A Forager's Fall Harvest
Small treasures lie in the forest this time of year - if you know what to look for, your weekend stroll can turn into a day at the (organic) supermarket. Fall is known for bountiful, ripened harvests of fruits, nuts, green, herbs and even mushrooms. Foraging for wild food is simply learning to actually see and identify what is in your surrounding. Someone just out on a casual stroll through the woods might notice beautiful scenery, while someone out with the intent of foraging spots several food sources; it's all about perspective - what you want to get out of you journey. Forgive the philosophy, but much like life. Before you go out; do your research. Know what can be taken and eaten from specific locations, and know the poisonous varieties that grow in your region. Rule of thumb: If you're unsure, don't pick it.
Mushrooms are a typical find in the fall; So go mushroom picking. Chanterelles (also known as "forest gold") are commonly found, along with other mushroom varieties including giant puffballs, ceps, oyster mushrooms, hedgehog fungus, field blewits and horse or portobello mushrooms (these latter have poisonous look-alikes, so be cautious)
Apples. Thankfully ready in the fall, and surprisingly abundant if you're paying attention. If you don't have the luck to find any wild apple trees, local orchards will let you collect some fruits for a small fee.
Plums and Crab Apples. A killer combination. Great for jams, chutneys or even to be eaten raw. Both these fruits are known to have several vitamins and minerals in abundance. The plums can be preserved to keep through the winter by dehydrating them into prunes or by making plum wine (post coming soon). Crab apples can be identified by their distinct similarity to apples, yet miniaturized and unnervingly round.
Pick berries. Depending on where you live, these include blackberries, wild cherries, lingonberries, elderberries and mulberries.
Nuts and seeds ripen in the fall. And are nothing like their store-bought counterparts when collected fresh of the trees. Depending on your region walnuts and pecans can be more or less abundant. You'll be fighting the squirrels for these ones. Hazelnuts are found until late October, and can be harvested from the ground.
Sweet chestnuts also little the ground in mid-fall. Pick the right ones (others are horribly bitter, and unedible). Sweet chestnuts are great roasted on colder nights.
Pine nuts. An amazing, remarkably available nut. Once you've gathered several pine cones, heat them gently until they open (similar to a flower blossoming). Tap them upside down onto a plate, and pine nuts will simply fall out.
There are also several greens and herbs found in abundance year round. These may be less simple to identify - Dandelion and watercress being among our favourites.
During fall, you may also find several plants you are able to collect seeds from, to plant in your own garden in the coming spring. Don't hesitate to do so, as this can be a great way to expand your garden by using what naturally grows in your region.