup of morel mushrooms have 44 percent iron and 34 percent of Vitamin D and if grown in full sun can contain 50 percent of your daily value of Vitamin D? Leeks and Fiddleheads contain a high percentage of Vitamin A. Most wild foods have a higher percentage of nutrients.
Produce bought in stores are chemically altered to have longer shelf life. This altercation reduces taste and nutrients. For example, all fruits and vegetables steadily lose vitamins while in storage in warehouses and in the grocery store, even at optimal temperatures. Lettuce loses 46 percent of some key nutrients within seven days of cold storage. Spinach loses 22 percent of lutein and 18 percent of beta carotene content after just eight days of cold storage
In the summer there are the popular blueberries, raspberries, black berries and sumac berries. Other plants that are edible are nettle leaves, lamb’s quarters, cattail roots, sheep sorrel, and of course, lake, great lake and stream fish. Fall is a busy time in the woods due to bird, deer and bear hunting seasons. The fall plants that are available are high bush cranberry, regular cranberry, sheep sorrel, lamb’s quarter, grain heads and amaranth to name a few. Fishing seems to increase in the fall as well.
Knowing which season plants and game are plentiful to hunt is important but more important is having an understanding of the hunting and fishing laws and where to locate and how to identify the game and plants. There are a variety of books and websites that can assist with developing your knowledge. If you are not privy to owning acreage or wooded area then remember to harvest only on state land or parks, national forests or private property with landowner permission. Avoid over harvesting, leave some behind for others and for sustainability for future growth.
The most import aspect of foraging for food is getting out in the woods! Finding someone local who is a skilled forager or hunter to take you is a great first step. Most hunters and foragers will attest that they were handed down the pastime from another and were not self-taught. Most will probably say it was a family activity or a grandparent taught them.
Getting out and enjoying nature is a free inexpensive family activity that can stretch your grocery bill and promote physical activity and quality family time. The only cost is time and a hunting or fishing license. The plants and berries are free!