A forage

There’s a bit of hesitancy on the part of most Americans regarding foraging on someone else’s land. I can only think we’ve been trained not to trespass, and, considering the ubiquity of firearms in this country, I suppose this hesitancy is a good thing. But I swear in other countries, Europe in particular, foraging for wild goodies is a natural thing. I also think Americans also consider foraging kind of shameful. Can’t you, you know, just go to the grocery store for those asparagus, El? Are you that bad off, that poor? All I can say is foraging is fun, and it has the side benefit of being cheap. I ask owners first, if they’re around, so I don’t really worry about getting shot.

I never got around to telling you about my bucketfuls of walnuts last fall. It was a messy, messy project, shelling those walnuts, but the eating (eventually) was yummy. I’ve rummaged the property behind me, the property that used to be a part of this property, after I got the go-ahead from its owner. “I’d like to get some of your apples,” I told Elsie. “Apples? We don’t have any apple trees,” she said. Sigh. She’s lived on the property for over fifty years. You’d think she’d know she had 9 trees that bear almost yearly. Well, whatever. Those apples are great, and dang, they’re all MINE.

I went back to the burned-out asparagus farm yesterday. My harvest was kind of slim, but delicious. The deer as usual had gotten the big share, and it’s been so darned cold that the big field didn’t have any yet. It was a fun little walk. I saw so many birds, swallows in particular. Even if the harvest was slim, the hour I spent was quite rich. So go ahead: call me a Euell Gibbons wannabe; I don’t mind.

14 responses to “A forage

  1. : ) hmmmm…now I don’t feel so bad helping myself to the abandoned plot at our community garden. These people would plant stuff and never show up. Other people would water and there would be tomatoes, egg-plants that nobody harvested. The elderly couple who started the plot had moved backed to China and their children didnt have the time. Question – how does one miss 9 trees full of apples on their property : ) ?

  2. It seems to me like the emotional bar against foraging is also somehow connected to the huge disconnect between food and earth in most folks’ mind. My relatives – who all live on substantial acreage in Michigan – NEVER grow any of their own food. They grow plants for the market, or commodity crops – but food? not a chance.

    They’ve been amused to think that their city relative intends to grow food, raise chickens, and I have the sense that to them it signifies poverty, making it amusing that I would move from the high-priced city for that purpose.

  3. I’m all for foraging, just haven’t found anywhere to do it. How do you miss 9 apple trees? It’s not like mushrooms, they’re not hiding?

    Your asparagus makes me wish that it was next year already – I don’t think we’re going to get a harvest at all from our new crowns this year.

  4. I second Hayden – there’s such a disconnect. Some people think produce grown in a home garden or farmer’s market isn’t ‘clean’ and processed enough to trust. Things gathered from the big scary wild, where there might be poison ivy, or (gasp) deer poo. Of course, it’s all backwards, but what’s familiar feels safe, and we’re familiar with very strange things these days.

    (and my goodness, I’ve never seen such a large asparagus. It puts ‘spear’ in a whole new light. Was it tasty?)

  5. Oh, is that rhubarb I see on that plate? (sob) I want rhubarb SO bad that I’m crying now. I’m not sure it can grow down here, the stores carry it for like, two days (of course NOT the two days I go) and I can’t find any anywhere. I have a Rhubarb Cream Pie recipe from my Aunt that I really want to try, cuz my memories of it are so sweet. Dernit I want rhubarb! Oh, and some of that asparagus too, if you don’t mind!

  6. Excellent! Love to see the good things being appreciated! Here in Florida it slays me all the fruit from citrus and other fruiting trees that’s just left to rot on the branch or fall to the ground…it seems no one eats them, gosh!! so we’ve gotten ourselves some baby trees so that someday we’ll have enough and if it ever gets to be too plentiful, expect some gifts of jam and preserves for special occasions 🙂

  7. We used to get a lot of “why” questions. Why do you work so hard, can’t you go to the store? I got so tired of this I started replying with my own why questions. Why would you go to the store? Why don’t you have a tomato plant on the deck. I mean, doesn’t EVERYONE have a tomato plant on the deck? Why would you EAT that…that….stuff (I meant crap)? Turning the question back on them has made a difference. They’re either thinking or they’re afraid to ask more questions.

  8. WF: I would say that plot was fair game to anyone else with a plot there! But yeah, Elsie is an odd bird. I can’t imagine anyone else living on 19 acres who shouldn’t, you know? Her husband was born in my house and he (and his brother whom I bought the place from) farmed all the acres: huge market garden, fruit trees, vineyard…eventually everyone got so old that they kept shrinking their garden sizes and letting everything go wild. What did she think happened to the trees? Apple trees live a long time.

    Ah Hayden you hit the nail on the head again!! I guess my post shows the huge disconnect I have with “regular people,” so I suppose I should do some rethinking myself. My inclination of course is “well there’s food there so take it if nobody wants it.” And I know what you mean: some of my city friends think the same thing, like I have taken a vow of poverty or something. I suppose I have, come to think of it, but…if I were to actually buy all these veggies and eggs and meat that I grow, organically? I’d need another day job.

