Suburban Foraging

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Fri, Jan 15, 2016 - 1:51pm

(Cross-posted from Frugal Living Group) So you're on a budget and trying to make ends meet, and food is a big expense. You might have planted a fruit or nut tree and are waiting for it to start yielding, or you might be renting or not have room for a tree. Yet some of your neighbors have apple, pear, cherry, apricot, avocado, citrus, nut trees (or whatever) where most of the food falls to the ground and rots. How can you harvest that bounty?

The first step? Be aware of what's growing around you. This year start noticing where people have fruit and trees. If it's something you want, knock on the door and politely ask if you can take some. I've had a polite refusal because someone else harvests the tree, but usually they are happy to get rid of the extra fruit that will fall and mess up their yard. This is doubly true of very messy things like black walnuts, whose outer casing stains anything it touches. But, hey - homemade black walnut ice cream is the bomb!

Not someone's property? Make sure you are not trespassing on what looks like a vacant lot, and if the space is open to the public like a park make sure there are no laws against picking things.

Come ready to work. Wear gloves! I suggest you bring at least a six-foot A-frame ladder, so you can reach more. And bring a buddy to safety-spot you on that ladder and share the pickings. Laundry baskets are great for bringing home your haul. Discard any bruised fruit; squirrels have to eat, too. Recommendations: pick pears while still green and let them ripen indoors. Don't pick more than you can use unless you have a charity to take them; food banks NEVER get enough produce and will bless you for anything you can bring.

Use and preserve it. There is nothing like fresh fruit and fresh nuts so enjoy some right away, but the bulk will be best saved for later.  You can freeze many fruits, but I for texture reasons I especially like to do that with berries and sliced peaches. Frozen foods last six months. High-acid fruit can be canned in a water bath canner, or made into jams and jellies. Shelled nuts can be pan roasted with a little oil or dry roasted in the oven; if put in hot jars while warm they will will seal and last a year, like other home-canned foods. Or you can dehydrate your sliced fruit, which makes the last for several years if done correctly. Some foods even taste better dehydrated: figs and apricots, especially. The main thing to keep in mind is how much you'll use in six months for frozen things and a year for canned things.

Give back. Bring the person who let you pick from their tree(s) something you made with their harvest. Suggestions: For pears I like to bring the person some ginger-pear sauce. For apples, a pie is always welcome. For nuts, I make an ice cream nut toping with syrup. Friends of mine in Arizona make marmalade and bring the tree's owner a jar. Tell them you'll be back next year if that's all right with them. I've yet to have anyone say no.

Don't be shy: most fruit tree owners are thrilled that someone is going to use their produce and  love the fact that when you're done their lawn will be cleaner. I have a girlfriend who is a pediatrician who regularly harvest cherries from a neighbor and gives them a jar of preserves in return. It's actually embarrassing we as a society let all that food go to waste!

5 Comments

fated's picture
fated
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 16 2014
Posts: 62
Foraging = free food and reduced waste = wins all around

I like your tips Wendy.

Just yesterday my family harvested 7 pounds of blackberries on invite from a savvy friend who had already asked permission to the landowner. They are all in the freezer and some have been turned into a pie.

We gave back some veggies from the garden.

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 28 2008
Posts: 221
Woa, fresh blackberries in

Woa, fresh blackberries in JANUARY? Where the heck can you do that?

I like to steam-juice blackberries. That pasteurizes the juice, and the jars self-seal, giving room-temperature-stable storage. Then we can make jelly in January, from berries we picked in August.

fated's picture
fated
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 16 2014
Posts: 62
Fresh blackberries in Feb

In Australia Bytesmiths! 

I know I have to think on some of the posts I see here - because you northern hemisphere folk are in a different season.

On the topic of foraging - was up the bush yesterday and came across some lovely old apple trees. With the idea of tiger snakes on my mind I gathered a good lot of apples and scampered out of there quick as I could. I find it pays to keep a pair of sturdy shoes in the car as you never know when you'll come across something of interest. Safety first!

This is what remains after I gave half to a friend last night. I have no idea of the variety but it would be an older type.

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 28 2008
Posts: 221
That explains it...

Ugh... dealing with snakes doesn't sound pleasant.

I'm glad I'm on an island considerably smaller than Oz. We don't have any snakes here bigger than your little finger... cute little garter snakes that curl up in your hand for warmth on a chilly spring day.

We're "foraging" for kale in the greenhouse! We had turned it over to chickens (that's "chooks" for you down under), who stripped it of all greenery, but the chickens went out to pasture, and now the kale has come back with a vengeance! So as we're working beds for spring planting, we're eating the kale we pull up.

robshepler's picture
robshepler
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 16 2010
Posts: 112
Snakes

My Bride was cutting lettuce heads in the high tunnel last year, she lifted up a leaf and found a little garter snake looking at her. She calmly put the leaf down and went on to the next head without a squeak, even I would have had a laundry problem. For a girl raised in Boston she has gotten pretty used to creepy crawlers and rural life. I am a lucky guy!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments