Finding Free Food- Foraging on our Homestead this Fall

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

Foraging is a great way to find free, organic food. If you don't on land of your own, there are still ways to find local areas and nature preserves to forage from.

This fall, we'll be searching our pastures and woods for free food, otherwise known as foraging. Here in east Tennessee, there's a variety of nuts, berries, roots, mushrooms and herbs we can harvest, to store for our meals over the winter. In fact, foraging was one way many Native American tribes of this area ate and created medicine.

In most of the south, we grow walnut trees. So much can be created from walnuts, such as flour, cooking oil, butter, ink and of course, there's the nut! I look forward to getting my dip-pen and writing with my own walnut-ink this winter!

I don't have a post on making walnut flour, oil or ink, yet, but here are links to some great guides!

How to make Walnut Flour

How to make Walnut Butter

How to make Walnut Oil How to make Walnut Ink

Throughout many places in the U.S., wild onions and garlic grow in abundance. They are easy to harvest with a trowel, and we love to use these for delicious crock-pot winter soups. Onions and garlic are easy to grow in the garden, but I do enjoy foraging for these additional varieties. Plus, they are great for grabbing on long hikes for adding flavor to evening camp side dishes. A win!

I've been doing some research on the use of acorns, but I don't make it a habit to pick them up. They're a no-no unless processed correctly. It also takes a whole lot of them to produce anything of use, such as flour, so I usually leave them for the squirrels.

Pokeberries, Elderberry's poisonous look-alike.

I also have been recently learning how to identify the fall herbal plants to our area, including wild rose and elderberry. I mostly find a good bit of Pokeberry, Elderberry's poisonous look-alike. I've discovered that identifying the poisonous look-alikes and tummy no-no's are just as important as identifying the edibles.

Although, I have learned that some people have found use for the leaves, but they must be harvested at a very specific time. I've personally never tried this, as I just prefer to leave this one be.

I'm still studying up on herbal medicine, but I often collect plants I suspect may be medicinal for further research and identification. I've also just began studying mushrooms, so I collect those that are edible-looking for identification. I never eat mushrooms, plants, herbs or anything foraged until I've became completely familiar with and identified them, and their poisonous look-alikes, several times.

I'm brand new to the mushroom game. I collected these for the purpose of identifying them, but this is my first go round. If you have any book or blog recommendations, I would appreciate it! I really love mushrooms and look forward to learning how to harvest my own!

I collected these to identify. I'm new to foraging mushrooms.

How to Start Foraging (even if you don't own land)

Remember, safety is first. You need to have the ability to correctly identify what's edible and what's poisonous. Many foods have poisonous/deadly look-alikes. Research classes in your area, or find a guide that can teach you the proper and safe ways to forage.

Also, just because a plant is edible, doesn't mean it's edible raw. It's just as important to learn the proper processing for foraged goods, such as acorns.

There are several resources available online and through books to help you get familiar with the edible and medicinal plants in your area. Remember to use area-specific resources, as some plants are different area to area.

Many people enjoy foraging in national parks, on trails and even in their local community. Sometimes, you can find someone that allows others to pick up the walnuts from their yard, since they can be ankle-twisters. Ask on Craigslist or advertise on Facebook marketplace/groups to find someone willing to get rid of their walnuts. What is a nuisance to one, may be gold to you!

If you're not sitting on acres and acres, check your local parks and hiking trails. Be sure pesticides are not being used nearby. You definitely don't want that on what you're eating.

Sam, our foraging companion.

Just remember to have fun, be safe and happy foraging! And don't forget to take a friend!

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Forage at your own risk. Misidentifications can be deadly. This post should not be used as a guide for identifying or foraging.

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