    Laura, I think you can steal a few spears next year, but you probably shouldn’t expect full-on harvest for a couple of years yet on that asparagus patch. Their roots need to bulk up a bit. But you’re new to your area; I am sure when the season goes on you’ll see a fallow orchard or a great woods to go explore. I got my walnuts “in town” at a couple houses…their owners hate the things and of course thought I was nuts. I was!

    Plantingoaks: Deer poo! Hwah! I got a great laugh about that. You and Hayden are right of course. Me, I would worry more about the harvesters’ hands after hitting the port-a-potty in the field they’re working…nobody seems to think of that at all, and believe me the incidence of people poo is greater in commercial veggies than deer poo anywhere else. Sorry, but it’s true. But yes, that asparagus WAS gigantic, and very, very tender: I try to eat them immediately before their taste changes. We had a feast, and the rest went in to a quiche.

    Jules, yep, rhubarb it was. It’s been so cold here though it was frost-damaged so I had to peel a significant part of it. I transplanted a fair share of the stuff I found on that abandoned farm to our property and our stuff went to seed this year so I can’t do my usual rhubarb pig-out. I did make a nice cornmeal-based upside-down cake with my frozen blueberries, that rhubarb, and a splash of balsamic vinegar, though. Dang that was tasty. Get your mom to ship you some!!! Or better yet come on up here and pick your own!

    Robbyn, Tom’s grandmother doesn’t eat hers much either. When she was in better health she’d ship him boxes of the stuff: really thick-rinded grapefruits and sweet Temple oranges. I just cringe, as obviously I can’t really grow that stuff up here! Have you made jams? Marmalade and lemon curd are two of my favorite things ever. Candied citrus peel is up there too. Such bounty!!! I’m jealous, though I do intend to put a hardy citrus in the greenhouse this fall. It won’t be nearly as bountiful, though.

    Robin, I will never forget the comment the host of our going-away party had for us when we were about to move from the city: “Five acres? Who are you going to get to take care of that?” She was deadly earnest. “You’re looking at them,” we said. I certainly am not saying everyone should do what you and I are doing, but, really, we all live in the same 24 hour day, you know? So we choose to spend ours making our meals and not, I don’t know, in front of the tv or whatever it is other people do with their time. And I guess that’s it: people think we’re spending inordinate amounts of time “working the fields,” or other onerous things like, I don’t know, making bread, and dang, I wish that were the case!

  9. I live on 20 acres and it really bothers me when people come onto my property and take from me without permission. I stopped some people picking asparagus. A few years back someone took a couple hundred pounds of tomatoes and people steal strawberries and raspberries from me all of the time. I feed my family with that food, I pay the taxes and insurance and mortgage. I don’t care if it looks like a spot I do not pick, people should ask because it is still mine. I had to move my vegetable garden because it was a free for all when I was gone. My wild apsaragus is a prize to my family and people who wander onto the land to pick it witout permission are stealing. I am a very genrous person and when asked I usually let them pick, it is the thieves who bother me.

  10. Amber, I feel for you. What happened on your property was definitely not foraging but theft. You should immediately call the law if you find someone on your land. I said very plainly that I always ask, and I do believe one always should. The asparagus farm I go to is owned by the bank (and I know this because I seriously considered buying it at one point) so I’ve nobody to ask…but if there were, I would.

  11. Now that’s what I call an asparagus feast!

  12. I saw that you asked and I think that is really nice. It is nice to have someone new stop by and ask. I noticed someone picking one day and I went to talk to them, actually, I wanted to tell them they should ask first. The person who stood up, though, caught me off guard. He had to be almost 100. I just smiled and said hello and told him I own the place and .. happy picking. What could I say? The guy had probably been picking on my property since before I was born.

  13. I just discovered your blog (via twelve22) and love it. I’m in mid-Michigan, on roughly 5 acres, and we finally started our vegetable garden this spring, after nagging for 6 years!

    My husband found two spears of asparagus in a wild area of our yard a few weeks ago and it was unbelievably delicious. I can’t believe the difference in taste between home-grown (unintentionally in this case) and store-bought. Huge.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and gardens through your blog!

  14. Katie: Still not sick of eating it, are you yet??

    Amber: Wow. Makes you think, doesn’t it? There’s only been one forager on our property that I caught and it was a neighbor who thought the property was still unlived-in. She was picking mushrooms. I suppose without meeting her I would probably never know our woods had porcini in them. But yes 100 years: I would like to follow him around if he’s a lifelong forager!

    Hi Anne! I LOVE meeting fellow Michiganders. Get busy on that garden: you will be AMAZED how good things can taste: consider that asparagus a newly-opened door to a wonderful world. I swear taste is why I sweat so much every weekend 🙂

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