Foraging Wild Food
After morning chores are finished and before it gets too hot I’m foraging wild food. I pack a half-bushel basket, a paring knife, cold water to drink, berry boxes and measuring cups with handles, a camera and a pair of tall boots in case I have to cross a small stream to get to the mushrooms. We’re going to pick one of my favorite mushrooms, Chanterelles. If I were to buy them, these mushrooms would cost $26 a pound, more than we can afford to pay considering how many pounds we like to put up for a year. Picking 20 pounds will fill our needs but this year that’s unlikely because it’s too dry. Fortunately, we do find a small patch in my favorite spot. They’re on both sides of the stream, tucked in near hemlock trees. Keep that in mind. If you’re looking for Chanterelles, look near hemlock trees.
I carefully choose two-thirds of the best mushrooms, cutting each stem just above the ground, and leave the rest. By leaving some I know there will be more; maybe not this year if it stays dry but next year. Nobody else has followed the trail along the stream to this spot. Lobster mushrooms are starting to come up. They are the dirtiest mushrooms we pick, covered in duff from the forest floor, but washable because of their density. These mushrooms are a great base for cream of mushroom soup.
I haven’t seen blackberries this abundant in 32 years. I remember it well because it was horribly hot that summer and I was hugely pregnant. We picked five quarts on August 8, the first ripe berries. Next week I’ll be counting gallons, not quarts. I’ll make jam and jelly, wine, tarts and maybe even ice cream.
I’m blessed with an abundance of wild foods and the freedom to pick them. The timber investment companies that own the hundreds of thousands of acres that surround my home don’t care about this food. Raspberries are almost over, blackberries almost in full swing, and I think blueberries are about ready to pick now. I’ll be looking for blueberries next week.
Apple trees are either loaded or bare this year. It looked like there would be more than last year’s huge harvest but pollination must have been a little off as a lot of the small apples fell. Picking up dropped apples on country roads is similar to gleaning in agricultural fields.
I will fill freezers and jars by foraging wild food. By the time the ground has frozen we’ll have harvested wild foods throughout the growing season, from fiddleheads and Japanese knotweed gathered in spring, to berries and mushrooms picked into fall. This foraging wild food thing…you should give it a try if you don’t already. What do you forage? And how do you use what you find?