Foraging in the fall can offer a bounty of natural edibles to fill the stew pot, to make salads, or to mix into side dishes. Food found growing in the woods can be preserved by hanging it to dry, dehydrating, storing it in a root cellar, or by pressure canning.
There are many reasons folks go foraging in our modern world. Those with a desire to live simply and economically, making use of the items found in the environment, often forage for edibles during all four seasons of the year. Off-the-grid living enthusiasts and preppers also frequently forage for edibles in an effort to cheaply stockpile food to feed their families both now and in the event of a future disaster.
Top 10 Fall Foraging Finds
- Hazelnuts are often found near forest boundaries and in deciduous forests. Nuts are often easily found mixed among the leaves on the ground and on the underside of hazelnut trees. The nuts always grow beneath the leaves, making the branches appear barren at first glance. The trees are small and often resemble a bush when they are not yet mature. Hazelnuts are edible when the shells are still green as long as they have a fully developed nut inside.
- Blackberries abound during the fall months, And Here We Are notes. Berries begin to go bad quickly, so they must be preserved or turned into jellies, jams, wine, or chutney if not eaten in just a few days after they were picked off the vine.
- Elderberries are a dual-purpose fall foraging find. They are both an edible and a natural dye used by artisans and crafters. The berries are popular ingredients in wines, pies, jams, and vinegar. Elderberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamin C.
- Beech nut trees produce every single year but only offer “full nuts” about every three to five years. Searching for a tree with fully formed nuts might take a while but can be well worth the effort. Beech nuts can be roasted over a campfire and then rubbed inside of a towel to remove them from the shell. Once the nuts have cooled to the touch, they can be eaten as a snack or used in a myriad of recipes.
- Rose hips have long been used in a plethora of natural remedy recipes and to prevent scurvy. They are also very high in vitamin C. The fruit flesh can be eaten after the seeds are removed.
- Pecans, which are actually a hickory, have a thin shell, making them easy to both crack and roast. The little nuts make carry a big energy punch because they carry 690 calories, along with various nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Pecans are also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, Nutrition and You notes.
- Giant puffball mushrooms begin growing in July and can be foraged through November, Mother Earth News notes. They are recognized easily because of their distinctively round appearance. Sometimes the puffball mushrooms grow as large as a basketball. The outside of the puffball mushroom ranges from white to a light olive brown, and the inside is always white. It is essential to learn how to spot edible wild mushrooms as some mushrooms growing in the woods can be deadly if consumed by humans.
- Honey mushrooms, or button mushrooms, look and taste a lot like commercially raised mushrooms sold in the local grocery store. They possess a one- to four-inch yellowish-brown cap and a stalk with a white ring present just beneath the “button” top.
- Acorn nuts can be ground into meal for bread or mush, roasted and eaten as a snack, or even added to baking recipes for a little extra flavor. There are more than 60 different types of oak trees in North America, and each variety produces an edible acorn.
- Watercress is an aquatic perennial with succulent and grooved stems. The plants typically grow on floating mats and along the surface of muddy creeks. The leaves are separated into anywhere from three to 11 leaflets, are fairly round in shape, and grow on long stems in tangled, floating mats, Simple Good and Tasty notes. Pay careful attention to the quality of water surrounding the aquatic plant and pick the watercress as close to the source of the spring-fed creek or stream as possible. It can be harvested in both the spring and the fall, but leaves tend to be a lot more tender in the autumn months. The plants can be washed and eaten raw, put in a salad, or used as an ingredient in stew.
When first learning how to forage in the woods, it is a good idea to carry photos of the wild edibles you hope to find in order to better identify the wild food. Foraging near roadways is discouraged for both safety reasons and because the area may have been sprayed with chemicals to deter weed growth.
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