Good Food Made Daily: Foraging For Wild Edible Treats In Oregon
Guest Post By: Sara Fatimah, Emerging Leaders Intern
You already know that you can reduce your carbon footprint significantly by eating local. But did you know that you can save a significant amount of money while reducing your carbon footprint by foraging wild food locally?
If you are hungry in Hoonah, it’s probably because you are lazy.
I spent three month living in Hoonah, Alaska this spring. The island is home to approximately 760 people and two grocery stores. One store carries fewer than 30 hand-selected items from Costco, and the other carries a small variety of items found in a regular grocery store. While there was enough variety of goods at both grocery stores, having cereal for breakfast would cost you an arm and a leg. For example, a gallon of milk cost close to $10 and a box of cereal cost approximately $15. When I expressed my concern to some of the locals about how expensive it was to eat, they laughed and said there was so much food on the island to go around and that I just had to work for it.
After taking their advice seriously, I put on my XTRATUFs, grabbed a bucket and a machete and got to work. On the beach I dug up crab, clams, cockles, and beach asparagus. In the forest I gathered fiddle-head ferns, salmon berries, huckleberries, devil’s club buds, and wild celery.This experience allowed me to respect and feel more connected with my food.
Foraging means eating food that is grown in the wild.
Over the past 5,000 to 9,000 years, humans have domesticated many plants in various parts of the world, many of which we consume today in our daily diet. Barley, wheat, rye, figs, grapes in the Middle East; beans, tomatoes and peanuts in Mexico and Andean South America; oranges and rice in South and East Asia, etc.
But, interestingly, humans only eat a fraction of the 20,000 known edible plants.
Detailed below are some of the wild edible plants you can eat in Oregon, as well as links to nutritional information preparation tips, identification advice, and harvest techniques.
If you feel inspired to forage, make sure to harvest from areas with minimal exposure to pesticides, air toxics, and other chemicals. Be careful when foraging that you are identifying the plants correctly.
At the end of summer, you will find a lot of ripe thimbleberries and blackberries, perhaps even in your local park. You can eat them right off the bush – if I don’t get to them before you!
NOTE: Edible native plants are part of an important and delicate ecosystem. For some cultures, like Northwest tribal communities, fish, wildlife, berries and other native species are essential to traditional ways of life and sacred practices. As you discover the bounty of Oregon’s forests, fields and oceans, please be respectful of land use regulations, tribal ancestral territories, private property, and permit requirements. Always learn the sustainable harvesting techniques for each species, and never harvest threatened or endangered species.
Some Wild Edibles Found in Oregon:
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow is a sweet smelling weed. Not only is it used in teas, but according to the Village Wise Woman, young girls in Ireland would put Yarrow under their pillow to help them dream about their sweethearts. Below is a link on how to prepare it and some of its uses.
White and Red Clover (Trifolium): Found as a weed, both red and white varieties are used widely in teas and baking. The two links below explain how to harvest and prepare red and white clovers.
Camomile (Matricaria discoidea):A resilient plant, also known as pineapple weed or wild chamomile, this is often found along roadsides, in parks, disturbed areas or your own garden. It makes a great tea.
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium): Evergreen shrub with yellow flowers, Oregon grape is found all over Oregon. Although the berries may taste a bit tart, they are excellent for making jellies and tastes great when combined with other berries.
Oregon Salal (Gaultheria shallon): Found along the Pacific Coast from southeast Alaska to central Oregon, Salal was used by many Native American tribes. According to the Northwestforager the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwok-wok-ya-wok) harvested the berries and dried them into flat cakes for the winter months.
Horsetail (equisetum arvense): This ancient plant is often found along roadsides, marshes, ponds etc. (Glenn Nice, Peter Sikkema Purdue Extension Weed Science University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus). They are considered to be high in silica, which is considered beneficial in tackling deficiency and deformities in skull, peripheral bones, and poorly formed joints.
- Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Jim Pojar, and Andy MacKinnon (for recipes, identification and history)
- The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer