The idea that food can come from, like, the ground should be obvious, but is actually something of a revelation for the average city-dweller. (Cut to every human throughout history shaking their heads and muttering, “How did things go so wrong?”) Even as urbanites go, I’m particularly hopeless in the fending-in-the-wilderness department. The only time I ever went “camping,” I ordered takeout from the nearest town. I’m not kidding.

To try to resolve this embarrassing ineptitude, Grist set up an instructional tour of a Seattle park (because I’m clearly unprepared for real outdoors) with Nate Summers, an experienced forager and educator with the Wilderness Awareness School, to learn how to feed oneself hyper-locally, waste-consciously, and resourcefully. Here are a few of the lessons we learned:

  • If you’re really committed to finding wild edibles, be prepared to go hunting around in the grass for them. Since a lot of edible plants really look a lot like grass (to us, at least), this gets a little tricky! We’ve included helpful illustrations in the video above.
  • Thanks to Grist, you’ve learned how to forage wild edibles? That’s great! Leave some for the rest of us — and by the rest of us, I mean other animals, insects, and living things that depend on the same ecosystem.
  • Try to plan on getting stranded in the wilderness in the summertime. If it’s winter, you’re pretty much out of luck. That’s the survival game for you!
  • Do you love anything and everything made out of blackberries? Congratulations – you are actually doing local ecosystems a favor with each blackberry you consume. As an invasive species, it tends to wipe out native plants in its path.
  • Acorns are tasty and nutritious, but if you’re not a squirrel, they’re actually pretty hard to eat. Rather than being consumed raw, they’re commonly ground into flour. If your objective is a quick snack, they’re not the best choice.
  • If it’s called a “corpseberry,” it’s probably not a good idea to eat it. Of course, just knowing the name of a poisonous berry isn’t going to help you when you’re stranded in the wilderness, so here’s what it looks like:
That's the botanical incarnation of evil, amirite? It's as if Voldemort were a fruit, essentially. Don't eat that.

That’s the botanical incarnation of evil, amirite? It’s as if Voldemort were a fruit. Don’t eat that.

Alright — now that we’ve got the survival stuff out of the way, let’s get to eating. Summers came over to Grist HQ for a casual cooking demonstration, and proceeded to feed a few lucky staffers a series of delicious treats including wild greens pesto, fruit leathers, and blackberry sauce. Lucky for you, we captured his culinary secrets on camera! Tune in tomorrow for the first treat.

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