What exactly is foraging?
it’s a classic question that may be answered in a number of ways depending who you ask. All the beekeepers I’ve ever asked tell me that foraging is what the bees do when they go out looking for nectar and pollen.
If you were to ask me I’d almost agree with the Beekeepers, however I’d open it up to all animals.
Foraging is the art of being able to go out and collect safe to eat foods from your surrounding spaces. I haven’t specifically added wild spaces here on purpose, because many fantastic edibles can be found in urban areas as well. However, I wouldn’t class skip jumping as foraging or stealing from a supermarket as foraging.
I definitely think there needs to be an element of wilderness involved in foraging, collecting plants that weren’t specifically or purposefully planted also plays a role for me. If I know someone had purposefully planted ‘wild garlic’ in their garden and picked/ate it – I wouldn’t class that as foraging. However if I was out in the middle of a woodland and stumbled across a non native tomato plant and picked those (even though they’re not classed as wild plants) I’d class that as foraging, because they weren’t planted there purposefully or with the intent of becoming food.
I also think that a key part of foraging is to learn how to monitor and nurture your surrounding spaces. It’s definitely not all about collecting as much as you can and leaving the land to deal with it. I advise people to not pick anything for at least one year, instead interact and watch the spaces you plan to harvest from in the future. Figure out how it works, what animals are there, what do they feed on, where do the bugs like to hang out. When you come to it, all this information will help you make informed decisions. For example; if I’d been watching a space I may come to realise that the spiders like to make their webs in a specific corner of a wood, therefore I’ll avoid walking through or picking from that specific spot. I may see that the deer have a specific path they like to take at a certain time of day, so I’ll make sure to be out of their way when they come. It might sound silly, but you will inevitably pick this up over time. I call it a foragers instincts but it’s surely just learning patterns within nature. These instincts develop over time and will eventually allow you to predict what you may find before you even find it – A specific tree in the distance looks as though it could harbour some fantastic chicken of the woods fungus.
It’s a funny one really but if I was to list it, it would look like this:
- the art of finding, correctly identifying and harvesting food from wild spaces
- the collection of plants that weren’t planted intentionally or for food purposes
- the monitoring and caring of your wild and natural environments.
This may or may not answer your question, but hopefully, it’s at least given you something to think about when you’re next out in wild spaces and it’s definitely got me thinking about it.