The earliest inhabitants of Bonner County were the Kalispel, which mean "camas people". Camas is the name of a potato like root that these natives survived on, along with other plants and animals foraged and hunted in the region. Later, the pioneers and homesteaders also relied on the land, water, and forests to provide them food. Foraging for plants to make food is incredibly exciting and rewarding for children. Your child may have experience cooking with you, or growing food in a garden, but have they gathered wild ingredients? Now you can introduce them to searching for and gathering wild foods the way the natives and settlers did. Just like baking bread, foraging for food can help children feel a sense of responsibility and autonomy that can help them cope with other challenges in their life. Plus, it may even save you an extra trip to the grocery store.
Long ago, before there were stores or even farms, people used to gather food in the wild. Gathering wild foods is called foraging. We can forage for things to eat in our own yard, a forest or even a park. Let's give it a try!
One of the easiest foods to forage with very little children is dandelions. This is the perfect time of year to do it. There are tons sprouting in my yard right now! Picking in the morning is best. Also, talk to your child about being safe when foraging. Always check with an adult before picking or tasting something. Be sure to pick in places that have no pesticide or fertilizer use, and away from road runoff. There is a simple recipe for dandelion bread from Langdon Cook, one of my favorite urban foragers. You will only need about a cup of petals for his recipe. He also has great advice on foraging other foods if you check out his blog, The Fat of the Land.
Here is: Langdon Cook's Dandelion Bread Recipe
While foraging with your child you can tell stories and imagine what it would have felt like to gather most of your food in the wild. You can talk about how different life must have been for the natives and settlers who lived here long ago. If nothing else, you can gather all the dandelions in the yard and make a big pile of them and just enjoy the sunshine with your child. (That's mostly what we did.) I want to try adding some young dandelion leaves to my salad for dinner, and probably gather more tomorrow for the bread recipe.
There are plenty of other bountiful foods to forage in our region. You may already have your favorites (huckleberries anyone?). Share in the comments if you know another local delicacy we can all enjoy.
Here are some links to more information about local foraging:
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