Fall Foraging Primer

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Dinner Diva
Fall Foraging Primer

By: Leanne Ely

On the next sunny day, perhaps you’ll consider taking a nice long walk to forage for some wild fall edibles.
There are plenty of nutritious foods just waiting to be plucked from trees or from the ground in the forest or a nearby meadow.
Foraging is a very satisfying (and fun) activity. Plus you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor (pun intended) when you return home.Fall foraging, picking wild food, wild mushrooms, wild apples,
The following are some foods you might find in the wild in the fall of the year:
Mushrooms. You can find edible mushrooms all over the world. There’s probably at least one variety growing in your own back yard right now. Do some research to find out which of the varieties near you that you can safely eat. Morels and chanterelles are my favorite wild varieties of mushroom.
Cranberries. Depending on where you live, you may be lucky enough to find wild cranberries. Some grow on shrubs and bear fruit throughout the fall, and others grow on the ground in boggy, marshy woodland.
Apples. The end of the season is just about here but you can still find some later varieties of apple in most parts of North America. Apple trees growing in the wild are usually organic, so you might find some bugs, but you’ll know there aren’t any chemicals lurking around on the skin of the fruit.
Rosehips. Wild rosehips are at their best right about now and they’re easy to spot with the leaves falling from the rose bushes. Rosehips taste best when they’re harvested after the first frost. They are not very good eaten raw, but delicious when cooked, strained, and mixed with honey to create a nutritious fruit syrup. Rosehips syrup is yummy on pancakes or in a festive cocktail.
Walnuts. If you see a tree bearing tennis-ball sized fruit on it, you might be looking at a walnut tree. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these trees nearby, go ahead and collect some of those nuts. After the fruit is dried, crack open the shell and enjoy the nut inside! If you happen to have access to a walnut tree, putting a handful of ripe nuts in small burlap sacks with some fresh clementines would make a beautiful holiday gift for friends and neighbors!
Pawpaw. You might not find pawpaw fruits in the grocery stores because they are just starting to be commercialized. Pawpaw fruit tastes a bit like mango, banana and melon all wrapped up into one wild fruit. On the tree, pawpaw looks like clumps of mangos growing together. Though pawpaw trees are difficult to find, the fruit reward will be worth the search!
Prickly Pear. If you happen to find a cactus with pink fruits growing on top, you may have encountered a prickly pear. I only recommend picking these if you have some sort of tongs or are wearing a pair of gloves! When you find a perfectly ripe prickly pear it will taste like a combination between watermelon and bubblegum.
Wild grapes. You can find wild grapes growing just about everywhere. Wild grapes make wonderfully healthy juice, jelly or even wine.
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PS–Speaking of great things to do this Fall, our 30 Day Paleo Challenge – Fall Edition is going on right now!  You are going to love the amazing recipes that are included in these great seasonal menus.  If you haven’t joined us yet, click here to get started!

0 Responses

  1. FYI: I would not recommend collecting wild mushrooms unless you’re with an experienced mycologist. Many poisonous or toxic mushrooms look like edible ones.

  2. Aside from persimmons, paw paws, pecans, and walnuts, we also have hickory nuts, pears (not prickly), and hawthorn berries. There are TONS of wild mushrooms here, and I LOVE mushrooms, but am terrified that I will poison myself and/or my family. I live near LBL, and have requested a class or tutoring session on learning about the safe varieties, but have heard nothing back. What resource do you suggest for learning about which ones are safe?

    1. HI Amy,
      We suggest going to your local library and they will most likely have information on local mushrooms and even possibly put you in contact with experienced foragers. Make sure you do your research and go with an experienced mushroom forager.

  3. I have been eating two which are easily identifiable. Puffballs are large white ball shaped fungi which are white all the way through when you cut them open. The other is chicken of the woods. It is an orange shelf type mushroom that grows on dead trees. It is smooth and yellowish underneath with no gills.

    1. Thank you woodsygal! Awesome to know we have some experienced mushroom foragers on here. We’d love to see a picture next time you use a recipe with them in it! 🙂

  4. I’m throwing in my vote on the ‘shrooms. You have to be so very careful collecting mushrooms in the wild. Many of the edible and most sought after varieties like chanterelles and morels are mimics of the jack-o-lantern and false morels. The Amanitas species of mushroom are some of the deadliest known to man. Eating one cap can kill you. Their common name is destroying angel. So please go forging with an experienced mushroom hunter or stick to the mushroom aisle in the produce department.

    1. Hi Kate,
      Yes. You said it perfectly…..make sure you do your research and go with an experienced mushroom forager. 🙂

  5. Currants are also a nice “wild” fruit. Found a couple of bushes in an old field one day while hiking. It was in December in California (and elsewhere) so the currants had dried up like raisins. Very tasty. Later that same day I found an old rose bush with a lot of hips. Good foraging day.
    Paw-paws are an old Ojibwa, etc., delicacy found in the Midwest. Even a town in Michigan called Pawpaw. Interestingly Nature put them right in what is now known as the “Fruit Belt” of Michigan – the western “slope” where settlers planted cherries and peaches. Of course these grow anywhere but the western half of Southern Michigan is influenced by the Lake Effect; earlier and warmer Springs without late devastating frosts.
    Butternut trees are also a rarity now-days. Like a walnut but oilier and sweeter; they are a first cousin of the walnut.
    If you find one keep it a secret and PROTECT IT! Maybe let the owners of the property know so they will not cut it down.
    As children we collected Concord grapes and cherries, peaches, and apples from LARGE trees and vines that had been planted by the pioneers but had naturalized so to speak. Hadn’t changed genetically or flavor-wise, grew normally but in the wilds. The trees were as large as oaks and the vines were 2″ diameter – that is how old they were.

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