Forager Langdon Cook unearths ingredients for a tasty found meal in in Washington's North Cascade Mountains.
This isn't a sport for the unschooled. Foraging can be dangerous, resulting in mushroom poisoning and run-ins with deadly weeds. Even with his decades of experience, Cook meticulously combs books, shadows seasoned foragers, and even consults scientists before sampling new wild edibles. "Part of the fun is learning the whole story behind a new plant," he explains.
Cook blogs about his foraging adventures, which led to a book, "Fat of the Land." He is interested not in getting by on insects but in discovering real food, and embraces foraging as a sustainable and delicious way to eat. Cook, shown here with the writer Lolly Merrell, has made cream of chanterelle soup, risotto with fiddleheads and morels, and fried dandelion "burgers" from ingredients found underfoot. Wild ingredients are now staples at field-to-fork eateries nationwide.
To be as safe as possible when foraging your own food, heed these pieces of advice before you harvest a wild meal.
Never eat anything you can't identify with 100 percent certainty.
Beware of look-alikes, such as the "false morel," a twin for the real variety shown here but for a cottony texture inside the stem -- it's toxic. (Your perfect specimen is larger than a walnut, with a firm, pitted cap and a hollow stem.) Get guidance from a local mycological society (find yours at namyco.org) or park naturalists.
To try some foraged meals for yourself, use the following recipes as your guide.
Foraged Franks and Beans
A bite of a raw fiddlehead may not be fatal, but it can cause dizziness and nausea; this recipe cooks them just enough to make them safe without sacrificing freshness.