Thursday, March 4, 2010

treasure map of forage-able foods

katherine emailed me this bit of joy today--it seems some blogger has started an urban foods map of the treasure valley. i learned that not too far from where i live there’s a plum tree and a rosemary bush, free for the picking, apparently. they also have plotted the blackberry brambles along the greenbelt, which i frequent. i first noticed them a few years ago and felt so dumb for not seeing them before--i think a lot of people just walk or ride right by them--whole forests of blackberry just inches from the path.

the map is lacking a few hot spots that katherine and i like to hit, but i don’t know if we want to publicize them. the fruit is your reward for keeping your eyes open...it seems like cheating to just tell people where to find everything. in late summer we walk along the greenbelt with bags and plastic containers and pick apples, crab apples, berries and mirabelle plums (golden cherry-plums, apparently they’re also known as “perles de miel” or “honey pearls” in french). the mirabelles are just fucking bounty. i don’t think anyone notices them, or if they do maybe they don’t realize they’re edible, and luscious. i probably picked ten pounds last year, and katherine the same. i planted a bunch of pits up on my parents’ property in mccall last august. if they sprout i’ll be ecstatic.

there are bushes full of rosehips all along the greenbelt, too many to even plot on the map. strangely i never see anyone picking them, except katherine of course. more and more people catch on to the blackberries every year, but so far all the other produce seems to be largely ignored. fortunately there are more than enough blackberries to meet demand.

up in mccall katherine found a large patch of wild blueberries just behind one of my favorite beaches at the lake. there’s supposedly awesome mushroom picking in mccall as well, but so far we haven’t had luck with that. i know huckleberries grow there in great quantity but i haven’t gone looking for them yet. a huge section of the yard at my parents’ place is covered in wild strawberry plants, which would be wonderful if my dad didn’t insist upon mowing them.

i get more and more excited about foraging all the time. it’s like there are little patches of wild community garden all over the place, waiting to be harvested, free to anyone who’s willing to put in the work.

15 comments:

JJ Beazley said...

I have a difficult relationship with brambles. They grow like wildfire on my little piece of ground, especially in the longest of my boundary hedges. I have a battle with them every year when I trim it. They resist most sturdily! But I also love blackberries, so I encourage a couple of plants to grow in my greenhouse. I even give them manure and talk nicely to them. And I had reason to be thankful to them last autumn when I was trimming the hedge. I was lopping some of the bigger branches and fell off the ladder. I knew I was going, so I aimed for a nearby bramble patch (I was on the field side of the hedge) and had a soft landing. So I suppose we sort of get on.

Your urban food map sounds excellent. We don’t have the climate in Britain for that sort of thing. What do you do with rose hips, by the way?

Andrea said...

I love the idea of an urban food map. We picked blackberries last year along the bike path. Plums and other fruit fall, unpicked, on city streets. Last fall on a neighborhood walk we came upon a handwritten note stuck in a lawn asking people to please pick the plums! A friend told me that in her neighborhood there are copious chestnuts. Being new to this area, I had no idea so much free food was going unharvested.

Emily said...

andrea, you should start an urban food map for seattle! isn’t it sad seeing fruits go to waste? there are so many cherry trees here in boise i think the abundance is crippling, no one bothers to pick them so they fall and stain the sidewalk like juicy little suicides.

goodness, jj, that sounds painful, landing in brambles...did you have massive blood loss from millions of tiny perforations? after i go berry picking i look like i’ve been in a fight with a gang of feral cats. once i was silly enough to venture into the brambles without first putting my hair up (my hair is over three feet long), and i was completely strung up, it took forever to untangle and extricate myself.

people use rosehips to make tea, jam, or just eat plain. i don’t like them personally, but katherine goes crazy for them.

JJ Beazley said...

That’s the odd thing. When I trim the hedge, the brambles fight me – grabbing and twisting, tearing clothes, scratching me all over and threatening to pull me off the ladder. I used to play rugby, and I swear that was easier. But when I fell into the bramble patch, it was like landing on a feather bed. No scratches, nothing. Maybe it’s like grasping the nettle.

I’m still curious about the rose hips. I have three dog roses in my garden, and they produce lots of hips every late summer. The birds eat some, but most just fall off. So are they edible?

Three feet, eh? Heavy!

Jessica said...

I plan on getting a food dehydrator for the summer as well and dehydrating produce that I've grown and gathered. No more waste! No more staring at dried fruit that I can't afford! These posts make me hungry and excited!!! I have a love-hate relationship with brambles, but damn, I love blackberries: blackberry pie, cobbler, sauce...

