Saturday, July 16, 2011

Foraging Newbies: The Backyard and Beyond

Along with planting and growing food, it is an amazing experience to find edible goodies in nature. Whether you love finding mushrooms, berries, or edible weeds, it really is possible to supplement your meals with foraged food. Or at the very least, you can find a great snack!

Meet our mulberry tree. It lives in the backyard, was probably 'planted' by a bird years ago, and it has been loaded with beautiful plump berries for a few weeks.
The kids have all been searching for the perfect berries when we go outside, and each day we get a nice amount in our bowl.

Here, Maggie and Rylee are finding lots of berries on the lower branches:

And here, Simon is taking matters into his own hands when all the berries from the lower branches are gone:

The mulberries have become a very popular snack around here, especially with 2-year-old Noah. We have found that if he gets ahold of the daily stash of berries, you will NOT be able to get near them without a fight!

He is fiercely protective of his foraged snack!

Finding berries on trees and bushes around your back yard (as long as you are certain about what they are and that they are in fact edible) is just the beginning of becoming a forager. Many books about gardening and living more self-suffiently/sustainably will have whole sections on foraging, and if you begin researching and learning what to look for, nature hikes will take on a whole new meaning.

And, you don't even have to go far into the wild to forage. What about your neighborhood? Are there any fruit trees that you notice on walks around your city streets that bear fruit...fruit that ripens and eventually falls to the ground to rot? My neighbor across the street has a plum tree that produces way more fruit than she can use. In fact, her plums become a nuisance in her driveway when they start to fall. She is more than happy to share the fruit with anyone who wants to come pick it. My boys look forward to her plums every year! You'll find that many neighbors will be glad to share food that would otherwise go to waste. I've read about 'neighborhood fruit tree mapping' in a few books, and this site is an example of how it works:

See if your city has a system like this set up. Google your town along with 'fruit tree mapping'. My city doesn't seem to have an official fruit tree registration set up...which of course gets my mind working...I'd love to start one up myself!

While it may not be quite the same as mushroom hunting or wild berry picking, foraging for food in the 'wild' of your neighborhood streets is an idea that's catching on.

If you just have no luck with the foraging idea, it's also very fulfilling to go to a local pick-your-own farm. Kids ADORE going to PYO (pick your own) farms! Usually for a very fair price, you'll leave with loads of berries or produce. A google search can help with finding farms in your area that allow you to come pick to your heart's content. Here is a site that will get you headed in the right direction, at least:

Maybe you'll be surprised by something in your backyard, like we were. We never knew those mulberries existed until last year, and we have lived here 9 years! Take a look around, and look closer to your left and right the next time you take a walk through your neighborhood--you may just find a sweet surprise. Happy foraging!

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