For the last couple years, we’ve been making more of an effort to forage food and usable products from our property. The amount of food we get isn’t enough to make a huge dent in our grocery budget, but it definitely adds some entertainment while the food is ripe, and it adds a little variety to our diet.
Starting us off in June, we get delicious mulberries from the volunteer trees along our fence lines. Some of the trees make really bland fruit, so we generally leave those ones for the birds. There is one specific tree we have that makes the most delicious berries, and we harvest from that one regularly. Our favorite way to eat the berries is just by the handful, or we will add them to oatmeal or yogurt. We also cleaned up a couple pounds this year and froze them to make something with over the winter. I am thinking a “wild berry pie” made with some of the other berries we’ve collected as well.
After the mulberries come the black raspberries. These plants are THORNY and spread like mad. We’ve mowed over some of the areas they grow in, simply because they were taking over. Wild raspberries are small and take some effort to collect. They do pop off the plant when they are ripe, but it takes a lot of them to get anywhere. They also have relatively large seeds compared to cultivated raspberries. We like mixing these into yogurt, or just eating them plain. We’ve also made some tasty desserts with them as well.
This year for the first time we are harvesting blackberries from the roadside in front of our property, and our neighbors. When harvesting from private property always get permission from the property owner! And if you are harvesting from the roadside, keep in mind that some roads are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, and you don’t want to eat those berries while you are harvesting. Get them washed first before indulging. Also it’s important to keep in mind that these plants are very thorny, and occasionally the thorns will pop off if you get stuck with them. Slivers from foraging are a real problem! Bob enjoys these by the fistful, and I want to try making some jam if we get enough!
Throughout the year, we find patches of catnip, chives, wild garlic, and chamomile that pop up in the pastures, the back yard, and just about everywhere. We allow the sheep and goats to eat what they want, and we harvest some of it. When foraging, it’s really important to leave some of the native plants behind so they can reseed themselves. If it’s an invasive species, and it’s your property, you can pull as much as you desire. We use these wild growing herbs to season our food, and the catnip is enjoyed by our kitties as well as our customers’ cats. We sell some of this catnip at the farmers market and in our farm stand.
There is so much more available than what I covered here. We are just starting this foraging journey, and have started mushroom hunting with some friends. Make sure you can positively identify the foods you are foraging, don’t take more than you need, and don’t destroy the environment you are harvesting from. Nature has many gifts for us if we are willing to look for them!