Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Foraging in the City

My sink full of crabapples compliments of an elderly neighbour, nature, and some determined pickers.

Hubby and I have become pretty keen on backyard foraging (ours or somebody else's will do just fine). We've raided the library shelves for books on edible plants, seeds, fruits, roots, and nuts. It's unbelievable to think that all of this food is around us and we just walk on by, wondering what we should go buy at the market.

Once we started learning about all the food, all the free food, at our disposal, our walks in the forest, or even just in our neighbourhood, took on a whole new meaning. We check out what stage the black walnuts are in, if the squirrels have annihilated the hickory tree or if there's one or two left for us, where the good oak trees are so we know where to go when the acorns start falling. The list goes on and on. It brings an awareness to the season, the weather, and the bounty that surrounds us.

This weekends foraging was pretty pedestrian, but wonderful nonetheless. Hubby and daughter numero tres were walking down to hockey registration when they came upon a tree dripping with over-ripe crabapples and another one with massive, golden pears on it. So, they came home, strapped on some bags, grabbed me and off we went.
The pear tree was literally bowing down, begging people to pluck the heavy pears off of it.

One of the nice things about homes with old fruit trees in them is that they often have old people living there that can no longer pick them. We asked the owner for permission to pick her trees and ended up chatting with her for a while. She didn't want any, but suggested that she'd love some of the preserves I was going to make with them. Reminder to self: bring Beverly some canned pears.

We came home with bags and bags of fruit. I froze some, dried some, and preserved some. Even sweet hubby, tough guy that he is, was in the kitchen canning pears. He actually even confessed to liking it.

Our next assignment is acorns. I'm eyeing up those trees every day, waiting for the moment when they're just right, but before the squirrels figure that out too. Native Americans used to use acorns as flour. That's what I plan on doing too. Why buy crappy almond flour when you can make your own acorn flour? I'll keep you posted in Foraging in the City Part Deux. In the meantime, look up you never know what's there for the munching.


  1. So glad to see that you are blogging again. Yay!

    This sounds like such a great idea. As I write this, I'm eyeing an eyeing an apple tree across the street. Will you post a tutorial on canning?

  2. Hmmm... tutorial on canning. Um.. let me think about that one. I hesitate because I feel like I'm just learning too. I bet there's way better places to go for that. I did find a book at the library called, "Preserving without Sugar" that was helpful in making a light syrup with just a wee bit (1tsp) of honey per litre of fruit instead of the 5 cups of sugar they call for in the traditional sites.

  3. Thanks for the tip Tara. I just found out about a great program here called, The Calgary Urban Harvest Project (http://www.calgaryharvest.com). They collect fruit from local trees, and give it to the public for free or by donation. I made off with a bag of various apples and pears that will be turned into something delicious.

  4. Yah, I think there's harvesting organizations in most cities now. Thanks for putting that out there for people to read and research.