Beauty is all around us. We pass by things every day; sometimes we notice their beauty and sometimes we don’t.
“Stop and smell” the flowers is a great concept, but do we do it? Most of the time, no. That goes for me, too — though I’m beginning to do it more.
In my little piece of the world, trees line the highway. Three years ago I learned those trees are Autumn Olives, planted along the sides of our highways to help with erosion. This was done before it was known they are invasive in our region. How invasive? Once planted, they root in a serious way, and can start to crowd out local, indigenous plants.
Yet even though they’re invasive, they have amazing berries — slightly sweet, and very tart, and with 18 times more licopene than a tomato. They are super prolific, and very easy to harvest.
These Autumn Olive started my love for foraging. Now when I drive down the highway, I don’t just see trees, I see the flick of the gray green leaves and the silverish underside, catching the sunlight, as the breeze dances on by, and smile as I think about the fruit leather I’ll be making in the fall.
Foraging is a great way to get free food, and it’s a great way to become more intimately connected with where you live.
When walking my woods and meadow in search of food, I have found: a beautiful patch of fiddleheads, delicious high bush and low bush blueberries, a wild cranberry bog, spearmint berries and leaves, wild strawberries, violets, sedum, and nettles. Just to name a few. What abundance!
Foraging Through the Seasons
Foraging, for me, is different according to the season.
In Spring, I’m looking for the fiddleheads to crest the surface among the first sprouts of sedum (which is lovely in salads). Nettle will dry for tea at a later date or sauté at present, with or without dandelion greens. I’m careful where I walk, as the Lillies and wild strawberries are trying to establish themselves, too. Maybe we’ll my two little girls and I will make a violet jam, after a couple hours of picking the sweet little purple flowers.
Summer is the perfect time for frying the lily blossoms that will be flashing their beautiful orange amongst the green. Or picking tiny wild strawberries, perfect for immediate snacking. Blueberries are coming on next, if we can catch them before the birds devour them. Then the black raspberries come out just in time for our family’s 4th of July picnic; all the cousins will take buckets out to pick in Gram’s backyard. We will enjoy cold glasses of lemonade with elderflower cordial. Raspberries and blackberries ripen, and are great in sourdough pancakes or soaked grain muffins.
The weather is cools to Fall, and foraging becomes a great time for harvesting elderberries to make jam or to dry for later use in a winter-time immune boosting syrup. Autumn olives are everywhere and dripping from their branches, and the rosehips are ready for tea on a chilly night. Before the cold of winter moves in, I make a trip to the cranberry bog, just in time to make cranberry jelly for Thanksgiving.
Foraging helps me to notice things I never did. I now appreciate the natural world in new and exciting ways, all because I look for the food in my own backyard.
Want to join me? Get a wild foraging book for your part of the world and then find out what delicious treats are out there just waiting to be harvested. Possibly in your own backyard! You’ll probably find wonderful sources of nutrient-dense foods, and also an opportunity to see the world differently — up close and personal.
Explore, eat, enjoy!
Do you harvest what is growing naturally where you live? What is your favorite foraged treat?
P.S. Next month, I’ll share the nuts and bolts of foraging, including resources to get you started!