Foraging

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You know how right after you learn a new word or phrase, you suddenly keep hearing it all around you.  The universe teaches you something then keeps laying it in your path.  (I had this experience recently with the phrase, l’esprit de l’escalier, of all things.  I discovered the phrase, which means to think of a witty comeback too late, and then kept tripping over it in the oddest places.  But that is not the theme of which I speak.)

The theme of which I speak is foraging, which has popped up frequently in my discussions and trips around the internet latley.  A friend recommended a great series of columns on Salon.com by Felisa Rogers about foraging, and then Roseanne, who was one of our guest posters last month, recounted her experience with sumac jelly at her Summer of Funner blog. 

Foraging came to the fore for us in June with the ripening of the mulberries.  There are several mulberry trees on our regular routes walking to and from home to school(s) every day, and the kids would map our route so as to hit as many mulberry trees as possible.  Each stop would yield a small handful of the berries, but more than that, the kids felt a palpable joy at being fed by the very trees that grow on our city streets.  Without fail, someone would stop and ask us what we were eating (and was it really safe??) and the kids would proudly teach other city slickers the name of the tree and its fruit.  They are very fragile, and so do not travel well to grocery stores, and under their sweetness is an earthy flavour that reminds me of artichokes and, well, dirt.  I don’t think I would ever trust myself to identify correctly a foraged mushroom (is it really safe??), but these berries are a wonderful marker of the sweet transition into summer, and all the tasty bounty it brings. 

Have you foraged for food in your city or town?  Any tips for autumn hunts?

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8 thoughts on “Foraging

  1. Thanks for the childhood memory flashback–there was a mulberry bush two doors down from us, and we used to gorge on them. I’d forgotten all about that! This spring I had grand plans of making a dandelion greens salad (our tiny property alone would have yielded a salad’s worth!) but didn’t get round to it.

  2. We have a cherry tree in our backyard. When we moved in late last summer, I allowed myself to fantasize about the cherry pies and cherry jam we’d enjoy the following spring. Little did I know that the squirrels harbour the same fantasy, and are much more agile than I. They’d picked the tree clean before I’d so much as noticed that the cherries were ripe. For a while, one lone cherry hung from the very end of a branch about 10 feet up — too high for us to reach. One morning over breakfast, Peter and I watched a daredevil squirrel launch itself from our roof, scurry down the branch, pluck the cherry, squeeze it into its mouth and throw itself backwards back onto the roof, all in the blink of an eye. I almost missed it when it stuck its wee tongue out at us, waggled its little claws, and whispered “nyah-nyah-nyah” before it climbed out of sight.

  3. When Ben and I lived in Vancouver, we’d hit abandoned alleys and gorge on blackberries. In and around Toronto, we’ve also picked fiddleheads, blueberries, raspberries and plums off a tree that otherwise spilled its fruit into the alley (and these were the only plums I could get Sam to eat – for sure the joy of getting them (throwing sticks up into the branches to shake them down) was responsible for this!). Have you heard of Not Far From the Tree – Toronto’s organized movement to salvage city fruit – it’s magnificent: http://www.notfarfromthetree.org/about/what-we-do

    • What a fabulous organization!! I had heard about them in this cluster of foraging-related articles, then forgot to link to them. A great community initiative.

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