Summer berries are endlessly diverse here in the Pacific Northwest. Huckleberries, blackberries, salal, currants, thimbleberries, raspberries, salmon berries, elderberries, Indian plums, Oregon grape, wild strawberries, chokecherries, and soapberries are richly available up and down the Pacific coast during the summer months.
Ocean greens are another local favorite. Sea vegetables grow along the border of land and sea and have their own unique distinctive flavors. These marine plants are called halophytes and provide us with rich nutrients and minerals directly from the sea. Samphire or the Sea Bean is a succulent found in salt marshes that's taste resembles salty asparagus and is easily identifiable for beginners.
Conifer trees produce under-rated abundance throughout the region during spring and early summer. Spruce and Fir tips can be harvested as long as they are soft and pale. They contain very high amounts of vitamin C and have been historically consumed as a tea believed to prevent survey.
Forests, fields, mountainsides, wetlands, and shorelines offer a plethora of forgeable finds- delicious berries, earthy roots and tubers, leafy greens, edible flowers, nuts and seeds, spices and herbs, and whimsical fungi are all available in abundance throughout the region.
The Pacific Northwest ecological region spans from southern Oregon to southeastern Alaska. But foraging is possible just about anywhere in the world you find yourself. Learning the basics will equip you to find a free meal just about anywhere. The apps Seek by iNaturalist and AllTrails are two fantastic resources to help you identify species and find foraging locations in your area.
Whether embarking on your foraging journey to create wellness tonics, delicious jams, meads, teas, or just for fun, these three factors must be considered.
Safety. The number one rule of foraging is that if you are not 100% sure about what you're harvesting, don't eat it. Never put anything you are unsure of in your mouth. If you can't identify it with absolute certainty, do more research. There are usually excellent foraging guides available at local bookshops or visitors centers. Consider starting a foraging journal either physical or digital to keep track of your finds to help identify patterns, lifecycles, and ecosystems of each species you notice. Use multiple sources to confirm an ID. It's also important to know that you're foraging in clean areas where your food is free of pollutants. Many chemicals used to preserve lawns and city parks are dangerous to consume. Keep in mind that many edible plants are considered weeds to many people and may have been sprayed.
Ethically. Always verify that you are on public lands before foraging, or ask permission to do so on private property. Check for any rules before harvesting. Most state and national parks have established rules published to ensure sustainability. Many wild plants struggle to survive in urban settings and it's very important to respect their bounty. Native societies have traditionally considered times of harvest to be community-building rituals. People come together to share stories and observations, plant wisdom, and recipes. These plants teach us to connect with our environments, notice the natural cycles of nature, and reverence for generational knowledge. Treat them with respect.
Sustainably. As industrial forestry grows along with commercial agriculture and urban expansion many wild plants die off. Negligence and overharvesting are very real threats to the survival of natural flora. In ancient cultures, society members were taught to acknowledge the sacrifice of the plants or animals they were consuming. This small act set the tone for a culture of respect and mindfulness. We can tap into this ancient wisdom by learning how these people groups ensured propagation and harvested in ways to ensure reproduction and the health of the plants. Standards for wild plant stewardship are available on FairWild Foundation's website Fairwild.org