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11 Foraged Foods That Can Save Money on Groceries & Prescriptions

Could a food foraging guide help you through the recession?

Dr. Nicole Apelian is an herbalist, biologist, and survivalist who has over 20 years of plant knowledge and experience. Dr. Apelian spent time living with one of earth’s most ancient cultures, the San Bushmen in Southern Africa, from whom she learned survival and plant identification. In 2000, Nicole was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was wheelchair-bound and bedridden in extreme pain for years before she healed herself completely through herbal remedies. In 2015, Nicole was one of only a few women chosen to compete on the History Channel’s “Alone” show – she survived 57 days completely alone, and treated her Multiple Sclerosis with herbal remedies while on the show.

Dr. Apelian believes that food foraging is a way of life that can save people from disease and help them radically save on grocery and pharmacy bills – critical lessons during this uncertain economic time. She has shared her 20+ years of plant and herbal knowledge, guiding you through the steps of plant identification by photo in her new book, The Forager’s Guide to Wild Foods.

In this blogpost, we are sharing just a handful of these common, nutrition-dense, medicinal plants, hoping that by spreading Dr. Apelian’s knowledge, your family can save money and reconnect you with the earth’s healing power.

Why is food foraging important right now?

We are experiencing significant economic inflammation in America. Food prices have risen 11.4% from August 2021 to August 2022. Common items like bread and eggs have risen 16.2% and 39.8% respectively in only one year. Along with food, prescription drug prices have risen dramatically in the last decade. Since 2014, prescription drugs have increased in price by 35% and since COVID, medications have risen in price 2.5%.

A recent Insider article revealed economists believe that the U.S. is headed for a “swamp recession.” What this means is the recession will be mild, not anything like the Great Depression of 1930 or the Great Recession of 2008. But because of this recession’s mild nature, there will be less motivation for the government to intervene with a fiscal stimulus which could potentially lead to a long, slow recovery for our economy. Food and medicine are two of the most critical elements of our wellbeing, and they are not cheap in our country. In the Great Depression, when millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs and faced radical conditions, their sources of food and nutrition came in the form of plants.

The benefit for people in the Great Depression was that this knowledge was still somewhat common. Plant identification is something very few of us know offhand today. While the recession we are experiencing is very different from that of the 30’s, one similarity between our ancestors’ experience and our experience post-pandemic may be that plants are here to save the day again.

Whether foraging for food is a supplement to your meals, a boost to your nutritional and immune health, or an alternative, cheaper solution to certain pharmaceuticals, it can help ease some of the financial and emotional stress during this time.

What is the meaning of forage?

“Forage” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to wander in search of food.” Food foraging is the process of taking natural resources from the land and using them as food.

This foraging practice dates to prehistoric times when nomadic hunter-gatherer populations foraged for their sustenance.

The Neolithic Revolution, or the Agricultural Revolution, marked humanity’s shift from living in small nomadic tribes to abiding in larger settled tribes that farmed and cultivated land.

Today, many people in America and around the world now rely on supply chains and modern-day agriculture to provide them with food. But when food systems break down, as they did during COVID-19, what can we do to provide for ourselves? This is a question that many during COVID apparently asked themselves upon seeing how fragile the food system was. When food supply shortages first started happening during the Pandemic, foraging educators noticed a significant uptick in people’s foraging interest.

Whether foraging is simply an activity to get us out of the house and reconnected with nature or a supplement in times of food shortages or inflammation, foraging can provide us with critical nutrition and peace of mind in uncertain times.

What’s this plant?

Here are 11 common North American weeds you can forage that will provide you powerful nutrition and medicine. These plants can be canned, pickled, fermented, or powdered so you can enjoy them year-round.

This is just a handful of the wealth of knowledge and identification help provided in Dr. Apelian’s book. Dr. Apelian includes detailed colored images as well as poisonous look-alikes for each plant she outlines in her foraging guide so you are 100% safe every time.

1. Purslane

This is one of the most nutrient-dense plants on earth. It holds the highest degree of Omega 3’s compared to any leafy green veggie and can be turned into a poultice to lessen inflammatory issues. One cup of this raw succulent provides 8.6 calories, 0.9g of protein, 1.5g of carbohydrates, and 0.2g of fat. You can identify purslane by its succulent nature, how it grows low to the ground, and the way its leaves grow out of the stalk in a star-shaped pattern.

2. Lamb’s Quarters

During the Great Depression, this plant saved many from malnutrition. People collected it in bathtubs and canned it to save for later use. Also known as wild spinach, it is nearly a 4-season plant and is alive and well in most parts of North America. The good news is this plant is a kind of invasive super-weed, popping up wherever there is disturbed soil – in abandoned lots, landscaped lawns, gardens, along sidewalks. We say let it invade as its nutritional value is higher than kale and spinach and it is a terrific source of protein, fiber, and iron.

Lamb’s quarter leaves come in all different shapes. The best way to identify it is by the waxy undercoating on the leaves. If you wipe off a sort of white powder, you most likely are dealing with a lamb’s quarter plant.

3. Amaranth

You’ve probably seen this plant before and just didn’t know it. Common across North America, amaranth is a particularly beautiful plant, with a reddish stem and burgundy flowers, that can grow to 8 feet tall! Identify it by its upright growing flowers, thick and hollow stems, and oval-shaped leaves with pointed tips.

Young amaranth leaves can be picked in the early spring and used raw in salads or eaten cooked. These leaves taste like spinach and Dr. Apelian recommends you harvest them early in the day and plunge them into cold, salted water for 15 minutes after picking. But the biggest surprise to this plant is its seeds! Amaranth seeds are the size of sesame seeds. Put them in a tall pot and heat them on the stove.