Introducing Wild Edibles to Your Children
Tom’s of Maine Blog
March 26th, 2015
As a child, I was fortunate to live a rural lifestyle complete with a backyard garden, a grove of apple trees, and even a patch of raspberry bushes. I collected fresh eggs from the chickens and ate sweet corn straight from the stalk. On weekends, I hunted wild edibles, including mushrooms and blueberries, with my grandparents.
The next time you sit down to a meal with your little one, ask them where the food on your plates came from. If they name a grocery store or point to the pantry, take the opportunity to give an outdoor lesson. If you don’t live in the countryside, you can still teach your children that food comes from the earth by taking them on a healthy adventure. Look online for a local orchard tour, or spend an afternoon at a farm-based produce market. However, if you really want to get back to the roots of where food comes from, take your family on a nature hike to search for the most natural foods available: wild edibles.
Guided Foraging Tours
Before you put on your hiking boots, schedule a guided tour with a trained naturalist who can identify safe, nonpoisonous plant species and guide your family to areas without pollution—including pesticides and herbicides, according to Alan Muskat of No Taste Like Home, a natural food-foraging tour located in Asheville, North Carolina. Remember, you can never be too careful when foraging for food. “Most mushrooms and plants are harmless, but some are toxic and a few are deadly,” Muskat says.
Once you’re out and about, according to Muskat, it is possible to find several healthy edibles in early spring with some guidance. Expect to see onion grass, violet leaf, burdock root, winter cress, garlic mustard, and chickweed. If you’re in a wooded area, you might also spot wild leeks, sweet birch twig, sassafras root, wild ginger root, and morel mushrooms.
Tasty Edibles for Your Kids
What’s a good foraging definition for kids? Muskat explains it as similar to an Easter egg hunt; you simply never know what types of edible treats you’ll find. Keep your eyes peeled for sourwood, wood sorrel, sassafras, and berries (blueberries, mulberries, and black raspberries), which top the list of kids’ favorites, according to Muskat.
As a bonus, your outing might make your little ones more adventuresome eaters. “Children with no interest in greens, mushrooms, or other healthy foods suddenly become very interested when they find and harvest these foods themselves,” Muskat adds.