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One of the frustrating things about foraging is how dependent it is on timing. You might notice blackberry blossoms (Rubus fruticosus) in May but then find the berries bug-eaten in August. The shorter the harvest period, the more likely you are to miss the window. Black locust blossoms (Robinia pseudoacacia) are at their peak for just about a week; a heavy rainfall at the wrong time can shorten that window by half. Then there's the heartache of happening upon a huge crop of mushrooms just a little too late. (Left: Chicken Mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus) by wide eyed lib. They're more common in Fall, but I found this one yesterday.)

Some foraging successes are dumb luck, but others are the product of months or even years of careful observation. Once you've identified a particular plant, the waiting begins. Every bit of color on an unripe fruit whets my appetite for the harvest to come. Join me for a peek at 10 fruits that will be ripening in the coming months.

Pictured: redbud, mulberry, juneberry, raspberry, cherry, cornelian cherry, apple, peach, hackberry & mayapple

(As always, if you're new to foraging and want to give it a try, please read the first diary in the series as well as the linked diary to the fuller discussion of each plant. For a complete list of all plants covered in the series, click here.)

One fruit (and it is a fruit, even if we don't think of it that way) that's ready for harvest right now is the pod of the redbud tree (Cercis canadensis). The pods quickly grow tough, so it's best to pick them young and use them in the same ways you might use snow peas. They taste somewhat similar, but redbud pods have a touch of sourness. Learn more about redbud trees here.

The mulberries (Morus nigra, in this case) are so close to being ripe that I can almost taste their sweet juiciness. I suspect they'll be ready for harvest in my area in about 2 weeks. I covered mulberries in full here.

Close behind the mulberries will be the juneberries (Amelanchier species). Though they look like blueberries, the oval, toothed leaves and smooth grey bark of the shrubs they grow on makes it easy to distinguish them even without tasting. Learn more about juneberries here.

Around the time juneberries ripen, black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) will become sweet and juicy. I found several new berry patches in some nearby woods by keeping my eyes peeled for their white flowers in early May. Raspberries were covered here.

Every year it's a race between me and the birds to get to the wild sweet cherries (Prunus avium). I've tried to convince them that they can have all the ones at the top of the trees if they'll leave me the ones on the bottom, but they remain unpersuaded. I covered sweet cherries in full here.

Despite its name and general appearance, the cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) is not related to any other cherry species. In fact, it's in the same genus as dogwood trees. These small drupes generally ripen off the tree, and at their best they're sweet and juicy and just a touch sour. Read more about cornelian cherries here.

Botanists make no distinction between apples and crabapples (Malus species), but Euell Gibbons believed everything over 2" in diameter was an apple. While crabapples might not be as rewarding to eat out of hand, they make wonderful applesauce, apple butter and apple jelly. I covered apples in full here.

I've never covered peach trees (Prunus persica) before because I hadn't found a wild specimen in my area. So imagine my surprise when I found one in a park not 3 blocks away. Unfortunately, my excited cry and exuberant picture taking attracted a family gathered around a nearby swing set, and they continued to admire the peach tree as I walked away. (I briefly entertained the idea of telling them that those weren't peaches but some poisonous lookalike, but the better angels of my nature won out.) Is it too mean to hope they'll come down with amnesia between now and August? Stay tuned for full coverage of this delicious fruit later this Summer.

This Autumn's hackberry (Celtis species) crop is shaping up to be spectacular. I accidentially left a few ripe ones in the pocket of a raincoat last Fall and discovered two weeks back that they retain most of their flavor when dried. I've never done much cooking with them, but this may be the year I change that. I covered hackberries in full here.

Mayapple plants are notoriously fickle. First, only the plants with 2 leaves will flower, which eliminates about half of them. Then of the ones that flower, only the plants that get sufficient sun will form fruit. Since this is mostly a shade-loving plant, that's at least another half gone. Finally, a certain percentage of fruits will shrivel up instead of ripening. The result is that some years 1 or 2 mayapples is a good yield. However, once in a blue moon a mayapple patch will go crazy, nearly every plant will bear fruit, and foragers will walk away with bags of fragrant yellow deliciousness. Last year's crop was so dismal that I couldn't find a single ripe one to photograph, so I never covered them. Here's to hoping this year will be a banner year.

