(reprinted from the 2013 Farmer Almanac)

Imagine coming home with bags of salad greens and mushrooms, sacks of delicious nuts and baskets of berries and not having to pay a cent for them. Many people do just that by foraging, gathering wild edibles in fields, forests, and lawns.

If you’d like to try this, be certain that you identify each plant before eating it: Many have look-alikes that could prove deadly. Be especially careful with mushrooms and berries. Studying illustrated field guides is a good first step in learning about native plants, both those that are safe to eat and those best avoided. Also check with garden clubs and your state Forest Service to see if there are groups in your area that go on foraging outings; their expertise could prove to be invaluable.

Collect your bounty in areas that are pesticide and chemical-free. Gather no more than 10 percent of the plants from a given site and cut greens and mushrooms instead of uprooting them; this way, there’ll be a crop there for years to come. If you’d like to explore private property, be sure to talk to the owner first.

Foraging is a great way to learn about plants while getting healthy exercise, and it is also an ecologically sound practice. The foods you gather don’t have to be packaged or shipped, which saves fuel and resources. Get ready to go wild!

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