Foraging, it is a very popular word these days among fancy foodies. Everyone knows what foraging is, right? Lately I'm not so sure about that. As someone that refers to himself as a forager, I feel like it is a duty of mine to challenge the status quo about what exactly it means to forage. Especially when everyone thinks foraging means wandering in the woods grabbing random greens Lets take a look..
The dictionary says:
(of a person or animal) search widely for food or provisions:
"gulls are equipped by nature to forage for food".
Nowhere in that definition are the words wild, or forest or even field. If being a gardener or a farmer is eating food that you intentionally have grown and tended, then foraging by the very definition is doing the opposite of that. It is essentially being a freeloader on Mother Natures good graces. Or on the good graces of others incidental plantings.
Foraging is a very simple thing to me; Going and finding food. My idea of foraging has been shaped by many years of being an avid collector of all food that I can get for free. I would never be so elitist as to only entertain the notion that foraging only happens in the woods or that foraging is only about mushrooms. There are wild Serviceberries and cultivated Serviceberries. One of the most planted landscaping plants in our area(and probably your area too) is the ever loved by birds Serviceberry. But here is the thing: I love serviceberries as much if not more than birds! I gather on a normal year roughly 75-85% of my serviceberries from these planted bushes. Not because I seek to get out of the woods, but because usually the varieties they plant are short, loaded with berries, and bigger than the wild berries. I can guarantee that if you brought a hunter-gatherer from the past to now and presented them with the two choices, that they would choose the cultivars 100%. Why? Because its more calories with less work.
I do love the forest and all of the smells, that coincidentally are proven to lower stress, but if you are to be a true forager, someone that strives to eat for free as often as possible, you must abandon the notion that to forage is to be in the woods. To be a forager is truly a state of mind, and not location based. And, truth be told it is often the places that have been "disturbed" by civilizations touch that are the most fruitful. In fact there are three species I know of that I refer to as farming symbiotes. These three species are so exclusive to human farming, specifically to the disturbance caused by tilling, that they are effectively living in a state of symbiosis with our actions as farmers, and would most likely become very rare without us.
The three species are: Portulaca oleracea or Purslane, Chenopodium berlandieri or Goosefoot, and Amaranthus species or wild amaranth(or pigweed). These plants are probably very familiar to you if you are a gardener or farmer. And these plants are highly edible, and delicious. But oddly enough, people pull these more nutrient dense plants in favor of less nutrient dense leafy vegetables. Either way, as the forager striving to be as lazy as possible I see opportunity in every garden, and I have often gotten excited approval from gardeners and farmers to forage in their fields. It seems a little silly to say, but you CAN actually forage for food in a farmed field.
Maybe this is a needless distinction to make, maybe it does not matter at all. I just thought I'd add in my two cents about what foraging is. Foraging can be done anywhere you have laziness in your heart!!! Adios.