Now that 2021 is over (finally), it is time to pause and reflect on how the previous year’s foraging went, and how I hope next year’s will improve. (I thought about just summarizing all my previous posts buuuuut if you wanted to read them you could just… you know, read them!)
I am tempted to dub 2021 “The Year of the Mushroom” because I certainly had greater success with fungi foraging than any previous year, finding morels, half-free morels, dryad’s saddle, chicken of the woods, reishi, turkey tail, honey mushrooms, and most recently oysters. In fact, oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) were my last score of the year when I discovered these beauties on December 30.
Long gone are the days when I was excited to even locate wood ear (Auricularia auricula-judae)!
The fungi finds remind me that I still have so much to learn about foraging, despite my four years of experience. This year for instance I learned about sweet birch, and finally found Eastern teaberry (although I haven’t used it). I harvested enough black cherries to use (badly), and I still have two cups of wild grape juice in my freezer because I don’t know how to use up an amount that small! I thoroughly failed to forage many things like cattails and knotweed (mostly due to timing); and other things I foraged – like staghorn sumac – turned out disastrously. Other wild foods I simply chose not to forage this year, based on disappointing results (either in quantity or flavor) in the past: persimmons, amaranth and gingko to name a few.
But my biggest disappointment in 2021? Foraging never became an integral, daily part of my life. It remains this “thing” I do on the weekends, when the weather is nice, when we get a chance to go hiking in the woods. It hasn’t made a dent in my grocery bill, and by extension my carbon footprint associated with retail stores, global transportation and industrial agribusiness. I don’t eat wild foods daily. Sometimes not even weekly. I haven’t shifted my dietary habits and meal planning to take advantage of seasonally available abundance. On the bright side – I have plenty of room to improve in 2022!