List of wild foods
Since prehistoric times, humans have hunted wild animals and gathered wild plants. After the invention of agriculture and herding, more and more of the human race has switched to obtaining food from domesticated crops and animals. Even marine fishes are now commonly aquacultured rather wild-fished. Today, most inhabitants of developed nations eat almost entirely domesticated foods. Nevertheless, some wild foods are still popular. This article lists wild foods that are either traditional or still popular today. The list is biased towards temperate climates.
Warning - Extreme Danger. It is important to carefully identify the plant before use. There are many poisonous plants and mushrooms that are very similar to edible species. Many guide books should be used, and someone with a great degree of skill should be asked to confirm a species. If one tries to eat a wild plant or mushroom it is a good idea to start with only a very small amount first and wait a few hours or even a few days. Some people may be allergic to a certain plant and it should be tested first in small amounts. Its great to enjoy wild edibles, but please be very careful.
Mammals and Birds --- game
Wild animals taken in hunting are often eaten. Their meat is collectively called game. In some countries, wild-game meat can be bought in grocery stores; in others (for example, the USA), you can purchase a government-issued hunting license and kill the animal yourself with a firearm or bow.
Seafood: Wild Fish, Mollusks, Etc.
Most wild populations of fish have been damaged by overfishing or pollution, so many species are now being domesticated and grown artificially (aquaculture). This is not necessarily good for the environment, as fish farms often cause pollution themselves. Most countries now strictly regulate fishing methods, seasons, and catch amounts in an attempt to keep fishing of the remaining wild species within sustainable limits. Some species commonly harvested commercially from wild stocks are:
- Oyster (may be gathered from wild populations or tended beds)
- Salmon (often released from hatcheries into the wild as young fish then caught when mature)
- and many other too numerous to list.
In some countries, particularly in Asia, many species of seaweed (algae) are eaten:
Wild-gathered fruit may find its way into commerce. This is quite common in Scandinavia and Finland, where the law allows the public to gather berries from both public and private lands. Some fruits are almost entirely obtained from wild plants:
- Juniper Berry
Other kinds of fruit are usually cultivated for commerce, but their wild ancestors and relatives are gathered in a small way:
- Black raspberry
- Canada Grape
- Canada Plum
- High Bush Cranberry
- Mountain Cranberry
- Oregon Grape
- Sallal Berry
Fruits which are gathered from the wild and rarely, if ever, cultivated are:
- Acorn --- used to make ersatz coffee during wartime
- Brazil nut --- allegedly the entire commercial supply originates from wild rainforest trees
- Pecan --- many cultivated orchards were originally planted by wildlife
- Pine Nut
Wild greens are not commonly gathered today except in a very few areas, although nearly one thousand species of plants with edible leaves are known. The collection of wild greens can be a very enjoyable hobby, if time and care are taken. Be sure to consult books with adequate descriptions of the plants themselves and how to gather and prepare them. "Common names" vary from one location to another. Some plants, such as nettles, are tasty but care must be taken to avoid being stung. Other plants, such as milkweed, are thought to be poisonous raw and to only be edible after boiling in 4-5 changes of water, although this appears to vary from region to region. Still other plants, like Wood Sorrel, are fine to eat raw, but not recommended in large quantities because of the oxalic acid content. Some children have been known to prefer wild greens (Goosefoot, Sorrel, etc.) to commercial leaf vegetables.
Other wild greens:
- Burdock -used mainly for the edible root
- Miner's lettuce
- Lamb's quarters
- Wild Leek
- Milkweed Pods
- Oxeye Daisy
- Spruce Tips
Mushroom hunting is a popular hobby in many parts of the world. The majority of mushrooms in commerce are farmed, but wild collection continues because some of the most valued kinds (e.g., the truffles, Tuber spp.) are Mycorrhizal species that are difficult to cultivate. Mushroom hunting has a high risk of poisoning when attempted without careful identification and expertise, since many deadly poisonous mushrooms closely resemble edible species and occur in the same habitats. Some edible species commonly harvested from wild areas are:
- Chicken of the woods
- Black truffles
- White truffles
- Oyster mushroom
- Field Mushroom (Agaricus Campestris)
- King trumpet
- Cep – King Bolete
- Fairy Ring
- Matsutake (Pine)
- Redcap Boletus
- Velvet Shank
- Sam Thayer (June-July 2001). "The Milkweed Phenomenon - You Most Certainly Cannot Believe Everything You Read". The Forager 1 (2). http://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/The_Forager/milkweed.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-22.
- Woodsmoke - UK Wilderness Bushcraft School for wild food courses
- Institute for the Study of Edible Wild Plants and Other Foragables
- Canadian Wild Foods
- Edible Plants in Europe www.special-forces-adventure-training.co.uk/Plant_Survival/Survival_Plants.htm
- Richard Mabey Food for Free