Remember the good ol’ days when you headed out on a hiking trip, picked blackberries at the edge of the fields and explored the forests without abandon?
Kids today don’t believe that you can find plenty of things to eat out in the wild. They all think food originates in the grocery store or through the magic of the drive-thru window.
But I’m willing to bet that you can find at least 10 foods and even more when you break away from the work week and live like Thoreau, even if it’s just for a Saturday afternoon.
Even a Blind Squirrel…
You don’t have to be a squirrel to spot an acorn in the woods. If there are oak trees, there are going to be those tasty little nuts that squirrels fill their cheeks with and hoard for the winter.
Hank Shaw of Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook, says these mighty trees aren’t difficult to find: “They’re the ones with all the acorns that have fallen down around them.”
Humans used to fight for these little gems because they can be turned into flour or cooking oil. But don’t let the squirrels have all the fun, just taking a bite of this tasty nut can give you some energy while you’re on your hiking trip.
Tuna may be the chicken of the sea, but there’s a fungus among us and it’s the “chicken-of-the-woods.”
Also called a “Sulphur shelf,” there’s no mistaking the orange and yellow bracket fungus that grows on the bark of trees and winds its way up to form a shelf-like staircase.
It almost glows in the dark if your headlamp catches it during an evening or late night hike.
Hopping with Hopniss
I had to dig a little deeper for this one, but it turns out that hopniss is a terrific wild food. Hank Shaw describes it as “North American answer to the South American potato.”
It grows from a bean plant and the whole plant is edible: flowers, beans, shoots, tubers and all!
You might want to keep a charcoal bag for drying out your hiking boots after looking for this one, though.
This versatile plant likes to be near water, so look for it near ponds, streams or rivers during your getaways.
Sowing Some Wild Oats
If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do while you’re on a hiking trip is eat some boring oatmeal out of a bag. But if you pop the top off of some wild oat plants, you can build yourself a campfire and cook the shoots like asparagus. Not a bad pairing with protein for an evening outdoor meal.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been told not to eat wild mushrooms, but c’mon man! Some of them, the ones that aren’t poisonous, are a soft treat with a woodsy flavor that makes you crave going deeper into the woods.
The common morel is one of the edible mushrooms that you’re likely to see next to the few stray acorns that managed to survive the winter.
These fleshy, bumpy-hooded fungi grow at the base of oak trees and usually appear in early spring.
Tap the Sap
Maple trees might be the most popular for sap, but this sticky, sweet substance can be found seeping from other trees, too.
Boxelder, walnut, birch and sycamore trees all produce sap. And you don’t have to tap the tree to get at it; just look for the dripping goodness and lick it off your finger.
You could fill up a jar to put in your dry bag so you can enjoy it at home, but you might have to tap the tree and retrieve the jar when you finish your hiking trip to get enough to take home.
Ditch the Raisins
Trail mix might be one of the staples of your hiking trips, but if you’re lucky enough to sneak away to the woods during the fall, you could find some wild grapes to replace those wrinkled ones in your pack.
Hiking Trip Honey
Everyone’s a buzz about local honey, but I’m not sure if I would want to fight the bees for this precious commodity. Even if I spotted a hive while I was hanging my lantern for a break from my hike, I might leave this one for the bears.
Go Where the Sun Shines
One of the joys of hiking trips for me is getting to see nature up close. And when the flowers grow six feet tall or higher like sunflowers do, it’s a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
If you trek through open forests with plenty of sunny spots, those huge yellow flowers are sure to be found along your way.
Just pick off the petals and dig out those crunchy seeds for some wholesome energy to keep you going until the sun sets.
Soup to Nuts
No excursion would be complete without a few nuts, whether you eat them or you hike with them. Walnuts and pecans are common, and you can find them on the ground in almost every forest.
But if you really want to put your foraging skills to the test like I do, try finding the pinon pine nut.
You’ll have to crack open a pine cone, but once you find them, you’ll like the soft shell and slightly sweet taste.
You might not be able to ditch your job altogether and build a cabin in the woods, but you can definitely get your fill of the forest with these foraged foods. Get back to nature with these found forest treats.