Friends of FED - Foraging For Health by Weber Wu

The sun is peeking through my windows and shoots rays of light into the room and onto my eyes. I roll out of bed and walk outside to survey my yard. It is overgrown with weeds and as if on cue, my stomach rumbles. I stoop down with a small bucket and start picking some small white flowers and a few handfuls of leaves to eat with breakfast. It takes all of 5 minutes to harvest what I need and I'm back inside – much faster than a trip to the grocery store.

Foraging is a way to have nutritious, quality greens without having to spend money or time (except for the minimal amount of time spent harvesting). Sometimes, these wild plants are growing right in our backyard as weeds! After all, “weeds” are only a label for plants that we don't see a use for. Learning how to forage cause us to start seeing the land and the plants on it as a resource instead of a potential liability. 

Foraging translates to vegetables that are fresher and cost less than what we would get at a grocery store. Wild plants are also more nutritious and they are organic. Finally, for those worried about bugs, you just wash them off. The real health concern is having to worry about diseases like E. Coli from produce in the supermarket – an inconsequential concern if you wash your hands after using the bathroom since nobody else except you is going to be handling your food.

So how can you get started? Although I have spent numerous hours poring over books, listening to lectures, and cross-checking images of wild edibles from books and the internet, I've made my share of wrong identifications and do not consider myself a real expert. On the other hand, I can probably survive in the wilderness if I had to. My advice: Find a foraging expert in your area and learn from him or her. It's quicker, safer, and usually at a reasonable cost since most expert foragers enjoy sharing what they know.

A great resource that I have used is Green Deane's Youtube “EatTheWeeds” channel and his website at because he eats the wild edibles himself (you'll see on his videos) and he includes research and studies to support his claims. Although Green Deane tailors most of his foraging to Florida, people all over the United States have benefited from his knowledge since many of the wild edibles on his site can be found elsewhere. He has also compiled a list of foraging experts on his site for locations throughout the United States. Now, I want to leave you with a couple wild edibles that I have personally enjoyed.

First is my favorite wild edible, the one I enjoyed with breakfast and one that annoys and frustrates lawn owners with its prolific germination. This invasive weed is called Bidens Alba but has many other names including Spanish needles, beggarticks, and shepherd's needles. It has flowers with a yellow center surrounded by white petals. I'll nibble on a few leaves when outside or gather leaves to take inside to cook. A corner of my yard is covered with it.

Another edible green I enjoy is the plantain – not the fruit that looks like a banana but the plant. With leaves set in a roseate pattern, at this time of year, it should be sending up long, soft spikes covered in seeds. The leaves and seeds are good to eat. It has been shown that the leaves will help with bee stings and burns.

I chose these two wild edibles as examples because they are common and present in urban landscapes as well in the wilderness. However, please don't decide that you're going to live off the land based on the knowledge of only two edibles, especially since these two have medicinal properties as well. Remember for all foods, moderation and balance is key. I urge you to always cross-check your research and to find a foraging expert near you. The land and its plants are an important resource.

Forage smart and have fun.

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About Unknown

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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  1. One must be aware of many bad things out liver flukes on the water cress at the stream side from deer and other animals polluting the water with feces....You must be aware!!! Do your homework before going out to forage in this modern world...