Hello from Sweden!
Let’s talk about The Magic Of Foraging. I grew up foraging in Sweden, and I’m raising my three kids the same way. We’re currently here in Sweden for the summer and the height of the foraging season, something my family truly enjoys. Foraging is the process of gathering wild food resources such as plants, flowers, berries, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, and herbs that grow naturally. There are a variety of wild foods that grow seasonally that are available for foraging depending on where you live.
Of course, forests and countryside are naturally rich in wild plant-based foods. But foraging doesn’t have to involve journeying for hours to find untouched ingredients growing in the wilderness. Edible weeds and plants grow right under our noses in our cities’ parks, bike trails, and creeks.
Actually, many “weeds” that people spend lots of effort to fight and get rid of are also edible and valuable resources not to be discarded.
The most common weed is, of course, the dandelion. Dandelion leaves are a great source of Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Copper; and an excellent source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, and Manganese. Furthermore, the flower is edible and can be used to make tea, herbal remedies, or (my kids’ favorite) syrup. They can also be eaten as fritters by dipping them in pancake batter and pan-frying.
What are the basic rules for foraging? The very first one, of course, is not to eat anything without a positive ID. There are many inedible plants, flowers, mushrooms, and berries. Some are poisonous, even deadly, so EAT ONLY the ones you are 100% sure of. Investing in a solid, local field is helpful, but even then, it’s best to find a mentor who has lots of experience with foraging to learn firsthand.
The second rule is to only forage in a clean area located far from a road. In order to be 100% sure they are clean, I would also include avoiding areas where dogs and other animals tend to do their “business.” Don’t pick from the side of the road or from places where plants can be sprayed with pesticides.
Third, take only as much as you need and always strive to leave as little of an impact on nature as possible. Damage to trees and theft of entire plants should indeed be prevented. When wildcrafting, a solid rule of thumb is to take only ten percent of what’s available. You can also collect seeds and return to plant them when the time is right.
Sweden, where we live, is very naturally rich in wild resources from April until November. Our kids truly enjoy the process of gathering their food and take so much pride in it. I think experiencing nature’s gifts year after year is one of the best ways to demonstrate the need to take care of our planet—when we do, she provides wonderful food for us.
Our favorite plants to forage are:
Rosehips— A rosehip is the fruit of the rose bush that grows after the rose bush is done blooming and the flower petals have fallen off. Rosehips are orange or red-colored fruits, and you can harvest them in the fall. Rosehips are naturally high in vitamin C, so it’s great to have around during cold and flu seasons. We usually dry ours and make tea or flour that I add to bread when I’m baking. Sometimes I boil them and strain them to remove seeds and make a puree that I will freeze to have on hand to make rosehip soup.
Nettles— Nettles are one of the earliest green plants to emerge each spring in many cold climates. It is worth the hard work of finding them, picking them without getting a rash, and then taking care of them. Just make sure to wear gloves when picking and handling them.
Nettle can be used in so many ways! First and foremost, it’s a delicacy that is also super nutritional and contains chlorophyll, which makes it a superfood. But nettle can also be used as a natural fertilizer for the garden and food for chickens. My family absolutely loves foraging for nettles and uses them in many different ways. You can read more about that and find nettle recipes in this post from our archives.
Blueberries—if you have not had a wild blueberry you’re missing out. They taste so much better than store-bought ones. We love foraging for blueberries, otherwise known as bilberries, and will dry them for snacks, freeze them, and also make jam.
Raspberries— You can barely walk around without finding a raspberry bush here, so when we’re out walking the kids might just stop to pick a snack on a raspberry bush they find. But we also like to forage the berries and freeze them for smoothies or make jam. We forage the leaves as well to dry and make tea from.
Mushrooms—I have to admit I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to foraging mushrooms only because I grew up hearing about people getting seriously sick from eating poisoned mushrooms. So unless I’m foraging with someone who knows mushrooms really well, I’m sticking with the ones that are hard to mistake—chanterelles. In San Diego where we live, lots of people forage for chickens of the woods mushrooms, and they are so tasty.
Elderberries—Elderberries are the dark purple berries growing in the fall after the flowers have dried up. The berries are well known for their health benefits and many uses in food, wine, and even as medicine. Elderberries contain tannin, amino acids, flavonoids, as well as vitamins A, B, and a large amount of Vitamin C; they are rich in antioxidants that can boost the immune system. During late summer, clusters of berries begin to ripen where the flowers used to be. They must be cooked, though, before being used because they’re poisonous when consumed raw. We make elderberry syrup, and you can find the recipe we use here.
Once you start looking and asking, you will find all kinds of fun and edible resources in your area. Foraging allows people to reconnect with both food and the environment. Remember: foraging is healthy, sustainable, and local.
To read more about foraging and wild-grown crops check these out: