Foraging for Wild Edible Food

Foraging for wild edible food, includes a guide on gathering available food in the outdoors and recipes for alfalfa, clover, thistles, violets, ferns and sorrel.

| May/June 1971

  • Foraging for wild edible food is easy using these helpful tips.
    Foraging for wild edible food is easy using these helpful tips.
    Photo by Fotolia/taiftin

  • Foraging for wild edible food is easy using these helpful tips.

Learn about foraging for wild edible food and how you can use these free foods in nutritious, delicious recipes.

Foraged Food Recipes

Wilted Alfalfa Greens Recipe
Alfalfa and Whole Wheat Bread Recipe
Alfalfa and Clover Salad Recipe
Clover Soup Recipe
Red Clover Blossom Vinegar Recipe
Red Clover Cough Medicine Recipe
Boiled Thistle Recipe
Thistle Soup Recipe
Creamed Thistle Greens Recipe
Sorrel Salad Recipe
Cream of Sorrel Soup Recipe
Sorrel and Mint Tea Recipe
Sorrel Sauce Recipe
Boiled Fern Stems Recipe
Steamed Fern Stems Recipe
Violet, Honey and Sumac Drink Recipe
Violet Pudding Recipe
Violet Salad Recipe

Tips on Foraging for Wild Edible Food

May is a time of abundance here in Wisconsin. The bitter cold and snows of winter are gone and all but forgotten. April rains have soaked the earth and awakened wild plants that — warmed by the gentle May sun — are absorbing minerals and manufacturing vitamins that will keep a food forager clear-eyed and strong.

Some of this fare that we find and make much use of are alfalfa, clover, thistles, violets and sorrel. Occasionally we even go into the forest to pick a basket of fern shoots.

Alfalfa and clover, of course, are hay plants raised by commercial farmers for animal food. This makes finding them easy since they grow almost everywhere. Alfalfa has been raised since long before recorded history and it probably was originally gown for human food. Well it might be too since — in addition to protein — alfalfa is a very good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sulphur, sodium, potassium chlorine and silicon. These are called trace elements and are often lacking in shallow rooted plants but alfalfa — which can send its tap roots to a depth of fifty feet — is unusually rich in these nutrients. The plant is also one of the best sources of vitamin K and contains enzymes that help the body to absorb other foods. Nursing mothers can increase their flow of milk by eating raw alfalfa or food containing the powdered plant.

Unlike alfalfa, clover can often be found growing in wilderness areas . . . especially along logging roads and in small clearings. Once, when I was fairly inexperienced in finding edible wild plants, I went on a solo three day "travel light and live off the land" backpack trip into the Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin. On my second day with little food I crossed a huge marsh, ciimbed the hill on the other side and happened onto a patch of white clover and sorrel growing side by side. I dropped my pack right there and — pulling handsful of clover with one hand and sorrel with the other — chewed as fast as I could until the hollow in my stomach was filled. I've never since passed a patch of white clover in the wilderness without the warm feeling of seeing an old friend.


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