Why might kids learn to forage?
Kids love foraging. It’s almost certainly part of our DNA – and there seems to be an innate talent for and love of it lurking within all of us. Foraging gets kids outside, where they can find nature thriving even in cracks in the footpath. It connects them to the seasonal cycles, and builds foundational ecological literacy, whilst allowing them to contribute meaningfully to household meals.
But there is risk to manage, and that’s largely why we’ve invited you here today.
The good news is that we have taught workshops on these topics to thousands of people. Our other foraging book, The Weed Forager’s Handbook: A Guide to Edible and Medicinal Weeds in Australia, has been out since 2012, and has sold over 40,000 copies. We sometimes meet kids that have adopted it more enthusiastically than the grown-ups who bought it! We’re also yet to hear of anyone getting sick from using the skills we’ve shared.
So when Scribble approached us to write a book for kids, we actually thought it was a pretty good idea. Kids have the capacity to learn this stuff fast – one young friend of ours was foraging with finesse and accuracy from the age of two!
Let’s Eat Weeds: A Kids’ Guide to Foraging takes you through the most important risks associated with foraging. This includes:
- how to correctly identify weeds to avoid any poisonous look-alikes
- which parts of the weeds are edible, and when cooking is required
- limiting your consumption of some foods
- environmental contaminants like lead in the soil, herbicide sprays and dog poop
- being careful in the kitchen
- oxalic acid (an anti-nutrient substance a little more common in some wild plants than most veggies) – there’s more info on this on our site for adults: www.eatthatweed.com
The book kicks off with weeds that are easier to handle and identify and then moves on to slightly trickier ones. Each one of these latter ‘advanced weeds’ has a ‘careful-ometer’ outlining the risks. It’s good to read this bit together to make sure you’ve both understood it.
We suggest having a general conversation with your child/children about toxins in plants. Explain that some plants make poisons to stop insects and other creatures eating them, and that sometimes these poisons are only bad for insects and birds, and sometimes they’re bad for people too. Be clear that while eating these toxins will mostly just give a person a bad tummy, sometimes they can be fatal, and that’s why they should NEVER eat any plant they’ve picked if they’re not sure of what it is.
Some ways you can help ensure correct identification:
- make sure your kids have read a weed’s profile thoroughly before they go foraging for it
- together, look through the photos of the weed in our online gallery – check out our look-alike pages too
- if you have any concerns about ID, email photos to us!
- or, upload some photos to one of the helpful facebook groups such as:
- Edible Weeds, Wild Plants & Foraging in Australia and
- Wild Food, Edible Weeds and Foraging Australia – these two groups are as much about discussion of foraging as ID so be sure to wait for a consensus, not the first ID attempt
- Plant Identification Australia – quality identification though not foraging specific
- Poisons Help; Emergency Identification For Mushrooms & Plants – for emergencies only, highly skilled identifiers
We can humbly recommend our book The Weed Forager’s Handbook as a source of further information on all the plants you’ll meet in Let’s Eat Weeds.
Because Let’s Eat Weeds is written for kids, we didn’t include cautions in the main sections related to adult concerns such as arthritis or pregnancy. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive take extra precautions. There are some plants – notably oxalis and blackberry nightshade – which you should limit your consumption of.
Every plant in Let’s Eat Weeds book has been eaten by millions of people around the world for thousands of years. Our goal is to give kids agency to interact with the outside world and learn skills that allow them to add meaningfully to their diet, while not risking their health. To that end we’ve been meticulous about researching the safety of each plant. If you have any questions we’re happy to take your enquiries.
Yours, Annie & Adam