Be prepared for possible hard economic times or accidental lost in the wilds times by learning how to locate, identify and prepare natural foods that exist in yards, fields, the woods and trees. There are several good books on the subject, but it may be safer and easier to take some classes with local experts in the subject.
Be aware that in many park settings there are sizable fines for collecting any plants, berries, nuts or wildlife and even rocks and shells of any kind. Get permission to go on private property to avoid trespassing charges.
In Pilsen, Illinois, Rob Poe, the Mushroom Man, says foragers “should never pick more than 10 percent of whatever’s there.” He writes a mushroom blog called Mycoremediation Blog.
In New Jersey, Dan the Foraging Man teaches about edible plants on the ground and in local trees.
In Florida, Green Deane emails a monthly newsletter with pictures of wild foods which are apt to be found during that month and how to fix them. He also holds field trip classes around various parts of the state. Register online on his Eat the Weeds website.
The book Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons is a classic read on foraging and preparing wild food.
Some easiest to find examples are berries like wild strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Many types of nuts are in trees in the wild. Some fruit trees like plum and apple can be wild. Dandelion and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) plants are common foraged greens. Spring dandelion greens are a common cathartic for cleaning out the internal human body system. Dandelion flowers can be fried or used to make dandelion wine.
Young shoots and the tender top leaves of stinging nettles can be blanched or boiled to remove the sting and then eaten like soup, spinach or steeped into tea. Wear gloves to prevent getting stung while handling the downy hairs on the leaves and stems. They grow in most of the United States except for the west coast.
Acorns are prevalent in many regions of the United States and ground acorn meal is highly nutritious and tastes good.
Mushrooms come in many types, but several are poisonous, as are some berries and other plants. It is best to avoid anything you are not sure of. Some may have no effect the first time they are eaten but become more deadly with further consumption.
Some fruits like the mayapple are poisonous when they are immature. Conversely, some plants must be young shoots. Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is edible when the young shoots and leafy tips are boiled in at least two changes of water, but otherwise is poisonous. Some like peyotes (Lophophora) are hallucinogens and are illegal except for use by Native Americans in religious rites.
The type of plant will depend on where is best to search and what time of year. Miner’s lettuce (Montia perfoliata), native to both mountains and coasts in the western U.S., is mild and excellent in salads. The entire plant, including flowers, is edible and can be eaten raw or lightly steamed. It got its name from being a dietary staple of the miners in the gold rush days in California.
A common place to look for edible plants is in sunny areas along the edges of fields and meadows. Some, like the watercress viewed in the video, grow either in water or along its banks.
Knotweeds (Polygonum) are found in in most of the states except the Rocky Mountain area. One type will be found in water; the other along roadsides and in fields. It is also known as smartweed because of the sharp taste of the foliage.
Chickweeds (Stellaria), found throughout the U.S., survive even beneath snow and may be used in salad, but are better boiled in salt water and eaten like spinach.
Keep in mind that wildlife dependent on the same fruits, berries, nuts and plants for food have no grocery stores available to them. If you do not truly need the food or will only throw it away, leave it for the animals, birds and insects whose lives depend on it. Knotweed, for example, is a main food supply for songbirds, mammals, and waterfowl.