September 03, 2008

forager mode

One of my very, very most favorite things to do is forage. Usually that means happening upon someone else's post-northwind fallen lemons as I walk the kids to school (no not here in Beijing, I'm talking about Davis), but if I could, I'd spend lots of time also out looking for wild foods. This last year my big food and medicine harvests were chickweed, wild mustard and radish greens, pie cherries, elderberries, rosehips, apples, jujubes, oranges, comfrey, calendula, pomegranates, and mullein. If I had my way, I'd be living somewhere where I could forage a good amount of our food and have that as an excuse to spend my time outside, walking around, talking to plants.

I did notice a pomegranate "bush" a few weeks ago (still blooming, as the seasons seem later here than in Davis), and that reminded me of how little I've actually seen here. There's something that looks suspiciously like lambsquarters, and though I know it's a chenopodium, I'm not sure which one. Anyway, I don't feel like eating anything growing here - there's too much dirt.

We also received a box of hongzao (Chinese red dates, that aren't really dates, but rather jujubes) from a friend of Dan's and I remembered last year's harvest from the nooks and crannies of Village Homes (people there don't know what to do with them and so they fall to the sidewalk and rot) which produced such incredibly good dried hongzao.

I looked back and found that the jujube's were ready in October, but I began harvesting the elderberries, apples, and rosehips right around the first of September. I'll write later about the jujubes.

Here's what I wrote about it last year:

I've been reveling in unemployment. I can do whatever I want so long as we're fed, rested, and the appropriate study has taken place. After that it's free-for-all. Woohoo!

This week, since we got home from all our travels I've been in major forager, stock up for winter, mode.

I've come across elderberries which I've dehydrated, frozen or made into jam.
There were lots of windfall apples to be sliced and dehydrated or made into applesauce.
I also just finished a batch of beef jerky and now I've got more elderberries going.
Another bucket of rosehips are next.
I love the dehydrator I brought back from MD. It was my aunt's old one which she never used and I'm using it all the time.

I also happened upon a tomato plant somebody pulled out of their garden (in this same "green" development mentioned below) and set by the curb - with lots of little cherry tomatoes on it - so I helped myself to a huge bowlful. And we've enjoyed them for the past few days.
I'll just go out every morning before it gets too hot to see what I can find. It's great!

Observations during my foraging journeys: I'm nervous about being caught though in actuality most people are only curious. For the wild edibles most people don't even know what I'm picking and a few have asked. My nervousness comes simply from my desire to go about unwatched. The apples, being windfall over in the nearby housing development are somewhat trickier - they ARE on people's property (even though I'm pretty much only picking up what I can reach from the sidewalk), but I'm still self-conscious about being there. I feel like I could identify with Gypsy people who always get sidelong glances and silent judgments for such behaviour. But I've benefitted from these plants' bounty and I'm not self-conscious enough to give it up so I'll be back at it tomorrow, looking for more apples or maybe hong zao (aka jujube) which is a traditional Chinese food/herb. Unfortunately I missed the sour cherries (those are fabulous but ripen in July). There are some figs but they're way up in the trees.

Maybe there'll be a few pomegranates.
I love, absolutely love foraging for edibles and herbs.

No comments: