Steve and I read a lot of blogs and belong to quite a few online groups and forums related to homesteading. Interestingly, only a few of them mention foraging. I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of foraging. Maybe it makes people think of spending hours in the woods, searching out roots and odd greens, or invokes images those guys on Survivor eating bugs and half rotten fruit? In reality, it just means picking food from an uncultivated source. Back when we lived in an apartment, there was a large patch of wild black raspberries (black caps) near the elementary school around the corner from us that we would pick from every year. We were the ONLY people that ever took advantage of it! It always astounded me that no one else gave them a second look, what with the cost of raspberries in the supermarket. These were really tasty, easy to find (literally growing right beside a paved, well used footpath) and the bushes were always loaded with berries during the picking season.
To be sure, unless you know what you’re doing you can wind up foraging something extremely poisonous. You’ll never catch us picking wild mushrooms, for instance, since we have no idea how to identify them. But especially with the ability to look up a particular plant on our phone while standing right in front of it, it’s become very easy to positively identify fruits and berries.
Foraging doesn’t mean you have to trek into the wild yonder. Blackcap raspberries are very common in both rural areas and in the suburbs, and it’s usually pretty easy to find apple trees growing wild in parks or along the side of the road. We have elderberries all around the neighborhood, and there’s a wild crab apple tree growing out in the ‘back forty’. We put both of the latter to good use this past week! The elderberries have been frozen to cook into syrup, and the crab apples are destined to become homemade pectin, which means we will be able to make jams and jellies with significantly less sugar than store bought pectin requires to set. (I had hoped to make crab apple jelly, but the one tree didn’t produce quite enough to make all the boiling, straining, cooking down and processing worth it.)
There’s something so enjoyable about harvesting wild fruits. It’s a feeling of abundance, and a sort of peace that come with realizing that nature has so much to offer, without needing us to fertilize, weed, or otherwise! That tree and those berries have been there and will be there, with or without us. Providing for us, for animals, and for birds. Nature just does it’s thing, and it’s really fantastic to get to be a part of that in a tiny way.