Being prepared is half the battle.
You can’t be 100% sure when you will stumble across that meadow of wild flowers, or look over and spy hidden wild berries, but when it does happen, it’s nice to be prepared. These are the main books and foraging tools that I like to keep in my bag, ready for any unexpected foraging while I’m out enjoying the outdoors!
1. Bags. Linen is best choice for keeping your leafy and scented flowers from sweating like they would in plastic bags. Keep a couple of plastic ones handy for tougher items such as dirty roots. Some things, such as elderflowers, are also better gathered in plastic so all the tasty pollen doesn’t get lost. Always take a few more with you than you suspect you may need. You never know how many awesome goodies you may find out there!
2. Collecting Basket. A basket is especially valuable when you go out looking for mushrooms, Mushrooms are delicate and shouldn’t be jostled about or piled too heavily on top of each other. I suggest using several paper bags to divide up your mushrooms and then carry them in a single layer in the basket. Alas, if you didn’t bring your basket and you found a great mushroom path, utilize the bottom of your shirt; roll it up, create a pouch, and carry them back in that fashion. Gotta do what you gotta do…
3. Small Containers. Pyrex containers with lids, or something similar, for protecting your delicate berries from getting squashed. I always carry 1 or 2, just to be on the safe side. There are berries out there waiting to be harvested whatever the season.
4. Bypass Pruners. Make sure you buy bypass pruners instead of anvil pruners. Bypass pruners have one sharp blade that slides by another to make the cut. Anvil pruners have a single sharp blade that applies pressure against a flat, anvil-shaped surface. Anvil pruners requite less strength, but they crush the stem of the plant being cut, so they aren’t good for pruning stems or branches that you hope will continue to grow. If you’re chopping up dead branches for a compost pile, anvil pruners are fine.
5. Pocket Knife. A knife is necessary for cutting mushrooms off trees in a clean fashion, without tearing the bark. When you’re harvesting mushrooms from the ground, slicing the stem with a knife gives you a much cleaner harvest. Pulling up the entire mushroom often means pulling up a bunch of dirt and leaves along with the mushroom, which just means more work, extra cleaning, for you when you get home.
6. Hand lens. Be prepared to get close up! this is an essential part of the tool kit: handy to get to know plants, and check up on tiny identification structures, and small enough to keep around in the bottom of your bag.
7. Transplant Spade. The long, narrow blade allows you to get down deep, underneath the rootball, with less effort than a traditional shovel. The longer the handle, the better the leverage. The rootballs of daylillies and hostas can be very heavy, so plan on bringing your spade when foraging for those plants!
8. Garden Fork. Similar to a pitchfork but with more prongs and a shorter handle. They’re sturdy and intended for turning and sifting soil rather than lifting and tossing lightweight objects like hay. They are great for harvesting underground crops in the
fall, such as tubers. Push the tines into the soil and turn to break apart the earth, then reveal your crop. Using a garden fork instead of a spade reduces the chance that you’ll cut a tuber in half .
9. Notebook and Pens/Pencils for Taking Notes. You may think you’ll be able to remember exactly where you found that amazing patch of nettles last spring, but why chance it? Jot it down, date it, and worry less.
10. A Camera/Smart Phone. Photos aid with remembering locations of plants, and other matters you wish not to forget.
Other Tools I Recommend
1. Spice Grinder. Of course you could chop your spices with a knife or grind them with a mortar and pestle, but a using a spice grinder gets the job done in a flash! I don’t recommend using your normal coffee grinder to grind your spices – the coffee flavor would carry over. Gross. Soooo in my house spices have their own dedicated grinder.
2. Food Dehydrator. If you have an oven that can be set very low (125F), you can probably get away with not needing to purchase a dehydrator. But for most of us, our ovens are unable to be set that low. Depending on the dehydrator model, they can be set anywhere between 90F to 150F. You’ll use the lower temperatures for drying leaves and flower petals and the higher temperatures for fruits, fruit leathers, and mushrooms. Dehydrators use much less energy than stoves, so they are worth the investment! Also, many have timers, making them very convenient. Special nonstick sheets (important for making fruit leathers) can be purchased to fit the dehydrating trays.
3. Boiling Water Bath Canner. While canning small jars every once in a while can be done in a large pasta pot (as long as you can cover the tops of the jars with 2 inches of water), a larger canning rig is what you’ll want to buy if you are thinking about seriously getting into foraging and canning. They come with a rack for easy lifting in and out of the boiling water, and simply make the whole canning process much more enjoyable.
4. Pressure Canner. While foods such as jams and pickles can be canned in a boiling water bath, low-acid foods need to be canned under pressure for safe preservation. If you want to can a larger than average crop of foraged mushroom soup, you’ll need a pressure canner. This is different from a pressure cooker. It’s worth stating that pressure cookers run rather expensive. Finding one secondhand is always exciting!
But if you spend a few minutes thinking about all of the amazing foods you will create and can using a pressure cooker, and how much money on food you can potentially save, you quickly realize that it’s totally worth the price!
5. Canning Jars. Whether you are pressure canning or canning in a boiling water bath, you’ll need special jars with two-part lids that create a vacuum seal to keep your food safe. I recommend Ball brand jars. They’re usually the least expensive and do an excellent job.
Thanks for reading! Do you have any suggestions as to the necessities of foraging? Comment below!!!