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autumnal wild food gathering anecdotes


marycontrary
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Hello everyone, as I'm feeling lazy I will break up my memories into 'pleasures' and 'hazards' bullet points:

Pleasures:

-discovering a sun-lit tree tunnel overladen with a bounty of free food: damsons, blackberries, crab apples and elderberries, just after maxing out my overdraft

-gathering blackberries on the moor with my grandmother while looking for 'fairyfolk'

-homemade summer pudding

-spicy crab apple jelly

-sloe gin

-sugared chestnut sweets

-chestnut rice

-cosy and rather smug feeling of preserving/pickling/drying produce before winter, harking back to the idea that 'at least I will survive a calamity'

-discovering just now on wikipedia that sambuca is made with elderberries and anise...

Hazards:

-nearly falling down a cliff in pursuit of the best berries

-ditto with a disused mine-shaft

-discovering on wikipedia that raw elderberries are poisonous and have a 'mild cyanide toxicity'

-speeding down a hill on your bike and trying to pick blackberries at the same time (you end up with a very messy looking face)

-being pursued by irate farmer and his mad dog after poaching his apples (I was only 7 and had very hazy notions of private property and tresspass...)

Does anyone else have similar memories from around the world?

Also any other ideas of what you can do with too many crabapples, damsons and elderberries apart from that mentioned above? (Yes I know crab apples are barely palatable raw, but they make great jelly and in Britain we have been eating them for thousands of years before more fancy varieties arrived...)

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-discovering a sun-lit tree tunnel overladen with a bounty of free food: damsons, blackberries, crab apples and elderberries

There's an old railroad track across the alley and down the hill behind my house. It isn't abandoned, but only two or three trains a week pass by. This is fortunate, because although you can't see them from the house, you can hear and feel them go by. :huh:

My grandson, Zach, three years-old, is one of those children enamored by "choo-choo"s. Whenever one passes by we have to drop everything and run over to watch it. Sometimes we throw rocks at the cars, which are hauling either coal to the Public Utility Plant or taconite, a low grade iron ore. :rolleyes:

If he hears the train far enough in advance, and we get to the little bluff overlooking the tracks on time, the engineer will usually toot the horn or ring the bell for us. To me, this makes the whole process feel rather quaint and grandfatherly, but to a true-blue Thomas the Tank Engine devotee like Zach it's the genuine highlight of the day! :biggrin:

Anyway, (to finally get on-topic), about two weeks ago I noticed a tree less than fifteen feet off the path we take to the train lookout, its heavily burdened boughs bowed with the burden of thousands of ripening apples. I can't imagine how I'd missed during dozens of trips past it all spring and summer, although I suppose this is one of the less fortunate aspects of becoming "grandfatherly"? :unsure:

Zach was thrilled with the discovery. Since he started to talk anything roundish, reddish, and remotely edible has been designated "apple". Besides eating a few out-of-hand, (and throwing some rotten ones at trains), we've had an apple crisp and a couple apple quickbreads. This weekend I plan on making a galette. :smile:

Does anyone else have similar memories from around the world?

Although we tend not to retain many things we experience at such a young age as Zach's, I'm hoping the choo-choos and apples might become one of his memories, even subliminally. :cool:

Edited by srhcb (log)
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for the fall we would actually start in mid/late summer. while picking wineberries and blackberries my mom and i would mark places with wild grapes. then in late august we would drive around places we had seen them the prior year(only 1 in every 100 vines or so produce grapes that grow to maturity). we would cruise slowly around the island - me with my head out the window- guess kinda like a dog- and spot bearing vines for a later date. mom once asked me how i was able to do it and i told her that i knew what i was looking for and would tell my brain only to react when the profile hit. kind like how i see and identify hawks at our hawkwatch now. there were some abandoned orchards on the island as well and we would pick apples when we walked to school or home. next door one of the neighbors had a crabapple tree that we used to gather the windfalls from and make either spice crabapples to go with our poultry or jelly. tart and lovely.

spring, though was my favorite time - stalking the wild asparagus. less than a pencil in diameter and i couldn't bear to cook it. i only wanted to eat it freshly picked and raw as it was crisp and sweet/salty since the best grew near brackish water in the creeks.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Hello there, I think fruit picking memories are particularly vivid if you are young, especially if they have that air of danger/illegality/sugary-sweetness around them...

Also I remember the smugness of being much taller than my little sister and being able to reach the best berries...

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for the fall we would actually start in mid/late summer.  while picking wineberries and blackberries my mom and i would mark places with wild grapes. then in late august we would drive around places we had seen them the prior year(only 1 in every 100 vines or so produce grapes that grow to maturity).  we would cruise slowly around the island - me with my head out the window- guess kinda like a dog- and spot bearing vines for a later date.  mom once asked me how i was able to do it and i told her that i knew what i was looking for and would tell my brain only to react when the profile hit.  kind like how i see and identify hawks at our hawkwatch now. there were some abandoned orchards on the island as well and we would pick apples when we walked to school or home.  next door one of the neighbors had a crabapple tree that we used to gather the windfalls from and make either spice crabapples to go with our poultry or jelly.  tart and lovely.

spring, though was my favorite time - stalking the wild asparagus.  less than a pencil in diameter and i couldn't bear to cook it.  i only wanted to eat it freshly picked and raw as it was crisp and sweet/salty since the best grew near brackish water in the creeks.

Hi Suzi, do you have any recipes for spice crab apples? You need such a lot for crab apple jelly...

What are people's policies on gathering food not on common ground? The crab apples I found the other day technically belonged to the local university but I don't reckon they were really in high demand. I love the word 'scrumping' to refer to stealing people's apples from their orchards, it reminds me of the 1950s storybooks I grew up on, full of mischievous young boys in flannel shorts and girls called Susan. Maybe I should start 'Poaching: the thread'

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I enjoy finding new things in the meadows and forests nearby. This was the year of the pod.

This year I found quite a few preying manitis egg pods in late winter, and early spring. I took two of them to my back yard and watched them hatch on a warm day in May. Each pod produced about two hundred tiny, hungry, cannibals. A few survived in my back yard garden.

In early summer I found milkweed pods, and had heard they were edible. Indeed they are and I gathered a dozen or so. They can be prepared just like snap peas, and are just as sweet. But they have to be taken while small and immature.

It is autumn now and I'm looking for puffballs and chanterelles. Never did find morels this year...

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I enjoy finding new things in the meadows and forests nearby. This was the year of the pod.

This year I found quite a few preying manitis egg pods in late winter, and early spring. I took two of them to my back yard and watched them hatch on a warm day in May. Each pod produced about two hundred tiny, hungry, cannibals.  A few survived in my back yard garden.

In early summer I found milkweed pods, and had heard they were edible. Indeed they are and I gathered a dozen or so.  They can be prepared just like snap peas, and are just as sweet. But they have to be taken while small and immature.

It is autumn now and I'm looking for puffballs and chanterelles. Never did find morels this year...

JT, if you have day lilys in your yard, or neighborhood, the unopened buds are wonderful stir fried with a bit of of oil and soy sauce. Again, they tast like snow peas...

Edited by judiu (log)

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I'll keep that in mind next year. We have lots of wild lilies, even on road sides.

I have heard that cat tails or bull rushes have sweet edible parts (Euell Gibbons, I think) but I never found a good sweet-corn like part.

Next spring I'll be looking for peppery cress in the streams, and wild leeks in the bush. I think they're called something else in the U.S. but the name escapes me.

Edited by jayt90 (log)
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Pleasures:

Collecting fresh mussels off the rocks in a remote part of the New Zealand’s south island west coast. It’s a wild a remote part of the world and the rocks were laden with large green lipped mussels. I took them back to my unpowered cabin and cooked them with some white wine, herbs, garlic and cream. Pure pleasure.

Hazards:

Driving into a Westfield’s car park (Large shopping mall) and taking an hour to find a car park before I can even start my grocery shopping. A hazard I now avoid like the plague.

Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose. - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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I'll keep that in mind next year.  We have lots of wild lilies, even on road sides.

I have heard that cat tails or bull rushes have sweet edible parts (Euell Gibbons, I think) but I never found a good sweet-corn like part.

Next spring I'll be looking for peppery cress in the streams, and wild leeks in the bush. I think they're called something else in the U.S. but the name escapes me.

As per dear old Euell, don't gather from the side of the roads, since the plants may have been sprayed, and the pollution from car exhaust is bad. I think the wild leeks you mentioned are called ramps. Be sure the streams are not polluted before you harvest cress. :shock:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Poke Sallet and wild garlic, ramps and sessly (cicely), fiddleheads, 'sang and mushrooms. Wild thyme and lavender and mint and a sagepatch older than many trees.

Spring and Summer bounty for the taking, but the Autumn brings the sweetest tastes of all. A Summerlong spyout of the best blackberry bramble, the red-studded raspberry thicket, all stripped of their jewels, the brightness thudding into buckets. I miss metal buckets---plastic ones dilute the pleasure, somehow. They just don't have those good old rattly bottoms as the berries and grapes and plums fall in. We have a little galvanized "foot-tub" which has never washed feet, though it has received and carried every fruit we've picked for years.

