Family Foraging for Wild Edible Plants

The Karhu family forages for wild edible plants together, finding a world of groceries free for the picking.

| July/August 1970

I learned at an early age that our home in the country was surrounded by groceries "free for the picking". Wild edible plants of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, dewberries, elderberries and wild grapes contributed to my summer fare. The aroma of fresh berry pie and canned wild fruits remains quite vivid in my memory of those days. I especially recall the nearby field of wild asparagus so abundant that most of the spears grew into seed stalks before they could be cut.

Still, although I've stalked the wild asparagus since age four, I've just begun to really appreciate the value of foraged food such as wild edible plants. Over the years, except for an occasional trip into the country to hunt walnuts, I'd almost forgotten about the wild foods of my childhood. A recent job transfer, however, enabled me to purchase a home near an abandoned vineyard overgrown with several varieties of wild berries. Furthermore, our new house is within a few miles of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS. This fortunate coincidence has opened a new experience of foraging wild edible foods for my entire family.

Most folks view wild vegetation with contempt and as an enemy of the lawn and garden. That which is not a planned part of the suburban development is viewed as being worthless; as an eyesore which detracts from a well-manicured environment. A wide variety of dangerous chemicals has been developed to eliminate such "worthless weeds". Unfortunately, I've seen many a fine wild strawberry patch succumb to chemicals and the lawn mower. Countless vacant lots, once lushly overgrown with a live supply of wild foods, have been transformed into wastelands of barren stubble.

I'd like to suggest with this article that our so-called "weeds" may serve some fundamental purpose — not only to a balanced ecology — but also to human nutrition. Additionally, although the experience of foraging for wild food may not be a panacea for our times, it may yield some positive alternatives to our present system of control.

Wild Strawberries

Few people will dispute the fact that wild strawberries are superior to cultivated varieties. They're a valued prize for the wild food forager. I've located a number of fine patches of this luscious fruit within a few hundred yards of my suburban home. One patch is nearly an acre in size and its berries are exceptionally good.

Although the wild strawberry is small and filling a pail with clean berries is a painstaking task, my family and I usually have been able to pick enough for several dessert treats in a half hour. Our children enjoy harvesting wild fruit and always look forward to an excursion to the strawberry patch. Sometimes our two-year-old Betsy picks more than six-year-old John. Betsy, however, is usually unwilling to share her treasure and prefers to have it served with milk as soon as she returns home.

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