Itchin’ to go Foraging

When I lived in Iowa, there were a few plants I knew I could rely on to grow everywhere and that would provide a plethora of tasty treats. Now that I’ve moved, I’ve been really wanting to go forage, but I’m not very familiar with the area and the forage-able foods. Even more surprising, I’m having some trouble finding local foraging enthusiasts or Tallahassee-centered foraging information. I have a friend visiting next month, and I’m hoping to take her on a foraging trip to one of our fine local parks. In an attempt to prepare, I’ve gathered what I have been able to find in one place in the hopes that I can make a foraging guide that those in the Tally area can use.*
The goal is not only to make a foraging guide, but to ask (beg?) my dear readers to share foraging tips for this part of the country. Favorite foods? Good spots? Abundant treats that are easy to identify? Cooking suggestions? As always, remember foraging etiquette (to which I would add ‘please don’t pick threatened species’) in addition to foraging safety (which mainly centers on not eating things that you haven’t triple-checked to identify, and once you’ve identified them make sure you’re cooking them right. More on that later). So without further ado, here is what I’ve found for resources thus far–feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

Camphor: The word on the street (or at least on my street) is that crushing camphor leaves in your hands releases their camphor-y smell, which is an insect repellent. I like to boil the leaves down when I’m feeling stuffy–the vapors help clear my congestion and make my house smell delightfully like vapo-rub. Good stuff.

Edible Plant Project: These folks are in Gainesville, and their project looks really cool. I definitely look forward to learning more about the great work they’re doing.

ForagePorage: Good site with lots of foraging info, lists of helpful resources, and lots of information on Autumn Olives, which sound delightful.

Green Food Tallahassee: Haven’t seen anything forage-specific on this site, but still has good info about eating locally.

Hunger and Thirst For Life: Nifty blog–this post has ideas for using edible sumac. I have a giant bag of sumac in my kitchen from making Lebanese food so until I go out foraging for more goodies, hopefully I can put it to good use!

Native Nurseries: OK, this is a nursery, but I swear it’s on topic. As the name implies, they specialize in native plants, and the folks who run it are incredibly kind and helpful. Their plants are beautiful and well-loved, and it’s a great place to learn a little more about the plants that grow wild in our area and to pick some of them up.

Slow Food Tallahassee: This post is about foraging for chanterelle mushrooms (nom nom nom). Next autumn, I’ll be keeping an eye out for these guys.

Taro: This stuff grows all over my house. Seriously. I pull it, and it comes back, and I pull it again. There were giant taro plants taller than me when I moved into this fine place, and I pulled them out after the Taro Incident of 2011 so I could plant things that I can put in my mouth without hurting myself. Now, taro is edible–people in a variety of cultures eat the stuff, but the trick is you have to cook it for a looong time before you can eat it. The reason is that it’s poisonous! If I recall my reading up on taro and the unpleasant sensations I experienced eating undercooked taro correctly, the compound in the plant that is poisonous is an irritant that effects mucus membranes (throats, mouths, things like that). Too much of it can be really bad news, but even a little is not awesome. However, when cooked thoroughly, this compound is rendered inert. The Taro Incident of 2011 was basically a case of thorough cooking that was not quite thorough enough. When I went to take a bite of it, I felt my mouth tingle and immediately spat it out. Long story short(ish), it caused my throat and mouth to hurt and itch all at once, and the pain and swelling in my mouth was there for a week. Not attractive or pleasant. So my advice to anyone who wants to eat this incredibly abundant plant is to have someone who knows how to cook it (and has successfully cooked it and eaten it themselves many times) show you what to do. Your mucus membranes will thank you.

Wildcrafting: You can do a state-by-state search here. A lot of the plants don’t have member-generated information, but there is enough that you can at least Google the plant names and find out what they look like. If you click on the map within each entry it will tell you where in the state each plant grows. Pretty neat!

Wild Food Plants: Looks like a site that has some good resources–unfortunately the one website for a Tally-based place had a 404 error. Le sigh.

*Obvious disclaimer: If you go foraging for things in these links, be very careful about correctly identifying! I’m not responsible for any negative physical reactions, bad tasting foods, etc. associated with your foraging adventures. That being said, if you feel like sharing such experiences they might be helpful for myself and others who are hunting for edibles.


4 responses

    • I agree! I remember learning a lot of that in school in Boulder, and learning some when I worked at the Historical Society in Iowa. It will be fun to learn here–I imagine our local historical societies and such have books on it or have information in people’s records. I’ll have to look at some of your recipes for inspiration!

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