@-->--  @-->--  @-->--  @-->--

If you look around the next time you're outside, you might find some of these plants in your area. Foraging is sometimes about waiting, but identifying the plants around you could start right now.

See you next week!


If you'd like to learn more about foraging but missed the earlier diaries in the series, you can click here for the previous 44 installments, and here for RonV's 4 part mini-series on medicinal plants and how to use them. As always, please feel free to post photos in the comments and I'll do my best to help identify what you've found. (And if you find any errors, let me know.)

Here are some helpful foraging resources:

"Wildman" Steve Brill's site covers many edibles and includes nice drawings.

"Green" Deane Jordan's site is quite comprehensive and has color photos and stories about many plants.

Green Deane's foraging how-to clips on youtube each cover a single plant in reassuring detail.

Linda Runyon's site features only a few plants but has great deals on her dvd, wild cards and books (check out the package deals in particular).

Steve Brill's book, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places is my primary foraging guide. (Read reviews here, but if you're feeling generous, please buy from Steve's website.)

Linda Runyon's book The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide contains especially detailed information about nutritional content and how to store and preserve wild foods.

Samuel Thayer’s book The Forager's Harvest is perhaps the finest resource out there for the 32 plants covered. The color photos and detailed harvest and preparation information are top-notch. His second book, Nature's Garden, is just as good. For an autographed copy of either book, order from Sam's website.

Steve Brill also offers guided foraging tours in NYC-area parks. Details and contact info are on his website.

Don Wiss’s website is a treasure trove featuring hundreds of photos of common northeastern edibles.

For well-sourced info on the medicinal uses of plants, Plants for a Future is a site I turn to time and time again.

Finally, the USDA plants database is a great place to look up info on all sorts of plants.

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This diary series is proud to be part of eKos. For other environmental and ecologically related diaries, check out the most recent eKos Earthship.

Originally posted to wide-eyed wanderings on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:00 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Today's quiz (31+ / 0-)

    Anyone know what plant this is? It's a non-woody plant that prefers full sun and is generally grows 3 to 4 feet high.

    Interested in identifying and eating wild plants? Check out my foraging diaries.

    by wide eyed lib on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:00:01 PM PDT

  •  We've Got 2 Redbuds and One's Putting Out a (9+ / 0-)

    lot of pods. And it stands appropriately enough at the head of our veggie raised gardens. We're waiting with a harvest basket at the ready.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:18:00 PM PDT

  •  wide eyed lib - I love your diaries on foraging.. (8+ / 0-)

    ..though I haven't tried much yet because I'm not confident of what I've found. It's still so awesome to read them and try to find things in my neck of the woods (so to speak).

    "Help!!! I'm being Enlightened!" - TCFKNCS's avatar

    I always wanted to quote an avatar.

    by RhymesWithUrple on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:31:49 PM PDT

    •  Thank you! (5+ / 0-)

      If you have a digital camera, you're welcome to take some photos and I might be able to confirm your tentative ID.

      Another thing that's a huge help is Google Image. Type in the common or scientific name of the plant and then you can look at hundreds of images of it to see if your plant matches.

      The good news is that it all gets easier with practice. :)

      Interested in identifying and eating wild plants? Check out my foraging diaries.

      by wide eyed lib on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:39:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the Google link... (4+ / 0-)

        Though I'm embarrassed to admit it, I generally don't even know the common names of plants. If it's not a rose bush or something ridiculously obvious, I usually have no idea. Thankfully both of my in-laws are practically master gardeners, unfortunately I only see them very rarely.

        I'll get the camera out and take some pics - that would be great! Any first-timer plant books you could recommend? Particularly any ones that botany idiots could understand?

