Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Display Avatars Sort By:
Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Foraging. on 10/31/2011 00:52:45 MDT Print View

Has anybody here studied foraging as a means for saving weight? In some environments and certain seasons, it seems like you could easily gather 25-50% of needed food from wild plants. Easy food, and you can just pick when you see as you stroll down the trail.
I'm not suggesting you go full on survivalist, but if you know the area you can usually make a pretty good decision.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Foraging. on 10/31/2011 01:25:13 MDT Print View

I have not studied it, but I was foraging for wild berries last month in Sequoia National Park. They were all over the place, and I couldn't help but stop for the huckleberries, elderberries, Sierra currents, gooseberries, thimbleberries, and a few others. I would not call it more than a snack, but the thought counts.


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Foraging. on 10/31/2011 01:31:46 MDT Print View

You are definitley not going to get all the much in the high mountains for sure.
I do love stopping for berries though, I don't seem to find enough of those.
The real meals come from stuff like cattails/bullrush, big thistle patches, and any of the various bulb plants (wild onions, carrots, Brodiaea, ect.)

Edited by justin_baker on 10/31/2011 01:33:14 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz

Locale: Central Michigan
Foraging on 10/31/2011 05:29:46 MDT Print View

I've been interested in foraging for about 5 years now. Many trips that I take are with the sole purpose of gathering plants (eg. ramps, morels, and fiddleheads in spring). On these trips, I frequently leave packaged food behind. Michigan springtime is amazingly abundant. For more conventional backpacking trips, I find the time it takes to harvest sufficient calories cuts into my hiking time, and I sometimes feel disappointed at the end of the day if I lack a protein source (ie. didn't catch a fish). For these trips, I'll usually just forage enough to add flavor and freshness to my meals.

A great reference for those interested are the Samuel Thayer books. Extremely detailed.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Foraging. on 10/31/2011 09:05:36 MDT Print View

Here is the deal on foraging - you need to see it as a hobby rather than providing you with your nutrients. 50% of your food is pretty high and you will spend a lot of your time looking - even if good at it. As well unless you are eating meat you just won't get enough calories/protein in. Berries and roots only provide a fraction of what one needs - most wild foods are LOW in calories. The concept of easy foraging doesn't exactly exist - you still have to stop and collect - make sure all is good and then keep going.

The other issue about over relying is your intestinal system. If you are not used to it you run a real risk of bad runs or stomach cramps. You have to be used to it. A few berries are great but a cup or two? Not so much - you will have gut issues.

I forage a lot - it is one of my joys but I pick small (so as to not take too much from the environment) but also don't want gut issues when hiking. And unless you really know your foods please carry a good guide book on it and don't ever, ever, ever pick fungus without an expert!!!!

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Foraging. on 10/31/2011 09:26:39 MDT Print View

Foraging takes time. You can do a lot of miles or pick a lot of things, but not both. Also keep in mind that many things require some preparation before you eat them, so that's even less time strolling down the trail. It's great fun to learn what's edible out there and how to eat it, but sobering to know that it's not at all laid out there like a buffet.

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Foraging. on 10/31/2011 09:28:41 MDT Print View

I have not studied it to save weight, but plants are "my thing" and I have taught courses on foraging in the area I live in. There are very few plants that a non plant person should try and harvest and eat. I recommend learning some botany before learning about foraging. Two plants may look alike to a novice, but someone trained in how to distinguish a plant, will recognize the family, the veins on a leaf, the shape of a stem and so forth.
I think it would be fun to combine fishing and foraging for a short outing and seeing how I fare. You do the fishing and I'll find us the mushrooms and plants : )

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Foraging. on 10/31/2011 10:43:23 MDT Print View

"The concept that foods can be eaten only in appropriate quantities is taken so much for granted that, to my knowledge, it has never been given a name in the medical literature. I call it the maximum caloric proportion (MCP). Some foods have a very high MCP, such as milk, meat, and potatoes. They are easily digested and contain few antinutrients or toxins, thus they are suitable as dietary staples. Others, such as cabbage, rhubarb, and raspberries, cannot serve as staple foods and are only suitable to supply small portions of the diet. As one travels north, there tends to be fewer plants with a high MCP; this is why hunter-gatherers from northern latitudes ate meat for the great majority of their calories." Samuel Thayer

I eat berries and other edibles sometimes but its really more for fun and the pleasure of eating fresh wild blueberrys ect. But there is no way you can travel and gather any real portion of your food. Fishing may be the only exception. the only plants that can provide any real amount of calories is root vegetables. And as always it really depends on where and when your hiking. Most wild root vegetables are pretty small and you need to gather a decent amount of them. Sometimes they need to be boiled or prepared in some way before they can be eaten. Remember too, they need to be in season. Greens and berries might be good for you but they are side dishes eaten for variety more than any need.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Foraging. on 10/31/2011 17:57:40 MDT Print View

"Fishing may be the only exception"

+1 but I would stress that fish IS an exception. I did it for years to extend my trips before I gave up fishing. The same applies to hunting where allowed if you possess the necessary skills/time, and are willing to carry the extra weight of a firearm, and are into hunting.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Foraging. on 10/31/2011 18:10:35 MDT Print View

Brian makes a good point.

I've taken many classes on edibles local to my area. While I can whip up a nice salad of amaranth, chickweed, dandelion greens, lambsquarters, etc., season depending, I sure wouldn't want to rely on the wild edibles I know for any serious calorie needs. Most of the better staples, in my case acorns, require a good deal of time-consuming processing. Getting enough calories and nutrition without hunting would be very difficult, especially if only collecting food in passing.

Collecting for kicks and adding to the flavor of a meal is one thing. Providing substantial calories is something else. There's a reason whole groups in villages would collectively devote themselves to gathering.

Ike Jutkowitz

Locale: Central Michigan
re: foraging on 10/31/2011 18:54:24 MDT Print View

I think it depends on season, where you live, the purpose of your trip, and your experience level. Here in Michigan, wild edibles are everywhere in springtime. The picture below shows the abundance of wild leeks (ramps) in May.


You can harvest a year's worth in under an hour. The same is true for cattails (stalks and starchy laterals), arrowhead (starchy tubers), and fiddleheads. These are easily supplemented with morels, spring beauty, burdock root, and plenty of salad greens.

For me, fishing is more of a wild card. It is easy to catch lots of small fish, but harder to catch those of legal size here. And you can spend a fair bit of time trying. Foraging is more of a guarantee.

When I go on a foraging trip, it is usually with the understanding that I will travel no more than 15-18 miles in a day. Spending a leisurely day in the woods fishing and gathering plants is very enjoyable; I just don't have the expectation that I will be covering big miles.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: re: foraging on 11/01/2011 11:32:07 MDT Print View

One thing to not forget is that in many areas (NP's for example) there are daily limits on foraging. For example in one area I pick Huckleberries it is 1 quart per person, per day. It is of course a "honesty" policy.

So remember limits on foraged foods can and do apply in many areas. It isn't a bad thing though - it helps control those who pick for sale (where one needs to buy a permit for example). And more so, just because there is a ton of wild foods there for the taking doesn't mean we should - we need to remember we are the visitor and the animals and birds need that more than we do. It is very easy for us humans to over graze quickly.

Trust me...if it wasn't for that I'd be the first to pick gallons of berries in season :-P