Scuppernong and catawba arbors, winding down creeks and over brushtops, clusters hanging heavy as their kin on Roman hillsides. Their meat is sweet, with the distinctive grapey flavor coming from their leathery, squeaky-chew skins. They do not taste like supermarket grapes; they have the true purplegrape taste, like a sip from a Welch's bottle.

Wild fig trees with their sweet parcels of juicy pulp; blueberries big as marbles, with their pointy little coronet, and the ping of pleasure at the sight of hundreds of tiny red wild strawberries in the grass at your feet. Pinon nuts like kernels of tan corn, spicy with resinous sap.

The golden-plum thicket of my childhood, where we picked ripe softness small as olives, the plums themselves the size of the pits of today's big purples. The little fellows were tart and tangy, giving the golden jelly a flavor not reached by any other fruit.

Persimmons in the woods, fallen for the wasps' pleasure, with drunken buzzes hailing their presence from afar. A few sweet enough to eat, but most still in that puckergreen stage. Pecans and hickory nuts and black walnuts, rattling down through the sparse leaves, covering the ground like rocks. Every child knows how to grasp two pecans side by side in one hand, give a hearty squeeze, and pick out the rich meat for munching as they stroll the woods. Only the littlest have to use both hands or whack the nuts between rocks.

You could always tell at church on fall Sundays who had been nutgathering on Saturday---brown thumbs and fingers, hands stained up to the wrists for those who harvested and husked black walnuts. And many a boy has shown up for church with pictures and writing tattooed on his face, tanny-brown snakes twining round his wiry arms, either by choice or by the bigger kids, and indelible to the most vigorous washcloth wielded by his embarrassed, outraged mother.

And the one persimmon tree in my yard down South---widespread and imposing, with gnarled, dark limbs like a steroid-pumped bonsai. The leaves would fall during the first cold days, leaving the ripening fruit. The persimmons resemble big green tomatoes hanging amongst the foliage; then as the tree gets barer and barer, the green shades into gold, then into peachy hues, with the fruit getting softer and softer.

Finally, the heavy globes turn an indescribable peachy-goldy-pumpkin shade, shining and smooth, almost translucent in the sun. A leaf-bare persimmon tree at sunset has a glory not given to many flowers. The stark outline of the craggy branches dangling little golden lanterns is a memorable sight, and a bowlful of the fruit brings the sun onto the table.

Persimmons weren't given a distinctive flavor, like an orange or a lemon; biting into one is much like a mouthful of sweet, flavorless Jello. They say that they make a lovely pudding, but I've never tried. Pretty is enough.

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I grew up in the heart of Los Angeles and never really came across anything edible as I wandered as a child. As an adult, I've been keenly jealous of people who talked about finding fruit trees nearby or fiddlehead ferns or ramps. Until I moved to Oregon a few months back, that is. I'm finding all kinds of wild greens, but right now am surrounded by blackberries seemingly everywhere. The other day I went on a picnic with my sons in the park, only to have them find quarts of ripe berries off by the pond without even planning on picking anything. I'm planning on making some blackberry wine soon :smile:. The downside is those suckers have evil thorns and none of us has come out unmarked, but it seems a price worth paying.

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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I grew up in the heart of Los Angeles and never really came across anything edible as I wandered as a child. As an adult, I've been keenly jealous of people who talked about finding fruit trees nearby or fiddlehead ferns or ramps. Until I moved to Oregon a few months back, that is. I'm finding all kinds of wild greens, but right now am surrounded by blackberries seemingly everywhere. The other day I went on a picnic with my sons in the park, only to have them find quarts of ripe berries off by the pond without even planning on picking anything. I'm planning on making some blackberry wine soon  :smile:. The downside is those suckers have evil thorns and none of us has come out unmarked, but it seems a price worth paying.

I'll bet they have thorns to keep predators like us at bay. Birds only need apply, the better to spread the seed widely! :cool:

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Kathy, rule of thumb is to never travel without buckets or bandaids. I've learned that lesson!

We will head north to The Cabin\ in a week and a a half in search of early season crappies (they like hanging low in that cool water) and the men will take the shotguns and hunt for grouse. That far north, the autumn findings for vegetarians will be of the "press the leaves between sheets of waxed paper, using the iron you remember you own" variety.

But, those seed will have been sown, and soon to be covered with snow, and next spring and summer, we will reap the bounty, providing that Mother Nature provides some sun and some rain.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Hi Suzi, do you have any recipes for spice crab apples? You need such a lot for crab apple jelly...

