When I was a kid, I used to go blackberry picking with my dad and my grandpa. I loved the adventure of it as well as the aftermath—feasting on my grandpa’s deliciously homemade blackberry pies and preserves.
Now, I find it amazing that we picked such delectable fruit right at home in New York City. After all, the city is not the first place that comes to mind as a prime source of wild food.
But Alan Muskat, CEO of Asheville, North Carolina-based ecotour company No Taste Like Home, says the city is ripe with edibles. “There is more wild food in the city than in the woods,” he asserts. “Any crack in the sidewalk is going to have a weed with a considerable chance of being edible.”
It’s true: No matter where you live—or how old you are—you can forage (a.k.a. gather wild food) and feast on your findings. With No Taste Like Home, Muskat hosts foraging tours for people of all ages, from small children to seniors in their 90s. On these tours, participants can gather wild food and bring their “catch of the day” to a local restaurant, where it is transformed into “find dining.”
Here, we share some of the biggest benefits of foraging for seniors.
1. Wild food is healthy.
The older we get, the harder we fight to feel good. Foraging for wild food can help us in our quest for better health—and we don’t even have to switch to a completely natural diet to reap the benefits. “One dandelion leaf or violet leaf from your garden will probably double the nutrition of your salad,” says Muskat. A little bit of wild food can go a long way toward improved health and quality of life.
2. Wild food is delicious and diverse.
Just because wild food is healthy doesn’t mean it tastes bad. Wild food encompasses everything from nuts and berries to mushrooms and greens, providing fresh and flavorful nutrition. By foraging, you can enjoy the variety of foods available in nature and take a break from your typical cultivated cuisine.
3. Foraging is good exercise.
Beyond the nutrition offered by wild food, the activity of foraging is beneficial in itself. Foraging is a great way to get your body moving and soak in vitamin D from the sun. And, lest you think such an activity is too strenuous for people past a certain age, Muskat says participants on his tours rarely travel more than a half mile: “Sometimes it’s literally a walk in the park.”
4. Foraging is family-friendly.
If you’re looking for activities to do with your grandchildren, look no further than foraging, which Muskat calls “the original multigenerational activity.” Bonus: At No Taste Like Home, the tours fund a youth education program whose goal is to teach every child in the United States to safely identify and harvest the 10 most common wild foods in their area. By foraging with younger generations, you can pass down the skill of sustaining yourself with the food that nature provides.
5. Wild food is free.
If you’ve lived more than half a century, you might remember a time when food was scarce in your home or community. Foraging, on the other hand, is like a shopping spree—there’s food at your fingertips, and it doesn’t cost a dime. “There’s tons of food out there that’s available for free,” affirms Muskat. “When you rediscover that, there’s a feeling of relief.”
6. Foraging is fun.
Whether you live at home or in a senior living community, foraging is a fun activity you can do with your family, your peers, or even by yourself. As Muskat says, “it’s the original Easter egg hunt.” It’s a wonderful way to relax, feed yourself, and enjoy the bounty of the world around you.
“The Garden of Eden exists now,” asserts Muskat. “Foraging offers a reminder that the world is a friendly place, and that we are provided for.”
SHARE YOUR STORY: Do you have any fond memories of foraging with your family?
(Photo courtesy of No Taste Like Home.)