Foraging: An introduction

Here at the Nomadic Village we think it is important that everyone know the importance of foraging . This is a skill that not only can increase food independence but can increase all the yield of all sorts of all sorts of resources year round.  Important resources that can be used in dyeing fabric, making medicines, and even used in the manufacture of clothing.  Furthermore, foraging is a lot more than just merely scoping out and picking up valuable plants, with proper training one can go out and find all sorts of interesting things from fungi to plant products, to lichens to pollen.

Let us begin with the benefits with foraging for food.  Many already know the benefits of hunting for a portion of ones overall caloric intake, and depending on the environment meat can be a very important part of any diet.  Hunting alone, however, cannot provide all of the nutrients required to sustain a health life. Furthermore, meat preservation can be difficult in certain environments and climates and therefore can be dubious.  It is essential then to develop the skills to pull more nutrients from the environment.  This is conducted through the action of foraging.  Foodstuffs such as nuts, berries, leafy greens, and succlent fruits can be collected and eaten on the spot during any foray.  In fact, in some areas you dont have to look very hard at all to harvest some nutrient rich foods.  For instance, if you go for a quick stroll down any roadside, you may find a bounty of delicious dandelions, purslane

Purslane, regarded by some as a garden pest, but seen by others as a nutrient rich treat!

Purslane, regarded by some as a garden pest, but seen by others as a nutrient rich treat!

or red clover right at your feet and ready to eat.  If you take a walk through nearly any meadow the the late spring or early summer you can find a growth of the Great Burdock plant, which can be boiled down in two changes of water for a leafy green.  Burdock root is also used in several different ways as a medicinal plant.  This are just a few examples of the bounty that many may perceive  as just ordinary weeds or even garden pests.

There are other powerful  important plants that foodstuffs can be derived.  For instance, the simple cattail pollen can be collected and baked into a  delicious bread.  The yeast to bake such  bread could be derived from the outer bark of the Aspen tree.  This knowledge isn’t some sort of esoteric cult knowledge, no instead it is generated over years of experience of the natural world. In Europe during the Middle Ages, people would collect all plants that were known not to be poisonous and cook them together in soups.  This sort of trial and error in terms of plants was done for centuries including observing what foods animals avoid.  Now a days it is easy to get info about foraging with manuals such as   The Foragers Harvest    .  More information about the book can be found by clicking the link above.

Plants, however, are not just for eating.  They can be used to stock up your own natural pharmacy. This sort of gathering of medicinal herbs is an important skill set but one that should could after some experience identifying and preparing plants in the field.  There are literally thousands of medicinal plants that can be used to cure nearly any disease.  Furthermore, there are other important organisms by which medicines can be derived.  Fungi for instance can be harvested for a whole array of medicinal properties.  The Fungal Pharmacy is comprehensive volume written about the subject which also goes into some detail about the use of mushrooms beyond medicine as well.  If mushrooms are something of an interest, one with a well trained eye and a penchant for the hunt of an elusive fungi can truly enjoy making a meal out of these nutrient rich organisms.

These Yellow Morrels are a rare find but are considered a delicacy.

These Yellow Morels are a rare find but are considered a delicacy.

Expect a large treatise at some point expounding upon the numerous uses of fungi in terms of food, medicine, and various other interesting purposes soon.

There is another important element to foraging and that is the gathering of resources used in natural dyecrafting.  Many people may wonder what the purpose of gathering plants for later use for dyeing cloth when one can purchase so many different varities and colors of predyed fabrics and materials from nearly any well supplied yarn shop or fabric store.  The answer is simple.  There is a depth of color that is unavailible with modern synthetic dyes and furthermore, the chemical processes to create such dyes can be harmful to the environment and lastly, it promotes a culture that promotes largescale and perhaps unattainable textile creation that at some level has to put someone to work in a mill.  This isnt always bad but it certainly is something to be mindful of when setting about thinking about garments.  Certainly however it is important to understand the depth of color and the spectacular ability of the natural world to produce dyes for fabric.  On a historical note, dyeing fabric used to be at the heart of the world economy with certain components to dyes being worth more than gold.  Certain species of lichens were used to create a beautiful purple dye (purple by the way was considered one of the most difficult dyes to create). No matter what your prefrance to color is there is a deep array of oppertunity waiting just beneath your feet. This mushroom guide and The Art and Natural Dyeing  are two good starting points.

This shows how from various plants, a wide array of colors is born

This shows how from various plants, a wide array of colors is born

Overall these are just three small parts of the important art of foraging.  Look forward to seeing more articles outlining further various topics discussed here.  If there is one in particular that  is of interest please comment below and we will try to get you more info or post upon it sooner.

Ink made from black walnuts!

Ink made from black walnuts!

 

Paper made of mushrooms!

Paper made of mushrooms!

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