Wild Arkansas

Foraging 101

For clarification the term wild food is referring to edible wild plants.

What is wild food foraging?

Like gatherers of the past, the forager seeks to find and collect wild food–primarily edible and medicinal plant life. Foraging is the active seeking and gathering of that food.

Why forage?

Foraging is a fun, healthy, radical way to eat locally, contribute to a sustainable future and bunk the industrial food system.

Types of foraging:

Foraging for wild food varies from one environment to another. Some areas may not be considered so wild. Urban wild food would be useful and edible plants found along walking trails, in local parks or in your back yard.

Real wild food gathering takes place in undeveloped areas that are considered wilderness.

How to get started:

By far the best way to learn plant identification and best collecting practices is to find a teacher who has been doing it for awhile.

The next best thing is to get a few good books with great photos and hit the trail with a friend. There are also several websites with printable handouts, photos and morphology information to help.

Best Books Suggestion: Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas.

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not so Wild) Places by Steve Brill.

The Essentials:

A pair of good shoes, scissors and something to put your collecting in. Depending upon season, some kind of tick, mosquito and insect repellent would also be advisable.

A few natural repellants include: eucalyptus oil, neem oil, lemon grass and permethrin (on clothing only) and sulphur/flowers of sulphur.

Two articles on natural insect repellants:

Chigger article at MDC

Repelling Mosquitoes at Journey to Forever

Places to go:

In Northwest Arkansas you can go everywhere! This is the ‘Natural State’ after all.

Here are a few great spots I’ve found:

Henry Park in Siloam Springs. Yes, it’s a public park, but if you scout around the area, including walking the Dogwood Springs Trail, there are a lot of wild edibles.

Lake Atlanta in Rogers. This is a 17 acre park with a large diversity of plant life. Unfortunately you cannot get too far off the beaten path, because there is no access beyond the main road around the park, but it’s a great place to learn identification skills.

Lake Fayetteville. 194 acres with trails around the entire lake. Diversity of plant life is great and even in the hottest part of the day, the woody areas of the lake are much cooler.

Natural Falls State Park. Though this is technically in Oklahoma, the park is located in Siloam Springs. The area is beautiful, diverse plant life, great for instruction, but you’re not allowed to leave the beaten path.

In Springdale:

Park at Kum N Go on Elm Springs Rd. and walk South along the frontage road. A lot to look at and gather.

Murphy’s Park on Pleasant.

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