foraging: food for free

the green walnuts - foraging blackberries
It is already the first week of September and the mornings are filled with fresh air. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this. Because as soon as the last days of summer are here, harvest season is upon us. Peaches, apples, walnuts, raspberries, pumpkins, potatoes… There is nothing better than food you harvested yourself!

And even better, you do not even need your own garden. All you need to do, is to explore your neighborhood and look for fruit to pick (for free!).  Wander around and discover your new favorite “food sources” 😀

The advantages are manifold: it is for free, you spend more time outside, everything grows without plastic and you can see how fruit look without packaging or where it actually grows.

If you do not really know where you should start, I can highly recommend the awesome website mundraub. On the digital map, you can find berries, fruit trees, nuts and so much more in and around cities. If you cannot understand German, no worries, the icons are pretty self-explanatory.

And funnily enough, smarticular and mundraub have a new book coming out on September 18th: Geh raus! Deine Stadt ist essbar (roughly translated, Get out there! Your city is edible – only available in German).

 

If you want to try your luck while the harvest season is still going strong or be prepared for next year, I have a few ideas on what you could forage:

 

the green walnuts - foraging chanterelles

 

mushrooms.

My boyfriend is a passionate mushroom “hunter”. In the first years of our relationship, I was not allowed to accompany him to his sacred hunting grounds. Family matter, that goes without saying. The secret places are passed on from generation to generation. After seven (!) years, I could convince him to let me in on the art of mushroom hunting. He did very reluctant and only after I promised to keep my eyes shut the whole car ride there (not kidding).

By now, I am allowed to open my eyes. Lucky me 😉 My success in terms of mushroom hunting is less successful as I can identify exactly one species: chanterelles. It is safe to say that my foraging talent in this regard is slightly underdeveloped. But I can excel in terms of eating all the delicious mushrooms dishes my boyfriend prepares 😛

The growing season for chanterelles and porcinis is from late June to October, even November. In Austria, they grow close to spruce and beech trees, where the soil is low in nutrients. You can find most of them after rain showers, especially if the weather was fairly warm.

The mushrooms taste the best if you eat them right away, but you can also dry, pickle or blanch and freeze them.

 

 

the green walnuts - foraging blueberries

 

berries.

I love berries. All of them!! Everything is better with berries. Pretty much all of them can be grown in your own garden, but foraging for them in or at the edge of a forest is even more fun.

The best season for berries is during the warmer summer months until September. Raspberries (from June) are the earliest, then you will find wild strawberries (from July) and later on blackberries, blueberries and elderberries (mostly from August).

It is not too late yet! You can still find them in cooler regions. Unfortunately, we missed the blueberry season this year because we were on vacation. Freshly picked, wild blueberries are just the best and everything gets this distinctive dark color. <3

Important note: wash all berries thoroughly to avoid contamination with fox tapeworm or similar parasites.

 

 

the green walnuts - foraging walnuts

 

nuts.

The colder the season, the hotter the cake and cookie baking phase. And let me tell you, nuts are expensive!

We are lucky enough to have walnut trees in our garden. They do not only taste delicious, they also look really fancy with their red skin. However, to prevent possible allergy attacks from friends and family, I prefer to use hazelnuts in my cakes and cookies. Full disclosure: until last year, I did not know where hazelnuts are growing (thanks for the info, ex-colleague for showing me :-*). Now, that I know they grow everywhere around here, I am always looking for new locations. And lo and behold, there is a hazelnut tree at the end of my street. Yes, a tree, not a bush. You live and learn. I heard they do not taste as well as the one from the bushes, but I did not figure out how to open them without crushing them, so I cannot report back to you yet. 😉

 

Related: hazelnut milk – how to make any nut milk at home

 

the green walnuts - foraging apples

 

meadow orchard.

Fall means apple strudel and freshly pressed apple juice.  We have more than 15 apple trees, so no complaints here.

An actual meadow orchard can have way more varieties, though. If you are looking for old varieties of apricots, pears, cherries or peaches, that is the place to go to. Once again, a lot of fruit trees in and around cities are marked on the map at mundraub.

No need for meadow orchards because you own garden is overflowing? Unverschwendet collects all kinds of fruit and makes yummy chutneys, jams and co. out of them.

 

the green walnuts - foraging wild garlic

 

wild herbs and flowers.

Herbs spice up every dish, don’t you think? Up in the mountains, thyme was growing like weed; the same for rosemary down in the South. Free spices in abundance!

I really want to go on a guided hike to forage for wild herbs and edible flowers. You can go on these hikes year-round. Just check out your local pages and sign up for one!

The only flower I know for sure is the elderflower (May to June). You can use berries and flowers from the elder bush to make syrup.

Spring is also the time to look for wild garlic. As soon as the forests turn green again, the wild garlic starts sprouting. Wild garlic tastes especially intense if you pick it early.

 

Related: zero waste cooking – wild garlic

 

I am not well informed when it comes to wild herbs and edible flowers. What are your favorite wild herbs? And which flowers do you collect to eat? Or do you grow them yourself? Would love to hear your story!

 

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