Wild Buffet
Backpacker|Fall 2020
Wild Buffet
Reap the bounty of nature’s pantry by learning to identify and responsibly harvest wild edibles on the trail or in your neighborhood.
Kat Mackinnon and Briana Wiles

1) BE CAUTIOUS

Make sure you can identify a plant with 100 percent certainty before touching or consuming it. Hone your skills by attending plant walks with an expert, studying basic botany, cross-referencing multiple guidebooks, or using websites like gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org. We recommend getting started with regional field guides and books by Thomas Elpel, Samuel Thayer, and Briana Wiles.

2) UNDERSTAND YOUR LAND

Study up on the area you plan to forage. What poisonous or endangered plants grow there, and what edibles are abundant? Avoid spots near factories, golf courses, roads, or places where water and soil could be contaminated (off-trail areas away from human activity tend to be safe).

3) HARVEST RESPONSIBLY

Check local land management guidelines for harvesting limits or restrictions. Only gather in areas—and amounts—that are permitted. Take only what you need, leaving enough for the wildlife and for regrowth (no more than 5 percent of one species in a given spot is a good rule of thumb). Be mindful of your impact in sensitive habitats like wetlands, tundra, or desert. Areas that are frequently disturbed (grazing fields, trailsides, and campsites) are good places for beginners to try, since the impact you’ll have is minimal compared to more sensitive habitats.

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Fall 2020