Foraging, like hunting, can be an excellent way to provide local food as well as increase one’s understanding of the surrounding country. It was from my grandfather that I first learned how to forage. As a kid, I rode around southwestern Wisconsin in his farm truck as he drove the back backroads looking for asparagus in the ditches. He had his favorite and traditional patches, but he was always on the lookout for new hotspots in the springtime. I wasn’t keen on steamed asparagus back then, but I loved my grandmother’s homemade asparagus soup, and I loved banging around in my grandpa’s dusty old Chevy.
A few years later, I learned to forage for morels in northeastern Iowa with my buddy Phil. We’d roam the driftless hills and dales surrounding our little town in hopes of stuffing several Wonder Bread sacks full of mushrooms, which we would then sell to the local IGA grocery store. I loved to eat morels sauteed in butter, and my mother would occasionally fry some up, but that ate up our profits so we seldom did so. We needed the spending money more than the culinary delight. Phil and I were always on the lookout for wild ginseng because we knew it fetched a high price, but we never did find that magically elusive plant.