Recreational Foraging


By “recreational foraging” I don’t mean looking around for recreational activities, but rather foraging for food on public lands as a recreational pursuit.  A lot of people wonder what’s the point of walking in the woods to see the scenery, it just seems a waste of time to them.  They need another sort of motivation.

There are a few articles in the eMagazine about different approaches to outdoor exploration that may motivate such people including:

but,  our most popular article is about hunting morel mushrooms.  Morel mushrooms are one food you can forage for, if you know when and where to look, but there are many other wild edibles that might motivate some outdoor exploration throughout the warmer months.


Clearly morels are the most popular mushrooms among foragers, but there are many other edible species to be found.  Most people, appropriately, fear eating wild mushrooms simply because they aren’t certain of their identification skills.  It’s always best to participate in a foray with experienced mushroom pickers to learn the ropes and how to identify a few edible species.  You can start with the official forays of the North American Mycological Association then Google “mushroom foray” to find a wide variety of other forays around the world.

When you are getting started, it’s best to learn how to positively identify a handful of species then begin your foraging adventure.  Some species that are commonly suggested for beginners because of their unique appearance are:

  • Morel
  • Maitake
  • Lion’s Mane
  • Chicken of the Woods

lions mane

There are a lot of great mushroom identification books around that can help you identify these species and many others.  I recommend:

There are also some helpful apps for your smart phone like Audubon Mushrooms and Roger’s Mushrooms.


One thing to remember about hunting berries in the wilderness is that bears love berries.  Bring your bear spray and be prepared to abandon your foray at any time!  With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some berries you might find.

The most popular berries include:

  • Huckleberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Elderberries (not very good raw, but great for jelly and syrup)
  • Serviceberries (or Juneberries)
Mountain Huckleberry


Like mushrooms, there are some berries that may make you ill.  Here are some books that will help you find and identify edible wild berries:

You might also try out the Wild Berries and Herbs 2 Lite (or Pro version) App for your smart phone.  The app offers photos and descriptions of all kinds of berries and other edible plants as well.  Only a few are included in the free version.  If it works for you, the full version only costs around $6.

Greens and Herbs

You don’t really have to go far to find edible greens.  Any dandelions in your yard? How about wild sorrel?  or curly dock, purslane, chickweed, wild spinach, or wild mustard?  These any many more common plants can be combined into some pretty tasty salads.  There are really two tricks involved with foraging for these plants:

  1. knowing what you are looking for
  2. knowing what to do with them once you find them.

Wild edible plants can be found just about anywhere including many urban areas, so finding them isn’t very difficult.  A good  book like Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt To Plate can help you get started by teaching you what to look for and how to prepare your finds for the table.


Be sure that you are foraging on property where it is allowed.  The National Parks have more limits than National Forests.  Permits, usually free, are often required.  Be sure to check with the land manager’s office before you set out on your adventure.

With proper planning, your trip to the wilderness can include searches for a wide variety of wild edibles.  To help you with that,  try Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods.

If foraging appeals to you, you are not alone.  It’s the kind of activity that has primal roots in the human experience and can be practiced right in your own back yard or deep in the wilderness, wherever you prefer.


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