Fall Foraging - Engaging Nature’s Bounty

New Jersey Audubon embraces the concept of sustainable foraging because it is an excellent way for people to engage nature and learn about the importance of natural resource protection, habitat and agriculture, and it’s a healthy activity that can taste great too!

Knowing where your food comes from, linking the food to the land, creates better educational opportunities and allows us to recognize the role conservation plays in protecting natural resources (e.g., soil, water, wildlife) on a regional scale.

Where our food comes from and how it is grown, whether on a farm or wild in nature, has a profound effect on our landscapes, our health, our wildlife and the communities where we live. How we care for our environment and the landscape it exists within is the key to a meaningful, healthy, and enjoyable existence.

What many people overlook, or take for granted - when they buy, cook, or even pick food from either their gardens or in nature -is what goes into the production of the plant and its fruits. Meaning, food doesn't just show up -it is grown. To grow, plants need good soil, clean water, suitable places to grow, pollinators, soil microbes, wildlife (such as birds and other animals dispersing seeds), and the plants can’t be out competed by invasive non-native vegetation or eaten by deer. Unless you undertake conservation measures and practice natural resource protection many of the essential building blocks necessary for food production break down, ecological balance will be broken. Sustainable management of natural resources is essential to make food systems sustainable. Sustainable management of natural resources is what NJ Audubon undertakes through our conservation initiatives.

Some may think that NJ Audubon is just a bird watching organization - not true – NJ Audubon is a conservation organization! While our roots stem from advocacy on behalf of birds, and while we certainly have a deep appreciation for and commitment to bird watching, the organization’s mission extends to all native wildlife, plants and their habitats. In particular we are especially focused on those species and systems that are rare or declining. Our work helps conserve the environment, protect natural recourses and restore critical habitat for the benefits of wildlife and people.

019_thumb1020_thumb1REMEMBER:  The main rule of foraging is: Never, ever eat a spice-bush_thumb1wild plant without being POSITIVE about its identification.

Renowned Forger and Author of Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer's Market, Tama Matsuoka Wong see here (On LEFT), harvests chestnuts from a non-native Chinese Chestnut (Castanea mollissima) tree at NJ Audubon Wattles Stewardship Center.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoic) (On RIGHT). Spicebush leaves and fruit are often foraged in the fall. But did you know that over 20 species of birds feed on the small, brilliant red fruits formed on female plants. These berries are one of the best sources of energy for long distance migratory birds.  Also the larva (caterpillar) of the Spicebush and Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies feeds on the leaves.