        "Help!!! I'm being Enlightened!" - TCFKNCS's avatar

        I always wanted to quote an avatar.

        by RhymesWithUrple on Sun May 23, 2010 at 02:10:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm bookmarking your diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yinn, blueocean, wide eyed lib

    for future reference. It's great to know edible plants but I fear I need the expertise of an experienced wild plant cook to gain the confidence I need.

    Is that photo Yarrow?

    •  A book is a good way to start (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yinn, ms badger, blueocean, NWIA Granny

      but the best way is with someone who forages. Start with just a couple of plants and work from there. But really the most important thing is a constant sense of curiosity. Look at plants-- really look at them. Figure out what makes one different from the next. (Drawing is great if you're into that.) That's really half the battle, and you don't need to know the name of any plants in order to get started.

      No, not yarrow. Yarrow leaves are more narrow, like this:

      Interested in identifying and eating wild plants? Check out my foraging diaries.

      by wide eyed lib on Sun May 23, 2010 at 02:13:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  great diary, thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueocean, wide eyed lib

    secession = treason. Haters are Traitors!

    by catchaz on Sun May 23, 2010 at 02:11:28 PM PDT

  •  FWIW, mulberries make great fishbait... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yinn, MyBrainWorks, wide eyed lib

    at least for carp. Now I don't eat carp and don't know many who do, but when I was a kid there were folks in the nighborhood who definitely ate them. Here in NJ most are too contaminated to eat, but they are a fun fish to catch and release, and if you find a mulberry tree near a slow moving creek ( which is how I found out about them ) the berries make a fine bait.

  •  Mulberries (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wide eyed lib

    are a bit behind yours.  They are white to light green here.  This tree hasn't had any for the past two years, so I'm looking forward to getting a taste of them.  I hope they ripen quickly, though.  I won't be going to my special spot much more.  My job is quickly coming to an end (that's where the "spot" is) and I don't know that I will be able to justify the long bus trip to get to it very often :-(

    I'll have to hike over to the park a few blocks away.  I know there are chives there.  I'm betting there are plenty of other good things, too.

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun May 23, 2010 at 04:37:19 PM PDT

    •  Are those chives really chives (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      or are they field garlic? I'm guessing the latter.

      I'm sorry your job is coming to an end, but I have no doubt that you'll find many of the same things in your local park. The best part about all these plants is just how widespread they are.

      Let me know if you find anything.

      Interested in identifying and eating wild plants? Check out my foraging diaries.

      by wide eyed lib on Sun May 23, 2010 at 04:51:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's been awhile since (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wide eyed lib

        I've been to the park.  They may very well be garlic.  Either way, they are abundant - and free!  For me, it's as exciting to find and identify things as it is to eat them.  I'm an "infomaniac" and knowing things is a big deal for me :-)

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Sun May 23, 2010 at 05:03:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm the same way (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The learning part is the most interesting. The nice thing about botany is that there's an awful lot to learn. I've been branching out a bit into non-edible plants. Each time I go out I pick a plant I don't know, and if I don't have a guide with me that can identify it, I'll take lots of pictures and go home and research it.

          Don't ever lose your curiosity about the world.

          Interested in identifying and eating wild plants? Check out my foraging diaries.

          by wide eyed lib on Sun May 23, 2010 at 05:39:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  You got rescued (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wide eyed lib

    Great stuff, thank you.

    •  Yes, I did :) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eddie C, littlezen

      I actually stayed up to see if it might be rescued. Now I can go to sleep happy. Thanks for stopping by!

      Interested in identifying and eating wild plants? Check out my foraging diaries.

      by wide eyed lib on Sun May 23, 2010 at 08:54:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Just clicked in (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wide eyed lib

        after I saw your diary on the rescued list--so glad I did. I grew up in a city, with not too many foraging opportunities.  One of our neighbors, who was quite elderly, used to harvest the dandelions from the lawn.  At the time, I was mystified.  Now I want to know what I can dig up!  

        Have you done any diaries about foraging for mushrooms?  We typically get a bumper crop in our yard during a rainy spell, but I've never felt confident of properly identifying species.  I would have been completely sure that the chicken mushroom in your pic was poisonous.  

