When asked to identify edible wild plants, my local Idaho Master Gardeners like to quote an old saying: “Everything is edible once.” People always chuckle at this, but safety and education should be top priority when scrounging for food in the wild.
Start with education. Take a foraging class through your local extension office, read up on wild edibles with Sergei Boutenko, and get a foraging app or field guide such as “Plants of the Inland Northwest and Southern Interior British Columbia.” Talk to your kids about what grows in the woods, so that they don’t mindlessly pop a poisonous berry in their mouths. When it comes to mushrooms, consult an expert and, as Tim Gerlitz local Idaho mycologist says, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
You should also take a hike or two with a professional. It is wise to forage with others to deter unwanted wild animal encounters and mitigate emergencies. The North Idaho Mushroom Club (NIMA) meets regularly April through November and hosts a variety of talks and mushroom “forays,” which you can learn about on Facebook. You can also check Spokane Mushroom Club’s Facebook group for other wild food forays and events.
Be sure to buy from a local forager. Josh Yake of Gourmet Foragables & More has been rummaging for wild edibles throughout the Northwest since his childhood growing up in Twin Lakes, Idaho. He turned his hobby into a business in 2010 and spends more than 20 hours a week during spring, summer, and fall hunting for wild edibles, which he sells to individuals and at area farmers’ markets and grocery stores. In May, you will find his baskets laden with wild greens, wild onions, mushrooms and more. Follow Gourmet Foragables on Facebook to find out what Josh has available on a given week. //