Portland has an edible food map. See urbanedibles.org. I would imagine Seattle must have one, but if not, it's a good suggestion to start one.

Emily said...

yes dog rose hips are edible! they’re mentioned specifically on wikipedia, and here’s another source that might interest you: http://www.shee-eire.com/Herbs,Trees&Fungi/Herbs/Dog-Rose/Factsheet1.htm

ooh, urban edibles is awesome! i hope you become as obsessed with your future dehydrator as i already am with mine. the model i got is great--it has a thermostat that you can adjust to a range of temperatures, it’s pretty quiet, came with a sheet for making fruit leather, has lots of space but you can always add on by buying more trays, and it was not terribly expensive compared to other models that don’t have as good reviews. i’ve been drying stuff all day--mostly apples but i also tried kale chips that turned out ultra-yummy, and now i’m making pineapple/blueberry fruit leather. the whole house smells fruity.

JJ Beazley said...

Thanks for the link. Very interesting. But now I'm undecided. Should I eat them, or cast a handful before the delightful Sarah when she walks up the road with her cocker spaniel? Don't answer that one. I'm just being silly.

Amy Vecchione said...
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Amy Vecchione said...
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Emily said...

hi amy! it’s not that i don’t want to share with others; in fact i love it when i see other people taking advantage of wild produce. i just think it’s so fun discovering these things on your own, you know? i value the sources katherine and i found because we found them ourselves. it’s about mindfulness, being aware of one’s surroundings, keeping one’s eyes open. i could look up (or ask) where to find huckleberries in mccall, or where to find mushrooms, or whatever, but i’d rather stumble upon them while adventuring.

that obviously runs counter to the idea of making a map, and i don’t want it to sound like i think a map is a bad idea, because i think it’s awesome for people who aren’t necessarily out adventuring all the time, nibbling on weeds and fumbling through identification books. i truly think the map you started is a wonderful tool, it’s just a whole different philosophy. i hope that explains it better.

oh, and jj, i know you said not to answer but...i think throwing berries at a love interest might frighten and confuse her before the hips have a chance to work their celtic magic. maybe inviting her in for a cup of rosehip tea would be a better approach?

JJ Beazley said...

Sarah isn't really a love interest. I was only kidding. I'm just a tiny bit too old for her. Her dog makes a fuss of me , though. That's the main thing. I'll bear your advice in mind should I ever encounter an unattached geriatric who doesn't smell, doesn't get in the way, and has her own teeth. I'm still kidding. You bet!

Amy Vecchione said...
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JJ Beazley said...

Forgive me intruding, but I sense this is one of those cases which highlight the danger of the written word. It can be a minefield for misinterpretation. Two people can say the same things face to face and easily come to an accomodation. Body language and tone of voice are such important tools of communication. Something we need to be a bit careful of, I think.

Emily said...

amy,

i appreciate it when people call me out on comments i make that could be misinterpreted, if i’m not being thoughtful or i’m being unclear, which despite my best efforts isn’t all that unusual. however, i don’t feel that suggesting people would benefit from practicing mindfulness is one of those slips.

i’m a strongly anti-capitalist, radical feminist, and an active advocate for social justice. implying that i’m classist is akin to implying i’m sexist or racist. i’m not angry; more confused.

you and i probably have a whole lot in common, and we could be good friends absent the limitations and misunderstandings imposed by internet communication that jj made reference to. i very much admire your stated goal of creating community; i’m an extremely community-minded individual as well. you value sharing, which i think is noble, and i value that also.

please try to keep in mind that using insulting language is not conducive to civil discussion, or fostering happy relationships--it can shut down communication. i try to practice kindness and respect toward people i have disagreements with...and to be honest, i don’t think we even disagree that much in this situation, we just have distinct ideas that aren’t at all mutually exclusive. regardless, i respect you, and i hope that you have no ill feelings toward me, because i have none toward you.

Katherine said...

Wow, Em, I wouldn't have sent the link if I had known the person had this kind of attitude. How sad, and more so in light of the fact that you are one of the most genuinely generous people with your time, your resources, and your knowledge, that I've ever known. Don't let it upset you, it's clearly a control issue; calling you of all people a classist is hilariously and revoltingly uninformed rhetoric. This is a tit-for-tat self-righteous "I'll give you mine if you give me yours," not a truly egalitarian gesture on her part. Real gifters don't expect a gift in return (or even need their name on the label, for that matter) as you well know. No way would I answer a crude personal attack as calmly or succinctly as you did.