Compared to the start of our Real Food Challenge, getting local food is a breeze this time of year. How much more local can you get than your own backyard? Spring is good for items like ramps and morels. Summer in our region has quite a few beauties to look out for. If you don’t have immediate access to wild foods ask around. Sometimes people are happy to share their sources. If you find a source of wild food be sure that it’s not on private property before harvesting. If in doubt, ask the owner for permission.
Disclosure: Please note that I am not an herbalist or a doctor and trying any new and/or wild foods should be done with caution. I highly suggest having an experienced someone help you forage until you are comfortable with your own knowledge. Just like other foods, wild foods can cause allergic reactions and even death in some instances. Please proceed with caution.
Wild berries are a must! Blackberries and raspberries are starting to come in here. I picked my first ripe blackberries yesterday. I’ll be hitting the hillside every few days throughout June and deep into July to get bucketfuls. For what? Oh, let’s see – there’s cobbler, buckles, sorbet, syrups, jams, and my favorite, wine. Whatever’s left gets frozen for fruity toppings for pancakes and smoothies later in the year.
Sassafras grows like mad on our property. The roots can be used to make tea, root beer, candy, and jelly. It can even be used to make mead and wine! (See a connection here?) Sassafras was at one point completely banned because it was linked to cancer in lab rats. If you ask my opinion anything can cause cancer when given in such large doses. Even if you don’t feel like consuming sassafras I recommend at least picking off a leaf or two just to smell the amazing fragrance!
Fruit trees are a glorious source of nommy goodness. Down here we’ve got Chickasaw Plums which are a very small fruit in comparison to the cultivated or imported types. What are they good for? Jam and … can you guess? Yep! Wine!
While springtime is fabulous for dandelion green salads, in late spring and summer I like to pick the flowers to reserve for tea, jelly, and you got it: wine.
Last but not least is the Sumac family. Not to be confused with Poison Sumac, these trees can grow upwards around 30 feet and have brilliant red berry cones that ripen in early to mid summer. You know they’re ripe when you can touch the outside of the berries and get a tart flavor. Note that if you are allergic to cashews or mangoes to avoid the sumac tree. Native Americans use the sumac to make a type of lemonade. The fruit contains high levels of citric acid giving it a tart flavor. Native Americans also used a brew to treat blisters and sunburns. I have yet to try either of these recipes. I wonder if it can be used for wine?
What kind of wild edibles do you look for this time of year?
Jennifer can be found at Unearthing this Life where she snarfs and blargs about her life in the country with a Kid and Hubby.