RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There's free food all over your backyard. A word of warning though: make sure you know what you're eating — or you could put your health in jeopardy.
When Mackenzie Sanders wants a snack, she doesn't open the fridge. She heads to the back yard. Mackenzie is a forager. She eats what she finds growing wild.
"I always ate the clovers when I was a kid," said Mackenzie.
As a teen, she developed a passion for wilderness survival. She learned how to identify plants and what purposes they serve.
"There's a lot that's edible, and you've got to know what you have before you eat it."
Mackenzie said lamb's quarter, which is closely related to spinach, is every forager's favorite green.
"You can eat it like a salad green. I started eating it sauteed with butter and garlic, and it's got a superb flavor that way.
"Wood sorrel, it's got three little heart-shaped leaves. It's described as a thirst quenching plant — it's very lemony. When it's cooked, it has a flavor similar to marinated artichoke hearts."
Triangular nuts from a beech tree taste similar to sunflower seeds.
"This is curly doc. It usually has these very curly long leaves and it tastes a lot like spinach with just a hint of lemon. Some people like to take the seeds and grind them into flour."
Mackenzie scours the edge of the habitat, where many of these plants grow well, but you have to know what you're picking.
"There are plants out there that are deadly, there are plants out there that are toxic, there are plants out there that are not edible."
She's cut her grocery bill in half using food she picked for free.
"As long as we're willing and able to go out there and get it, we can save a lot of money."
Mackenzie hosts ecological tours around the city, identifying which plants can be foraged. She'll even come to your home and show you what edibles are growing in your yard.
River City Wild Foods - link