Berry season is upon us. Of course, you can pick some up at the local farmers’ market, but why not hunt some down for yourself? Foraging for berries is fun—you get to spend time in the great outdoors, scoop some sun and fresh air, and enjoy a sweet berry reward. Foraging for berries may sound daunting, but it’s doable. Here’s a brief guide to get you started.
Don’t just go around eating everything you see
Of course, foraging comes with a warning: You do have to be careful when you’re eating wild, colorful plants and berries in nature. So be cautious, and when in doubt, don’t put it in your mouth. You want to be certain of what you’re eating, since some plants are toxic, and even edible plants have parts that are toxic. It is possible to tell berries and other edibles apart from non-edibles, you just need to know what to look for.
To forage for berries, you have to figure out what is in season near you. You may have seen blackberries at the grocery store, but it’s possible they were delivered on a truck from a few hundred miles away, from a place with its own favorable microclimate. Look online for a local guide or resource that focuses on your specific area. These aren’t always easy to find, so you might have to start with a regional guide, then narrow down what berries can be found close to you. Here are a few examples that may be a starting point:
- Edible berries of the Pacific Northwest
- New England Wild Edibles Monthly Guide
- Falling Fruit’s collaborative map of urban harvesting (way more than just berries)
Rather than be a jack of all berries, become a master of only some. Again, this requires you to think locally: what berries are you most likely to find nearby? There may only be a handful of options. Study what they look like, and become an expert in the ten or so miles that surround you. Then you’ll learn to see ripe berries quickly and easily. It will become second nature.
Stay safe and legal
This should go without saying, but let’s say it. You want to avoid areas where you could be hurt. Where I live, blackberry bushes are prodigious along busy highways. Best to leave those ones for the birds. Also, get permission from the land owners before you forage. Don’t trespass, and beware of fences and dogs.
Get out there
The best way to start foraging berries is to get out in nature and start collecting. Put on some long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, a sun hat and sunscreen, pack a basket, and get outside and start picking. Only eat what you know is non-toxic, but getting outside is the only way to join the foraging fun.
Do you forage for berries? Got any tips? Let us know in the comments below!
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