Hello friends! I’m so happy to be back and writing about foraging—searching in the wild for food or provisions.
Foraging is so satisfying and can be done virtually year-round. There are abundant opportunities for foraging in our own backyards.
Even if you don’t have any woods in your backyard, that’s OK. There are plenty of public places for you to explore.
First, there are a few things to keep in mind, especially if you are foraging on public land.
As with any foraging, please make sure you know what you are doing, or that you are with someone who does. There are many plants that look alike, but one might be poisonous and the other one not. We obviously want to avoid poisoning ourselves. And others.
Second, know your growing zone. Callicoon and the surrounding area is in zone 5b. This information will help you determine what is growing and when. You can find your growing zone at https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/.
Third, avoid foraging in areas that use chemical sprays. Chemicals, especially those sprayed on things considered “weeds” can be dangerous for humans (and animals).
Fourth, check for permission(s) needed if foraging in a public area. Obey no-trespassing laws. And please, please go gently no matter where you are foraging.
Fifth, as with anything, take notes. Keep a record of what you find, when you find it and where you find it.
OK, now to the fun stuff! What will you find along your woods-walk during the summer? Obviously, there will be many, many things since summer is the height of the growing season. Depending on which month you start foraging, you will find wild strawberries and wild blueberries. Strawberries will be earlier, in late May through June. They are tiny and you will find them more in open fields than the woods.
Wild blueberries will be abundant from July into August. And you will find them under the canopy, along old stone walls, and in open fields as well.
With either of these berries, you will be racing against nature to collect as much as you can. All kinds of wildlife will feast on these berries. If you are lucky, you will even find wild black raspberries as well.
One of my favorite things to do while walking in the woods is to look for what I call ditch flowers. If you look along the ditches as you walk, you will find goldenrod, daisies, yarrow, clover, black-eyed Susans and a whole other assortment of flowers. Some of these flowers have medicinal properties, but all of them will look good in a vase on your front porch.
And while I’m no expert in wild mushrooms, if you are or know someone who is, summer is a good time to forage for chanterelles and hen-of-the-woods, among others. And while you are looking for mushrooms, keep an eye out for acorns and black walnuts. Black walnuts can be a tough shell to crack, hee hee, but well worth it. You can use the shells for dyeing fabric, and eat the nuts as you would store-bought walnuts. Acorns are fun to experiment with. Again, the shell can be tough to crack, but I’ve had good experience with freezing them and then cracking them. Then you can make acorn flour! It will add a nutty yumminess to any baked good.
And finally there is what might be everyone’s favorite—elderberries. They usually show up closer to fall, so this would be a good late-summer foraging walk for collecting them.
If you start looking in the spring, you’ll be able to identify the telltale shape and flowers of the elderberry. Once you’ve identified the tree, keep an eye on it for the berries. As with the other berries mentioned, you’ll be fighting off nature to get as many berries as you can. The hardest thing about elderberries is that you have to remove the stems and leaves before using. And that task can be tedious.
All that is required for foraging these and other wild edibles is a good eye, some patience and know-how, and don’t forget to bring along some scissors and a bag for collecting.
This is a good start to your summer forays into foraging. Remember to be respectful of the land, whether it’s your own property, someone’s else’s property (that you have permission to forage on), or if it’s public land. We only have so many resources to go around, and we want everyone to be able to enjoy it. Happy hunting, friends!
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