Sourcing seasonal foods locally has long since been a provision providing past time for many nature lovers. Foraging for food is a natural and sustainable way to source one’s food. As Autumn is upon us, certain seasonal foods items are ripe for the picking in both nature and community farms.
It can be difficult, coping with the Covid-19 restrictions, when one is unable to travel to far off destinations or join with friends for fun activities. As the autumn season begins to roll in, a new season for sourcing local foods arrives also. Sustainable foraging for wild edibles and visiting local farms is a good activity for enjoying the outdoors, fostering a deeper connection with the source of ones foods, and enjoying an educational opportunity while practicing social distancing.
Foraging for food is a sustainable practice that people around the world have relied on to feed themselves throughout history. In our time of modern conveniences, the practice of foraging has somewhat gone by the wayside.
Many people who reside in nature laden countries, such as the Nordics, enjoy foraging in the forests for certain items. In countries such as these, everyman’s laws allow for the foraging of berries and the like in forests and public areas, which are not in someone’s private yard. Food items such as berries and mushroom picking are a common practice for an enjoyable day in the crisp air, finding delicious foods to bring home. Apart from countries in which foraging is a common activity for the populace, many may not be familiar with the activity unless they find themselves living within close proximity to forests. It is advisable to utilise the services of a local guide or join an ecotour so that there is no need to worry about the prospect of misidentifying the plants, and the traveller can better learn how to identify edible food plants, seasonal information, how to best pick those, preparation and history. One example of such guides is Haukkamaa Adventures in Finland, which goes so far as to cater for its tour groups with local grown, sourced and organic foods.
In the beginning of autumn, it is the season for foraging edibles such as blueberries or mushrooms. In many locations, dandelions are still foragable, as well as a variety of wild herbs. Sustainable foraging for food is not only a great activity for a variety of reasons, but it is an activity that one can do without needing to spend any money.
Foraged food is generally healthier as wild foods do not contain the chemical pesticides used in larger agriculture operations. It is cheaper than purchasing from the food shops and one can have a lovely day outdoors while social distancing and at the same time learning about nature! Read more about foraging in nature in the summertime here.
Tips for sustainable foraging:
- Familiarise yourself with local plants. Poisonous berries and mushrooms do exist, so it is advised to be able to identify with certainty those wild edibles which are being foraged.
- If in doubt that an item identifies as a food item which is safe for consumption, do not pick it. Simply leave it where it is and move on.
- Take only what you need. Taking an excess of foraged food items could end up as food waste. Take only what is needed and leave the rest for other foragers and animals.
- Research a variety of dishes to create with the foraged wild edibles. Edibles such as dandelion can be used in a variety of ways such as salads and teas.
Spend a day at a local farm
Not everyone is attracted to the idea of foraging foods. For those who may not have the access to or the desire for foraging but would like to spend a day outdoors partaking in a fun and educational activity which can also bring food items to your cupboard without a trip to the shop, please consider visiting a local farm.
Tips for a bountiful local farm trip:
- Bring a bucket or basket. Many farms will allow visitors to pick their own produce. In the autumn, picking apples, squashes or pumpkins and harvesting potato is a popular sustainable way of connecting to the source of ones food. Having your own bucket eliminates the possibility of an awkward moment carrying armloads of produce across a large area of field.
- Take cash. Many small farmers that are selling produce from the actual farm, may not have the possibility of processing card payments.
- Ask questions. Asking questions is a great way to learn about growing seasons, food varieties, the local culture and history as well as a great many other topics.
- Ask about pricing. Oftentimes, farmers will offer a smaller price per weight when the visitor picks the produce item themselves. Smaller prices can also be offered for larger weight purchases. As autumnal root vegetables do last well, it may be of interest.
How are these sustainable?
Foraging for food runs high on the scale of sustainable food sourcing activities. The wild edibles are renewable naturally as they are mainly perennial and some wild salad or herb plants are even considered as undesirable plants or ‘weeds’.
Visiting a local farm for a day of harvesting ones own foods contributes to ones own local community financially, and also allows for learning about the local history, culture and agricultural methods while enjoying a day in the open air. Many visitors to local farms return season after season, having found an optimal way of food sourcing without having to visit the shops for the particular items.
Foraging for food is a sustainable skill that one can utilise throughout their lifetime. Some particularly talented foragers even make a living from selling foraged local wild edibles to restaurants which strive to source food locally. Visiting local farms and purchasing locally grown produce is a great way to not only contribute to the local community directly, but to enjoy a fun and educational day out!
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