Monday, July 26, 2010

Foraging Report 07/24/2010

The extreme heat this summer has affected the ripening season of gardens, farms, and wild edibles. Orchards picking peaches in July? It has been berry crazy around here, and by that I mean wineberries and blackberries. It has been so awfully hot, we have not made it out to look for wild blueberries or huckleberries since the wineberries and blackberries are easier to gather in quantity than the much smaller blueberries.

We managed to stumble across a incredibly large patch of wineberries close to our house this year. We used to take a full day and drive to Redding, Connecticut to the Collis P Huntington State Park where the main trail is lined with wineberry thickets. Pretty much all of Redding is infested with wineberry canes, and you can spot them easily from the car while driving down the winding residential streets. This year we stuck close to home, and probably came away with 8 gallons of berries in 3 picking trips. I froze 8 quart bags of berries to eat in the winter, made 2 batches of jam, 2 sheetpans of fruit leather, and used the remaining juice for popsicles, smoothies, one gallon of peasant wine, and drank some plain for breakfast.

Our regular local blackberry patch which is located on a patch of conservation land was cut in the early spring, so what has proceeded to grow this season has been all first-year canes. There have been no flowers, and no fruit. If the berry patch is not cut in autumn or next spring, the harvest next year should be huge. We did manage to pick in an area that was not as aggressively cut, and still came away with about 4 gallons of fruit. That helped us make 2 batches of jam, 2 sheetpans of fruit leather, popsicles, juice, one gallon of peasant wine, and provided plenty of berries to munch on. The blackberries that grow in this patch appear to be an invasive species, probably Himalayan. The berries are much larger than native species, and the leaf arrangement is different. I think the thorns are much thornier, too. Also in this meadow is dewberry, which is a species of blackberry that grows along prickery vines along the ground as opposed to arching canes. These are very small berries, and hide well under their large leaves.

Also this week, we were able to pick some small milkweed pods for our culinary experimentation. Robert gathered small ones, from 1-3 inches long. We boiled then briefly and tried them plain, then added them to assorted dishes and tried other cooking methods. Very tasty!

Also ripening right now are wild black cherries, choke cherries, elderberries, and sumac berries.

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