Foraging, or the gathering of food or provisions from the wild, is a popular hobby among nature enthusiasts. Many plants, fungi, and other species are edible or useful, and the practice of foraging has been necessary for the survival of our own species and for most animals on earth. Foraging is not just for survivalists. Many wild foraged plants and mushrooms are very flavorful, nutritious, and not available for purchase in markets. Some creative chefs will even turn to local foragers to supplement their restaurant menus with unique locally foraged produce.
Besides the practical applications of gathering provisions, foraging also provides for some a deep spiritual connection to nature in knowing that they are provided for by the Earth. This connection helps people to understand the importance of ecology and protecting our environment from toxins, development, and the concerns that come with global warming. The art of foraging is also a craft, not unlike the skill required for woodworking, in that foraging skills are not only used to properly identify and gather a species but to properly process it so that it is rendered edible or useful. For anyone who has pickled ramps or shelled black walnuts, they will understand that skill is involved.
It is also important to understand that foraging can be dangerous. Many foragers are eager to try new wild edibles however there is always a great risk with misidentification. Some plant and fungi species are poisonous or deadly and a simple mistake could result in a hospital visit or even death. Foraging should never be taken lightly or casually. Any attempt to gather provisions from the wild should include a meticulous attention to detail, knowledge of deadly look-alike species, and the common sense rule that if you are not 100% certain, don’t eat it. Likewise, foraging is illegal in many, if not most state parks and natural areas of Connecticut. Please check your local laws and the rules of the natural area you are visiting before foraging.