Posts Tagged ‘Foraging’

“People simply fall in love with wild foods. Lord knows these wild things swept me away. Folks want to be seduced by their mystery, their freedom from the bonds of agriculture. Our human civilization, based on agriculture, has struggled for millennia to no longer depend on foraging in the wild. But here at the start of the twenty-first century, the old hunter-gatherer luring in all of us just won’t let go.”

Connie Green
(The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes)

I’m really enjoying reading through this book right now. Every year I try to learn a little more about wild edible food that I can forage for, they’re delicious and super healthy, and not to mention free.

We hunt for morels every spring and enjoy those thoroughly. I’d love to learn about more edible mushrooms in my area, from what I’ve been reading there are a few varieties I should be able to find. I’m looking for someone local that can teach me, as mushroom hunting from photos in a book can be difficult. I also harvest wild plants like plantain for salves along with dandelions, garlic mustard and wild violets for salads. We have a plentiful supply of wild blackberries and black raspberries close by that we freeze and enjoy all winter long.

Winter time is when I focus on learning about more wild foods that I can find in the woods around our home. I haven’t decided what new wild foods I’m going to be searching for this year, any suggestions?

Do you eat any wild foods? Where do you learn about them?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves, Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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We live on 10 acres, mostly pasture with a small stand of evergreens and lined at the edges with wild blackberries.  Our property is a perfect square, with our house smack dab in the middle.  To the north of our farm is a small family run dairy farm.  To the south is my mom’s acrage  To the east is another 10 acre farm that raises beef and sheep.  To the west…well to the west used to be over 50 acres of just open space with a creek and an old dilapidated saw mill.

Now it is a housing development with homes on lots from 1 to 2 acres.   On our Western flank we have 3 neighbors.  It is the #3 neighbor that I will be speaking about today.

As I was driving home the other day I noticed that the blackberries along the fence line bordering #3 neighbor were turning yellow.  I stopped the car and got out to take a look.  As I got nearer it became obvious they had been sprayed with some sort of herbicide (all of our roadways around our town are sprayed the same way so I knew immediately how it looks)

I got back into my car grumbling about the nerve of someone to spray the blackberries on my property.

The next day and the day after that I visited #3 to speak to her about spraying on property that wasn’t her’s.  She was never home.

Meanwhile I have called the county to find out the rules about this.  They were clear that no one had the legal right to spray on another’s property, even if it was blackberries (which if you lived in Western Washington you realize that they are considered a nuisance plant.)

Anyway on the 3rd try I stopped by her daughter’s house at the beginning of the housing developement and was going to leave a message to have her mom call me.

Of course the daughter was concerned about what I was wanting to contact her mom about (I would be to if a neighbor wanted to talk to my mom who lives on her own)

So I proceeded in the nicest way possible to tell her daughter that I was concerned that her mom was spraying my blackberries.  I explained that not only did my kids pick and eat the blackberries all over our property but we also were beekeepers and that these berry bushes were an outstanding source of pollen for them.

I was clear that there no legal standing to do this.

The daughter although polite kept asking me “you mean you want blackberries?”

I explained to her about making jam and gardening organically and feeding bees.

She told me how she and her husband had spent months and months clearing their 2 acres of the native ‘weeds’ so they could put in their expansive lawn and borders.  She certainly didn’t want my blackberries infesting her mother’s equally manicured lawn and she didn’t blame her mom from spraying.  She frankly thought I had a screw loose…

It finally boiled down to yes I want those blackberries and they are on my property and could she please tell her mother to call me when she returned from vacation so I could speak to her.

Why do people want to move to the country and then clear out all vestiges of said country and plant lawns that look just like those in town?

Why would someone think that just because they want to keep their perfect lawns that it could possibly ok to use killer spray on someone else’s ‘weeds’?

Have we come so far from our roots that the manicured lawn is now the norm and I’m the oddball?

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!

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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 blackberries

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!


chickasaw plums

Chickasaw plums

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.


sumac berries

sumac berries

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.

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina




According to Slow Food USA, Shagbark Hickory Nuts are endangered enough to be listed in their Ark of Taste catalog. This means that the nuts were once deemed a valuable food resource here in the U.S., but have since fallen out of favor in more recent times.


Mature hickories are very easy to identify. They have a huge Eastern North American range (Eastern Canada; Maine to Eastern Texas); however Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan have the highest population density of shagbark hickories. The bark is “shaggy” (hence the name!) and grayish in color. They are deciduous (seasonal leaf loss) and can reach heights of over 80 feet. Their leaves are pinnate with 5-7 leaflets. I tend to find them in forests than contain oak, walnut and other “old growth” species.


Historically, the Native Americans foraged for shagbark hickory trees not only for the delicious rich flavored nuts, but also for the wood which has a high heat density and smoky flavor. My husband and I gather shed shagbark limbs and bark in the fall and use it to smoke meats on the smoker through the winter. Turkey and ham are both excellent smoked with hickory wood and bark. Additionally, syrup can be made from the extract of hickory bark. Unlike maple sugar syrup, hickory syrup is made from cane sugar and a flavoring in the shagbark hickory’s bark (although old literature mentions that sap was sometimes used). Stay tuned for the run down on making this type of syrup (end of post).


When should you gather hickory nuts and bark? Right now! When the nuts mature, they are released from their thick skinned outer cover and the creamy white nuts are easy to spot in the grass under a shagbark hickory stand. For the past week I have been picking up buckets of the delicious nuts. I gather what I can, put them in the freezer if I don’t have time to crack them (to kill pests), and shell them for cookies and other desserts over the winter. Other animals, like squirrels and deer love them too, so you have to be quick. They are also susceptible to insect infestation and for every few nuts you find meat, you will also find wormy duds. The nuts are really hard to shell. If you have a nut cracker, you are half way there. Some sort of nut pick will make life easier as well.


Ok, so do you want to know how to make Hickory Syrup? The recipe dates back to colonel times (or possibly even further back in the NA indigenous cultures). It requires patience and a bit of shagbark bark. The fortunate thing is the shagbark naturally sheds its bark and grows new bark, so taking the bark (in the falling off stage) won’t harm the tree. The syrup is a different sort of syrup than maple. It tastes similar to the taste of hickory smoked meats: slightly sweet, kind of savory with a ‘green’ undertone. It’s good on pork, pancakes or can be made into a unique soda pop (or beer)!


Shagbark Hickory Syrup


1.  Make a decoction extract: break up several pieces of the bark and submerge under water (in saucepan). Boil 20-25 minutes. Strain out bark pieces and return the amber colored water to a boil. Reduce to medium heat. This is the most popular technique, but I am going to offer another way. I use my camp stove percolator coffeepot. I break up the wood pieces small enough to fit in the grinds holder and let it percolate for 10-20 minutes. Then, I put the liquid in a pan and proceed.


2.  Gradually add regular sugar (either brown or cane), stirring between additions until sugar dissolves. Keep adding the sugar until desired consistency is reached.


3.  I’ve heard you can use the nutshells to flavor the syrup as well, but haven’t tried using them.


4.  If you don’t live in the Shagbark region, you can get some of the syrup at Hickory Works located in Brown County, Indiana. They are the only commercial manufacturer of hickory syrup. 


*Disclaimer: I have no personal affiliation with the company and I have not tried their syrup!

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