For Free Organic Food, Report to Nature

Written by contributor NJ Renie. 

If you remember prehistory, you know that human beings are hunters and gatherers by their very nature. Eons before the turnip truck–or even the apple cart—humans got the nutrition they needed from the forests, fields, and waterways.

As we approach the harvest season in North America and Europe, please remember that during this time of year nature provides free, sustainable, organic, seasonal alternatives to your supermarket, garden, and CSA. So get out in nature, embrace your inner human, and maybe even establish a new food tradition in your family. Here are some starting places.

Wild Meats

The Disclaimer

Please remember that Simple Organic is a big tent and these columns are written for a general audience. If you find eating meat, hunting, and/or fishing offensive, barbaric, or cruel to animals, then please go ahead and skip down to the section on gathering. Thanks.


You eat meat, enjoy meat, have no ethical issues with eating it, but like to know that animals are treated with respect, why not hunt? Hunting puts you in control of how your meat is harvested, processed, and packaged. Wild animals, by definition, range as freely as they wish. Hunting helps keep animal populations under control and provides your family with fresh, lean, free-range meat.
Photo by Jarek Puszko


Eating fish in moderation can be a healthy part of your diet. You are already bombarded with ads for fish oil, you might have even succumbed, so why not cut out the middle man and get the fish yourself? I am probably biased toward this particular activity, but I can think of few activities more pleasant than spending one’s morning facing a body of water.

Somewhere in Between…

Included in here would be crabbing, clam digging, frog gigging, smelt dipping, shrimping, and other semi-aquatic foraging activity. Usually seasonally-based, these food traditions are all terrific supplements to an omnivorous diet.


Another disclaimer:

DO NOT gather or eat anything unless you know what you are doing. Get me–don’t even think about it.
Photo by If every plays fairly, everybody benefits. Batty Jan


Mushroom hunting can be an extremely rewarding endeavor. The forest is full of delicious mushrooms that sell for mortgage-payment-sized prices in gourmet groceries and Michelin starred restaurants. If you can only forage for one thing, it is pretty tough to beat a dinner of wild mushrooms.

Tree Fruits

Choke cherries, paw paws, persimmons, wild plums, crabapples, some of these wild fruits are perfectly good to be eaten as is, but many wild tree fruits outshine domesticated fruits when converted into jellies, puddings, or pies.

Wild Greens

Many wild greens are absolutely delicious and available to all of us. Just imagine, a change in your perspective can turn your untended lawn into a hands-off, sustainable source of dandelion greens. Even annoying weeds like stinging nettles can be converted into satisfying, earthy greens when cooked properly.


Nuts are often overlooked, but nut trees are generally pretty nice trees and very productive sources of nutrition. You might have to fight the squirrels and do some serious cracking, but a pile of free, flavorful nuts are undoubtedly worth the effort.
Photo by Tony Williams


Raspberries, mulberries, huckleberries, elderberries—every locale has their own wild berries. Most times wild berries are smaller, seedier, and offer a higher concentration of flavor than can be found in their commercially-grown cousins.


Jerusalem artichoke, sassafras, and ginseng are probably the most famous, but there are many wild roots that are perfectly edible or used in teas and flavorings.

wild cherriesPhoto by Joanna Plaszewska
It may not be realistic, or pleasant, to live entirely off of the land, but doing so can definitely supplement your diet at a very low cost. Many foods found in the wild are extremely delicious, indulgent even. If you don’t know how to forage in the wild don’t worry, all of us are literally built for this.

Find help from someone who knows what they are doing, always get permission, harvest only what is legal, and take only what you need. Go ahead, get busy living what has constituted the good life since day one of humanity.

What do you hunt or gather? Any special recipes ot tips to share?


  1. To add, we try to stay organic by picking our vegetables from the valleys. They are fresh and green. When in season, we store several of them except the celery . In the mountains her, unfortunately we dont have berries and roots but barley.

  2. What wildcrafting resources do you recommend for newbies like myself who would like to learn more about foraging in the wild?

    • Something like wildcrafting requires pretty intimate knowledge of your local environment, so your best resources will be local ones, i.e. clubs, neighbors, extension agents, etc.

      I think that you’re best off, whether foraging casually or wildcrafting, keeping the scale small and learning from someone who knows how your area works. Even if you’re pretty sure what you’re looking for it helps to have an expert.

  3. On our 2 and 1/4 acre homestead in Michinana just groing wild we have black raspberries, blackberries, black walnuts, apple trees, chokecherries, elderberries, wild strawberries, many kinds of mint, nettles, dandelions, clover, plantain, lavender, cattails, and now Jerusalem Artichoke. All but the Jerusalem Artichoke were here long before us and require no help from us to grow, though we do help a little. The artichokes are a new addition. I just stopped by neighbors home, literally just down the street, and asked if I could dig some from the ditch in front. They didn’t even know they were edible, they just thought they were nuisance weeds. Now, for simply asking, I have a patch of jerusalem artichokes that will last forever.

    And elderberry jelly, is to die for, made my first batch today.

    • Wow! So neat that you have all that. Especially the elderberry with cold and flu season around the corner.

      • Jerusalem Artichokes are probably everywhere there. Besides being native, and spreading like crazy, they where also, for a short time, widely cultivated around the Midwest in one of the great (read: worst) Ponzi schemes of all time!

        Also, HJ, trouble is coming for your Black Walnut trees. It’s called “Thousand Cankers” looks like a potential Dutch Elm disease-type of situation, pretty awful stuff.

  4. I love to gather, this is so fun! Mushrooms or raspberries what ever I can find. but only things I know of course…

  5. Tell us, that we need fish for omega 3. The truth is that we have enough omega-3 and we need the the right balance with Omega 6. This is not the place to extend here. Maybe you’ll write for us a post about it! :-)

    • Balancing Omegas is just way out of my wheelhouse. I’m sure somebody else in the SO stable is all over over it!

  6. great post! we live at a summer camp and enjoy the bounty in our backyard. venison, goose, duck, morels and puffballs, dandelion and wild asparagus, blackberries, raspberries, apples, peaches, and grapes. we’re making jelly tonight for the first time with grapes foraged–and i’m excited for the pawpawas to ripen because we’ve never tasted them before.

    it’s crazy how many fruit trees grow wild and no one but the birds eat the fruit!

    • That sounds like a pretty good list.

      Pawpaws are great, along with morels the top tier of Midwestern forage.
      I am seriously jealous over here!

  7. foraging wild edible plant is such a rewarding task, deer meat is one of the most tastiest meat I have ever eaten and wild berries are very delicious and eating it under the shade of the tree is really a fun way to spend your time with your family.

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