When Jesse and I talk about becoming self-sufficient, we’re not just talking about producing our own power via solar panels, having our own water supply and having our own garden. We want to be self-sufficient on a deeper level and one of the things we desire to do is have the skills and ability to go out in our big backyard and survive, at least on a basic level of being able to feed ourselves.
Not only do we wish to strengthen our survival skills, but there is an abundance of food in the forest today that we can take advantage of to lower our grocery bill, mainly in the form of fruit.
For the past week, Jesse and I have dropped everything we were doing to forage for wild food and fruit in the forest. Not only did we pick gallons of fruit, but we learned to preserve it for months and seasons to come.
In this post, we wish to share with you some of the things we’ve been gathering and what we’ve done with them. We hope this inspires you to look around your forests and neck of the woods to see what you can find to both lower your grocery bill, increase your food quality, and strengthen your preservation skills if they need working on!
Purple Gold: Huckleberries
The most obvious thing that led us into the woods this past week was huckleberries! Jesse was on a 10-mile hike when I was in LA a couple weeks ago and saw huckleberries on his path, so he took us back there the first chance he got!
Huckelberries are a hot commodity in Idaho. People get extremely secretive about their huckleberry-picking spots and people sell them for $40/gallon. We decided to jump on the huckleberry bandwagon while they are in-season and see what we could come up with.
We’ve picked huckleberries four times so far, 2-3 hours each session, and we’ve probably picked close to 5 gallons. Each time we picked them, we picked at a lower and lower elevation and they were in abundance! It’s a little time-consuming, but in the end it was time well-spent in nature.
So far, we’ve put these to use in huckleberry BBQ sauce, huckleberry pepper jelly (used this recipe but huckleberries instead of blueberries), and huckleberry ice cream! We are in-love with all of these things, and have loads of extras for months to come.
The Cutest Fruit in the Forest: Thimbleberries
The next fruit we’ve been obsessing over is Thimbleberries! The funny thing is that both Jesse and I have been walking past this plant for what seems like years and neither of us knew they were edible! They do look kinda poisonous in my opinion so I guess it was good to trust my instinct to be on the safe side, but these red little gems are actually quite tasty!
The trails in Idaho are lined with Thimbleberries and they are just now getting ripe. While we wouldn’t necessarily eat handfuls of the fruit just walking on the trail, we think they will be extremely tasty in a jam or jelly.
This week, we were able to forage about a quart of this lovely fruit and over the next couple of days, we will turn it into a beautiful, red jam.
An Oldie But Goodie: Wild Raspberries
I had no idea that we had wild raspberries in our forests, but luckily, Jesse knew and spotted a raspberry bush! The raspberries in the wild are actually quite small from what I’ve seen and while we might not make an entire jam out of them, they are delicious to eat on the trail. We also learned that raspberries and thimbleberries seem to have a similar taste in habitat!
For us, foraging is not all about finding food to can, but understanding what is available in the forest if we’re on a hike or somehow stranded in nature for a prolonged period of time. Had Jesse not pointed out the raspberries to me, I don’t know that I would have spotted them on my own and even if I did find them, I don’t know that I would trust them enough to eat them!
We did collect some of these to stick in our thimbleberry jam although I’m not sure there will be enough to offset the flavor of the thimbleberries.
A Seemingly Boring Fruit: Serviceberries
Another fruit we found in the forest are serviceberries. This is another berry that I would never think to put in my mouth because I was taught to not eat berries I was unfamiliar with! Assuming we actually found serviceberries, this fruit actually has a very bland taste – almost non-existant.
Because I’m adventurous when it comes to the kitchen and trying new recipes, I may try to make a jam out of this for fun because why the heck not?
Jam or no jam, we’re both happy to have learned about this berry and feel somewhat confident that we could identify the plant if in a pinch. Even if the berries aren’t delicious, they are definitely edible, and could hold us over if we are ever in need.
Wild Food We Have Yet to Try
While we’ve done a pretty good job at identifying a few new food sources, there are others that we have yet to spot or have yet to try out! These are definitely on the adventurous side but we’ll tell you about them anyways because it just may inspire you to see what you have growing in YOUR forest that could be in your pantry!
Pickled Cattails – Did you know that cattails were edible?! I had no idea! Apparently the leaves are edible (don’t take my word for it though, do your own research) and the stocks when peeled are great for pickling! This does sound like it could be tasty… if so, would it be so terrible to can a few jars of it?
Camas – There is another beautiful purple flower that’s roots are great to eat. Apparently, this was a desired dish “back in the day”. The roots are apparently sweet yet have a slightly gummy consistency. I’d be willing to try to make it taste good and can a few jars for our emergency stash… or, I’d at least like to know how to identify / prepare it if I’m ever in need!
Stinging Nettle – There is another edible plant in the forest called Stinging Nettle and while it should really be handled with gloves, apparently it’s pretty good and non-prickly when cooked! There are all sorts of nettle recipes, and I’m really looking forward to finding some!
Fireweed Jelly – This beautiful plant is sprinkled all around our forests and little did we know it’s edible! One of the things we want to try with this plant is to make jelly out of the flower petals. Check it out… I don’t think we’d have the patience to make this twice but we would like to try it once!
Foraging for Edible Plants and Wild Food in Your Own Area
Even though were all taught to buy our food from the grocery store, or even grow it in our own gardens, there is likely edible food in almost every part of the world! Why not turn your everyday hike into an educational opportunity and learn about some of the plants available for you to consume? Better yet, why not collect some of the plants and see if you can find a recipe online to prepare them?
To find edible plants, first you can do a quick search on Google for “edible plants (your area)”. There might be a PDF you can save to your phone so that you can access it even if you don’t have cell service. The other thing you can do is visit your local Forest Service office and see if they have a book on the matter. Ours does, and it’s free, so we keep that in our hiking backpacks so that we can access it on a moment’s notice.
Bartering with Wild Food
The last thing we want to share in this post is the idea of bartering with foraged food. I’m not saying this will work with every wild plant (cattail pickles, anyone?) but for us, huckleberries are in high demand as is anything huckleberry-flavored. We’ve found that keeping canned huckleberry jam with us in the car wherever we go can go a long ways!
We recently met a guy that gave us 24 brand-new half-pint mason jars with lids… he didn’t need them, we did, and he was happy to give them to us! We thanked him with a jar of huckleberry jam we had in the car and he was elated! It was a win-win for us both.
We also feel that we may be able to trade some of our unique berry jams for things like vegetables or meat. You’ll have to get creative, but bartering can be one way to get what you need at a low cost.
Just putting the idea out there if it gets anyone’s wheels spinning… why not take something for free out of the forest and turn it into something of value? This is one tiny way to circumvent the need for money as we know it today.
Do you have any experience with wild foods in your areas? Have you tried any wild recipes like cattail pickles? Have you been able to barter with food you’ve foraged or grown yourself? Maybe you are having an excellent huckleberry season as well? As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts!
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