Chocolate bars and jerky are nice and all, but nothing compares to sweet berries or earthy mushrooms plucked from the side of a trail. Want a taste? Round up an experienced forager or a reliable guidebook and give these food-laden hikes a try. And wherever you go, practice moderation and leave some for the hikers who come after you.
Fruit Salad: Nelson Marlborough Fruit Map, New Zealand
If you’re in New Zealand, hiking options abound. But if it’s a culinary hiking experience you seek, only one option matters. The good folks of the Nelson and Marlborough regions have provided a handy Google map of every public fruit and nut tree in the area, from plums to watercress to walnuts. The online map clearly labels what’s on hand and where.
Berries: Newfoundland East Coast Trail, Canada
The wild coast of Newfoundland is already quite the hiking destination, but if you needed any more convincing, consider that the trail is dotted with all kinds of juicy berries year-round. Depending on the time of year you’re there, you can find favorites like blackberries and raspberries, or some quirkier gems like bakeapples and crackerberries.
Salad Bar: School of Self-Reliance, Los Angeles
If you’ve never foraged before, it’s a good idea to go on your first trip with an expert who knows what’s tasty and what will make you sick. Christopher Nyerges’ School of Self-Reliance leads wild food foraging tours that usually end in a wild salad - and sometimes even soup - for anywhere from $20 to $60 a pop. It might be the most expensive salad of your life, but you’ll come away from it with some of the skills you’ll need to go it alone.
Mushrooms: Missouri Mycological Society, Missouri
Hunting for fungi is an art in itself, and any enthusiast will tell you what a thrill it is to find a tasty Chanterelle hidden deep in the woods. The Missouri Mycological Society is one of a few groups that’s happy to show beginners how it’s done. They host public mushroom forays almost every week at various state parks. If you’re not in the area but want to try a fungi hike-and-foray for yourself, seek out a local mycological group or experienced forager: Wild mushroom hunting is one thing you really don’t want to get wrong on your first try.
Desert Edibles: Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona
The Arizona desert is ripe with favorite edibles like jojoba, agave and prickly pear cactus, plus lesser-known finds like creosote. If you come to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum at the right time, you can catch a monthly walking tour of all the tasty (and sometimes medicinal) plants on hand. If not, the park offers a handy guide to take along on the trail year-round.
Tropical Fruits: Koke’e State Park, Hawaii
You might take to Hawaii’s trails expecting a stereotypical taste of paradise, in the form of passion fruit or some other tropical flora generally reserved for cocktails. That is exactly what you will get at Kauai’s Koke’e National Park. Here you’ll find such delicacies as cape gooseberries, and Methley plums. The sweeping views of Kalalau Valley aren’t half bad, either.
Kids Meal: Ontario Edible Plant Hikes, Canada
Hunting for a snack in the outdoors is many a child’s dream. A guided foraging experience will ensure it doesn’t turn into an accidental-poison-ivy-consumption nightmare. From May to October the Grand River Rafting Company leads family-friendly edible food walks in Southern Ontario’s Carolinian Forest, featuring quirky lessons on local flora (along with taste tests, of course). If you go at the right time, you could even be treated to tea made with ginseng honey.
Trail Mix: Oyster Creek Trail, Texas
While not the most impressive trail on its own, the Oyster Creek Trail System in Sugar Land deserves a nod for its top-notch fruit selection for hungry visitors. Signs point out what’s growing along the trail, and you’re free to take your pick of what’s in season, like jujubes, mulberries, and even pomegranates or persimmons.