Forest Feast (Foraging for Food)
The goal of this exercise is for kids to be able to identify edible plants in nature and to readily distinguish them from inedible plants.
What You’ll Need
Each child will need a pocket field guide to edible plants in their area. These identification manuals have information on plants to avoid and pictures of plants to assist in identification. Each kid will also need a bag or container of some kind to transport their forage back to camp. You will also need corn with the husks attached as well as a few other vegetables for the meal at the end.
Begin by explaining that most plants are inedible. Some plants, edible and inedible, can closely resemble one another, so you should never ingest a plant unless you are absolutely sure you’ve properly identified it.
Mention to your group that chemicals commonly applied to lawns can be harmful or even toxic, so edible plants found near your home are considered unsafe to eat.
Introduce the guidebook and how to use it effectively. Go over a few edible plants native to your area in your guide books, with tips on how to identify them and any inedible plants that they may resemble.
Once your group is familiar with using their guidebooks to identify foliage, it’s time to move the lesson outside. Walk the kids around, pointing out and identifying growing plants and finding the corresponding information in your field guides together. If you’re not in a wilderness area like a forest preserve or campground, show them pictures of edible and inedible plants instead.
Alternatively, see what you can find in or around your home or backyard; edible plants like dandelion, plantain leaves, clover, and purslane are all common backyard weeds.
Once you’ve identified several edible plants, go over which parts of each plant are edible. Sometimes only the roots or leaves are safe for ingestion, sometimes the entire plant is edible, etc. Show your group how to gather and carry their wild forage in a resealable plastic bag, a large piece of bark, an emergency blanket made into a foraging bag, or some other container.