        Absolutely fascinating stuff, wide eyed lib. Tipped and rec'd with thanks.

        "L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." - Le Petit Prince

        by littlezen on Mon May 24, 2010 at 04:56:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I decided very early on (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eddie C

          not to cover mushrooms. It takes patience and persistence, but it's definitely possible to learn plants from books and websites. The same isn't true for mushrooms, unfortunately. Mushrooms differ too much in form and have too many potentially poisonous lookalikes.

          If you're interested in mushrooms, check to see if theNorth American Mycological Society has a club near you, then check to see if there are some local events you can attend. Failing that, call your local county extension or local library to see if they know any clubs. If you have a farmer's market close by that sells wild mushrooms, the seller might also have some leads. Finally, consider posting to Craig's list or seeing if there's a mushroom Meetup group in your area. Tagging along with knowledgable shroomers is, IMO, the best and safest way to learn.

          That being said, there are a handful of mushrooms that can be learned from books. The polypores are one such group. None of them are toxic (which isn't to say that all of them are tasty) and they have 3 characteristics that makes them unique among mushrooms:

          1. They grow on wood. It's not good enough that they're growing near wood-- it needs to be on wood;
          1. They form "shelves"-- different sized platforms that overlap. They also generally have no or very indistinct stems; and
          1. They have pores on their undersides rather than gills. Sometimes the pores are visible to the human eye, other times you'll need a magnifying glass or jeweler's loupe to see them.

          The chicken mushroom (Laetiporus species) at the beginning of my diary is a delicious polypore, and here's another photo showing older chicken mushrooms with lots of shelves. And this is another polypore, the hen of the woods mushroom (Grifola frondosa):

          Steve Brill's website has a terrific discussion of different mushrooms, though, again, I'd strongly advise you to gather mushrooms only with an experienced group.

          Finally, don't dismiss the idea of foraging in urban areas. When I'm in Manhattan, I sometimes forage in Central Park. It's hard to get more urban than that!

          Interested in identifying and eating wild plants? Check out my foraging diaries.

          by wide eyed lib on Mon May 24, 2010 at 07:39:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Plantain salad! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    littlezen, wide eyed lib

    I'm still grooving on the plantain and this week when I made a salad from mixed greens, I tossed in some plantain leaves. They made such a nice addition! They're getting close to being too bitter, but I looked for smaller leaves growing in shade and they were fine.

    We've also got a lot of redbud pods hanging in the yard right now. I've tried munching them from off the tree--fantastic. I'm going to try this week to stir-fry some as I would snow peas.

    As far as waiting, I want to try something you mentioned last fall--was it autumn olive? My parents have tons of the bushes at their place. Dad didn't know they were edible.

    Foraging is so cool!

    There's a reason Democrats won massively the last two cycles, and it wasn't because people were desperate for "bipartisanship". --kos

    by Debby on Sun May 23, 2010 at 09:48:01 PM PDT

    •  Yes, autumn olive is definitely edible (0+ / 0-)

      I covered it here. You and your dad are in for a real treat. Autumn olives are a bit like pomegranate seeds-- a little sweet, a little tart and with a crunchy, edible seed. Keep tasting them because they get sweeter as Summer turns to Fall (though I sometimes like them earlier than that because I love the jolt of tartness). You'll never look at those pesky bushes the same way again.

      I'm so glad to hear you're eating wild things and enjoying them. Plantain is really good for you. If you have the patience to peel away some of the tougher strings, older plantain leaves are nice in soups when they're mixed with other, milder veggies. If you harvest all the leaves off a particular plant, it will often send up tender new ones a few weeks later. (Just know if you do that too many times in one season, you'll kill the plant. Since plantain is so common, it's not really a big deal, but I thought you should know.)

      If you like redbud pods raw, you'll really like them cooked. Just don't over-indulge the first couple of times you try something new. Give yourself a bit of time to make sure your digestive system is happy with the new food.

      I told you foraging is addictive!

      Interested in identifying and eating wild plants? Check out my foraging diaries.

      by wide eyed lib on Mon May 24, 2010 at 07:04:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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