Foraging

In the US, foraging is coming back into popularity with some crowds–in others, it never left. In Mongolia, foraging remains a common enough activity whenever someone is in the countryside. The very first foraged food we encountered in Mongolia was pine nuts. We were at the “black market”, better known as the “zakh” but officially called Narantuul market, waiting for new friends when I espied a vendor selling what looked like dried beans. Customers would wander up, pay her, and receive a small measure of these “beans” which they then began to eat. So, not dried beans after all. A little watching and asking later, and we learned: pine nuts. And, ignorant foreigner moment: I totally thought you were meant to eat the shell with the nut. *facepalm* For a really great write-up on pine nuts in Mongolia, I highly recommend this article, which was written by an acquaintance.

Pine nut vendor on Ulaanbaatar street. via Wikimedia Commons

The second foraged food I remember seeing was wild onions. On a trip back from Terelj National Park, we had to pass through a tollgate, and around this area, young teens were selling bags of wild onions to travelers. One of the Mongolians traveling with us purchased a bag, although she did so more out of a charitable heart than out of a need or desire for wild onions. Still, they are available if you know where to look. (I don’t.)

A third commonly foraged food in Mongolia is wild berries. One of our last summers in Mongolia, wild strawberry picking was something of a craze. (You can read an expat’s experience about foraging for wild strawberries in this post.) Other berries that can be found locally are seabuckthorn, lingonberries, blueberries, and black currants. Seabuckthorn is valued for its wide range of health benefits, and it is often consumed in the form of juice (hot!) when one is sick.

Seabuckthorn berries. via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t have much more information on foraging for edible plants in Mongolia, but I know that wild grains, wild non-poisonous mushrooms, salt (mountain salt), and fishing are other foraging options. Does fishing count as foraging? I feel like it does in this case only because it’s not a main source of food for Mongolians. What do you think?

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