Ancient people, as well as indigenous people in many parts of the world today, didn’t have grocery stores to buy their food from. Nor did they have gardens or farms. Instead, they foraged for food, searching for nuts, roots, berries, and edible plants.

Today in the U.S., people still enjoy foraging for food. Find out which plants are edible, where to find them, and how to stay safe.


Fun Facts

  • Asparagus has long been a popular plant to forage. It grows wild along streams and canals, as well as in wooded areas. It likes sandy, somewhat moist soil and part to full sun. How to find it? Green shoots appear in the spring. Pick them by snapping them at the base of the plant when they’re at least as big as your little finger. If you’re lucky, you might be able to come back for a second harvest. In the fall, asparagus “goes to seed.” It grows tall and gangly with small spiky leaves, similar to dill weed, and red berries. If you see it in the fall, try to remember the spot, which will make finding it in the spring easier.
  • Huckleberries grow in the Pacific Northwest—Oregon, Washington, and Idaho—and a few other places in the country. These berries are similar to blueberries and are delicious in pies and jams. Pick only in designated areas and only in season. Don’t overpick—some areas have limits. Place a rope secured to a bucket around your neck to put the berries in. Go with friends and bring a map, drinking water, and phone. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t pick anything that’s not clearly a huckleberry. Other edible berries include blackberries, salmonberries, blueberries, wild strawberries, and wild raspberries.
  • Chokecherries grow throughout the west. These small red cherries are very tart, but they make delicious pancake syrup. They grow on bushy shrubs or small trees and they’re easiest to spot in the spring when they’re abloom with cone-shaped clusters of white flowers. Pick them when they turn purple, but don’t wait too long or the birds will beat you to them.
  • Mushroom hunting is a singularly enjoyable activity, but it’s critical that you take a knowledgeable expert with you. Many toxic mushrooms look similar to edible ones.
  • Fiddleheads emerge in the spring in moist forest areas. These young fern tips are available for only a short time in the spring. They taste like a mix between spinach and asparagus. Some fern types are toxic so be sure to go with an experienced forager.

Questions and Answers

Question: Is foraging dangerous?

Answer: Not at all, as long as you know what you’re doing and follow the rules. Get a guide book that has both visual and written descriptions of plants. Take along an adult. Wear good shoes and bring proper gear. Be aware of wildlife. Black bears are commonly found in areas where wild food grows. Never eat anything unless you know what it is. And finally, don’t go on private land without asking permission first.

Learn More

Watch an expert forager hunt for cattails, mushrooms, herbs, and edible flowers!