What are people's policies on gathering food not on common ground? The crab apples I found the other day technically belonged to the local university but I don't reckon they were really in high demand. I love the word 'scrumping' to refer to stealing people's apples from their orchards, it reminds me of the 1950s storybooks I grew up on, full of mischievous young boys in flannel shorts and girls called Susan. Maybe I should start 'Poaching: the thread'

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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What are people's policies on gathering food not on common ground? The crab apples I found the other day technically belonged to the local university but I don't reckon they were really in high demand. I love the word 'scrumping' to refer to stealing people's apples from their orchards, it reminds me of the 1950s storybooks I grew up on, full of mischievous young boys in flannel shorts and girls called Susan. Maybe I should start 'Poaching: the thread'

I was tempted to do that this summer. I was walking through the public gardens in downtown boston and I happened to see a huge chestnut tree. They weren't ripe yet, so I wanted to come back later and pick them when they fell off the tree. Anyways, I waited too long and I forgot where the tree was :wacko:

I also went to the Arnold Arboretum and I found tons of ginko trees. I was estatic because ginko nuts are usually expensive when you buy them fresh at the grocery store...unfortunately none of the trees had nuts on them.

I wonder if I would get in trouble for picking nuts on city property?

my mother's friends go to DC in the spring/summer and pick ginko nuts off of the trees. They probably look ridiculous because there are thousands of ginko trees that line up along the sidewalks of the city. Basically, there is no way to do it in secret or not be seen. So far they haven't been in "trouble"

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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When I was 6, 7 and 8 we lived in the remote Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. We used to spend long weekends camped by a river with clear, fresh water.

The water was so clear that we would dangle a line and hook in the water and watch the cherrabin (a fresh water crustacean like a prawn) walk close before just hooking them out of the water. These along with mussels would be cooked in a billy of water over a fire.

We also would eat "wild passionfruit" - a weed bearing small round fruit which contained seeds similar to passionfruit.

At other times when living further south we have picked loquats, gooseberries and mulberries when walking home from school.

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  • 1 month later...

Silicon Valley may not spring to mind as a location for foraging but I've managed to find some nice things in the late summer and fall. There are very few spaces or lots without buildings on them right in the valley but there are woods and open spaces on the edges--near the Bay and in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Two things I picked this year are blackberries and walnuts. The walnuts come from trees that were part of orchards planted at the turn of the century which are now found in some open spaces with hiking paths.

gallery_13473_3800_30894.jpg

Gloves are an important accessory when walnut picking; the green outer shell will stain your hand a dark yellowish brown. There are not too many nuts on the ground as they are found by animals or may start to rot. We brought hiking sticks and knocked the nuts in the green hull off the tree. Nuts released from the green hull are difficult to see on the ground so you try to hit them enough to release them from the tree but not hard enought to release the brown nuts from the hulls.

gallery_13473_3800_280149.jpg

A closeup of the booty. It is a good idea to remove the green hull from the shells the same day to prevent molding. I then dried out the nuts in the sun for about a week covering them with screens on my balconey to prevent theft from my neighborhoos squirrels who were quite interested in them although there are not nut trees anywhere near my home!

I need to go back in the spring next year to get some green walnuts to make nocino and pickled green walnuts... :smile:

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Not much gatherable in the deserty northwest part of Las Vegas, unless anyone out there has a recipe for stewed creosote bush...

When I was growing up in northern Delaware, we'd gather bags of black walnuts at Valley Forge State Park in the fall. Apple-picking was also an annual activity. I miss both.

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

--Flannery O'Connor, "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

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Not much gatherable in the deserty northwest part of Las Vegas, unless anyone out there has a recipe for stewed creosote bush...

...

pinon nuts? (I'm not sure if pinion trees grow in that area) I think it is a pretty laborious job to process them though... :smile:

I found a link on rules of pine nut gathering at the Great Basin National Park... click

I've always read about the distinctive flavor of black walnuts but haven't tasted them on their own to realize the difference.

In CT we had a hickory or butternut tree in the neighborhood that we picked wild nuts from.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Deer bologna? No. Steaks and roasts as much as possible, but this year I have tags for 5 deer so at least one is going into my charcuterie projects. Those damned rats with antlers took out something like 30% of my uncle's corn crop this year, so it's smiting time.

I'd have liked to have gone out mushrooming more this year, but things didn't work out as planned. But two years ago, on my land further north in Wisconsin, I cut down two dead elms and very carefully transplanted a half-dozen morels. I should be able to get a passel of them in the spring.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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