Friday, April 7, 2017

My new hobby: Foraging!

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If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen a lot more foliage popping up in the pictures I share lately.  Along with music, writing, and many styles of dance, I've recently added foraging to my collection of hobbies!

It all started last fall when two friends of mine mentioned some Atlanta folks who had found some chantrelle mushrooms in local parks.  I had never heard of anyone eating wild food like that, and definitely not mushrooms, but when I realized there were tasty mushrooms hanging around outside, just waiting to be eaten (and that they were free!) I was immediately interested.  Mushrooms are one of my top favorite foods, and being able to find my own sounded really exciting.

The only problem was, I didn't know how to get started.  And if you do any research on where to start looking for wild mushrooms, the internet will tell you very fast that seasoned mushroom hunters do not share their foraging spots.  They want to keep their crops to themselves, period.

Once I realized I had to be self-sufficient in learning how to forage, I bought Mushrooms Demystified and set myself to memorizing identifying traits of easy beginner mushrooms and figuring out where around Atlanta they might be hiding in season.

Turns out, there is pretty much no chance of finding edible mushrooms in the winter, which is just when I got started.  I went out hunting so many times with no success because of the cold weather and because I was looking for mushrooms that are a lot more rare than I expected them to be.  I actually became quite discouraged and was thinking about giving up on mushroom hunting until the fall when I knew some other varieties would be springing up in the city.

Around this time, I started looking into foraging hashtags on Instagram and coming across a lot of accounts of folks who had a lot of info to share about wild edibles.  Once I found some people who were located in the Southeast, I started to get a more realistic perspective of what I could expect to find in my area and when I could expect it.  Having their pictures show up on my feed brought back my excitement and my drive to find all these exciting things I could eat from the outdoors.

Soon after, I found out about a foraging ramble hosted by a small local farm.  Chris and Isia of the Cracks in the Sidewalk Farmlet invited the community to their farm to wander the grounds and learn about all the foragables that come in the spring.  I spent my own money (!!) to learn from them, I took copious notes, and I had a great time.

Spending time with Chris and Isia on their farm was the perfect catalyst to a more relaxed perspective on foraging.  Instead of feeling like I have to work hard to find specific treasures, I learned that there are edibles in my own backyard, available for the picking when I want to spend the time picking them.  Having the knowledge of what's edible near me lets me enjoy walking and looking around my neighborhood and seeing what's available.  Hunting for specific edibles is great, too, but it wasn't until I let go of that intense drive that I actually found what I'd originally been looking for: morel mushrooms.

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I found them just two blocks from my house!  I couldn't believe it!  After about a month of weekend walks in the woods, of staying low to the ground and of thinking "maybe I don't like this very much after all," these mushrooms revealed themselves while my sister and I were sauntering along with absolutely no agenda.  I completely freaked out when I saw them, to the point of cussing, which is a rare thing for me.  Thankfully, my sister had her phone with her, so we could capture this moment of glorious success and serendipity.

I couldn't believe my luck!  And while I'd love to try and find some more in the parks I'd been looking in earlier in the year, I might let myself be satisfied with what I have this time.  My backyard has so many violets, henbit, cleaver, dandelion, chickweed, and probably even more that I could use in salads, and I think I'm going to be happy with that.

Foraging resources for beginners 

Instagram accounts to follow:

MylesJonesProject (Georgia)
Free State Forager (Mississipi)
farma_cee (Appalachia)
Foraging and Feasting (USA)
Wild Food Love (USA)

Herb Inc Alabama (Alabama)
Organic and Wild (Michigan)
Yellow Elanor (Pacific Northwest)
Real Wild Thing (Ontario)
Foraged and Found Edibles (Northeast + Seattle)

Atlanta resources:

Homestead Atlanta | An organization that highlights primitive and homestead skill workshops
Concrete Jungle | A map of foragables on public land
ForageATL | This page has a monthly list of medicinal foragables.
Mushroom Club of Georgia


Women's Heritage | "Bringing elements of the homestead to every day life"
Stone Axe Herbals | Blogging through homesteading

Other resources:

Falling Fruit |  An international site showing you available edibles in your area (similar to Concrete Jungle)

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