Tag Archive for foraging

A Forager Is Always On The Lookout

When foraging, it is important to always keep one eyes and nose open.

It can be hard to see fruiting blackberries in July. At that point everything is green and lush and overgrown. Ripe berries can “melt” in the background as you zoom by. But when the blackberries are in bloom, their dog rose-like blossoms just jump at you. Their pure white seems to flutter like butterflies over the surrounding spring green. It is impossible not to notice.  That how I mark new blackberry patches: I make note of them when in bloom and come back later when they are berrying.

Ditto with pawpaws, a native fruit that grows by streams and in bottom-land and prefer the edge of the woods. I have written about harvesting and using pawpaws. But in September they can be hard to pick out. In late April or early May (that is, now!), when they are blooming, the groves are very easy to spot.

pawpaws in bloom

The drooping maroon flowers are festooning the slim limbs of the trees this year. In the 6 or 7 years that I have been foraging for pawpaws, it’s the first time I recall seeing so many blooms. Their shape and colors are unique and easily identifiable – once you know what you are looking at – especially since the pawpaw is the only tree that has not yet leafed out nor budded. Many flowers will  drop off f course, but we may expect a heavy harvest this year.

I am making notes of trees I had not noticed before and plan to visit in the fall.

A small consolation given how meager the morels have been!



Spice From Our Woods

lindera benzoin berries (spicebush)

Now is the time to gather the ripe berries of our native spicebush, Lindera benzoin, for use as tea, room fragrance or spice, a plant that has also been used medicinally both by local American-Indian tribes and European colonists.

Spicebush grows all the hills here, and I really only notice it in very early spring and in fall.

In March or April, spicebush unfurls its flowers. Each is small and rather insignificant. But when millions of them are in bloom, it is as if forest undestory –  still-unleafed – fills with vaporous pale yellow clouds. Once they are done blooming, spicebush disappear, melting back in the general greenness of the woods. You only notice it   if you happen to break off a twig or bruise a leaf – a sweet all-spice fragrance with a hint of camphor fills your nostrils. And of course you notice them again in September and October, when the bright shiny red berries dot the shrubs. They remind me of coffee berries that I grew up up with, but much smaller and not the same shape – but with that same vermillion brilliance that’s really popping at you. The fruit, about the size of my small fingernail, contains one seed. The seeds is more peppery and the pulp sweeter – so some people apparently separate them before storing them. Too much work. I think of them as native all-spice, and use pulp and seeds together. Read more