Finding a place to forage can be a challenge in many areas. If you have a yard or garden, this is a good place to start. Otherwise, explore beyond your home. The best spots tend to be the edges of farm fields, forests, and meadows. Permission should be obtained before foraging on any land that is not your own.
Before picking, look for evidence of spraying. An absence of weed diversity is evidence of herbicide spraying. Pesticide spraying is not so obvious. Always wash your plants well before preparing or eating them to remove any pesticide residues that may be on them, especially if you're not certain. If there's a chance the soil might be polluted from dumping or other means, boil the plants for ten minutes before eating.
Old Home Sites
Old home sites or abandoned lots can be found even in urban areas. What was a yard more than likely supports a number of wild greens, especially if no one has been spraying. If there was a garden on the premises, then there's probably going to be more opportunities, since many wild plants like disturbed soils.
A ride out to the country may turn up some interesting foraging opportunities. Abandoned farm fields with grown-up fencerows or barnyards may be worth locating an owner for permission. Look for edges. Many wild fruits grow in the understory of forests but produce more fruit if they get some direct sunlight. These edges may be in empty lots bordering shopping centers, gas stations, or other commercial enterprises. Find out who owns the property and ask permission to forage.
If you're a paddler, you may find that there's more up a creek than just water. Many freshwater creeks and rivers are lined with plants that have edible berries, seeds, and roots. Wild roses bloom in the spring and add a flowery taste to your water bottle. Groundnuts grow along the banks and in the fall the berry bushes have ripe berries. Spicebush and birch often line the banks. In marshes, cattails can usually be found as well as flowering plants, some of which have edible roots. Freshwater marshes have more diversity than saltwater marshes. In some cases, the only way to get to certain plants may be by water. Again, find out in advance who owns the land bordering the waterway where you will be paddling and if it is permissible to forage.
City, county, state, and national parks are all on public lands. Each agency has its own policy for gathering plants in the wild. In some parks, gathering plants for personal use is permitted, depending on how abundant it is. Contact the park manager before picking.
Some state and national forests as well as national recreational areas allow harvesting fruits, nuts, and berries for personal use. In some cases, a permit may be required to harvest plant material. There are also Wildlife Management Areas and Army Corps of Engineers Projects that generally prohibit collecting of plant material. Find out which agency owns the land before collecting.
Be aware that the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act prohibits the removal of plant materials from the area bordering some rivers. The Wilderness Act of 1964 protects the harvest of wild plants in designated federal wilderness areas. Find out what other laws protect plants in your area.
Knowing where not to forage is just as important as where to forage. Roadside foraging is not recommended, unless it is a secondary road with little usage and the part being gathered is not growing right next to the road. Exhaust fumes and leaks from passing vehicles seep into the soil, becoming a part of the plants that are growing there. Also avoid the edges of farm fields or waterways that receive pesticide residues.
The best foraging ground is your own. If you have a piece of property that you can dedicate to wild food, then you can have wild food year round, depending on what you plant or allow to grow. If managed in an ethical manner, it can produce for years to come.