I don’t mean dumpster diving. Though some people do that and I suppose that’s a form of foraging. I am talking today about going out into the wild and sometimes not so wild places and finding food. This is an important skill that is lost by most and it takes practice. There are many things I can not identify after years of roaming forest and dell. I still have the hardest time with watercress and I will not go near mushrooms. I am looking for an old mushroom hunter to take me out, but so far no luck.
My foraging forte, per se, is berries. I can identify certain greens, root vegetables, and nuts, but berries are my favorite. We are surrounded by berries on the island and almost no one picks them. Strawberries, blueberries, shadberries, huckleberries, raspberries, blackberries, beach plums, and grapes. There are also rosehips. Beautiful big red rosa rugosa rosehips that are packed with vitamin C. I haven’t quite mastered utilizing them yet. It’s still a work in progress.
Yesterday it was raspberries. I have a couple of raspberry spots that are on public land. We have a lot of conservation land here that have trails and scenic vistas and such. Now hundreds of people walk by these a week. I think there are maybe two others that pick them. I’ve never seen them, but I know they’ve been there. There are unwritten rules to foraging. Only take what you need and don’t tell where the spots are. It’s like fight club. Nobody talks about it. But, you know it’s there. (ok random I know)
These are maybe two feet off the trail. They can be clearly seen. Most people just pass them by. If you would like to find raspberries near your home here’s what to look for. In June there are beautiful purple flowers. Raspberries have a brighter green leaf than blackberries it almost glows and a different growing structure. Where blackberries grow along the stalk, raspberries grow in clusters on the ends. There is also something called a dewberry that has a similar growing pattern. They are more of an orange color and are completely edible as well. I have yet to find any, but I’m always looking. Our raspberry season peaks about a week or two before the blackberries are at peak.
I think it says a lot about our society today that these grow in plain sight and no one stops or sees them. Once Husband and I were picking huckleberries along the same path and a group that was jogging through from New York stopped and asked what we were doing. When we told them they asked if they were safe and weren’t we scared to eat them because they were wild. Some people think that if you haven’t bought it that the item isn’t safe. Well raspberries at the farmer’s market this week were $6.50 for a little container. I guess I am a little more frugal than that.
Open your eyes to the possibilities next time you go for a stroll in the woods. Or if you have a pasture, scan the edges. The edges of pastures are great spots. Birds sit on the fences and deposit seed. Look down a lot. Try and identify trees and bushes. We have hazelnuts bushes that grow crazy in the scrub oak areas. My favorite reference for foraging is “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Euell GIbbons. It’s out of print but easy enough to find used. I also enjoy his “Stalking the Blue Eyed Scallop” about foraging on the sea shore. Speaking of asparagus, wild asparagus is easy to find this time of year for next spring, the ferns are really tall right now and feathery. Husband and I found some new spots along the road just yesterday and noted them for spring.
Foraging saves us money and prepares us for if we ever have no choice but to go out and search for food. We will almost always be able to find something for the table.