How many wild food sources can you spot in this pic? Hint: I put the orange ribbon there for a reason:
It’s hard to identify some things this time of year, but it’s also easier to see deeper into the brush. I would encourage you to learn bark, growth habits, habitat, and winter features for the purpose of identifying wild food sources. Then you can go back when the free food is ready and find it easily!
I took this picture of a small strip of a forest edge really close to our house to demonstrate how abundant wild edibles are. We just have to look!
How many did you find? Scroll down to see a picture with identifying markers and details on the wild foods a few dozen yards from my house!
a) Persimmon trees. Persimmons are usually either male or female. About 20% of wild specimens produce fruit. The ripe fruit is among the sweetest wild foods in the world.
b) Mulberry tree. There are three more saplings below and to the right not pictured. Mulberries are my third favorite berry. Considered by some a weed tree, I treasure the food they give. I will, however, attempt to move this one. If it were to produce fruit, it could fall on and stain vehicles. I root-pruned it last fall; I intend to move it to our orchard.
c) Hazelnut bushes. There are 7-8 in this pic alone. Hazelnuts are delicious, healthy, ubiquitous, and free!
d) Elderberry bush. Elderberries are prized for medicine, wine, mead, and jelly. They are extremely easy to identify by the lenticles or “warts” on their bark.
e) Wild grape vine. We call them “possum grapes.” They are used to make jelly and wine. The vines are collected to make wreaths and other decorative items.
f) Raspberry. My favorite berry! Wild raspberries are soooo much better than store-bought. I’d like to make jam or wine sometime, but they’re too good and we eat them as soon as we pick them.
g) Maple tree. Not only are they beautiful in the fall, they give us sap for syrup, seeds, and one of my favorite woods for smoking meat.
h) Redbud tree. Everyone can identify these in the spring. The vibrant pink/purple flowers line roads and field edges with splendid beauty. Those beautiful flowers? They’re edible. Depending on the tree and the level of sunlight they receive, the flowers can be a bit sweet. They make for beautiful salads and offer them a hint of freshness. We make gorgeous redbud pancakes–just throw a handful in the batter.
i) Blackberry. My second favorite berry produces my favorite jam. I’ve had everything sweet you’d ever want to put on a biscuit, but our humble blackberry jam is the absolute best. They also make for great fresh eating, cobbler, mead, and a favorite wine.
j) Wild rose. Yes, they’re annoying, but these thorny vines/bushes produce rose hips, which can be used to flavor tea, mead, and other drinks.
k) Walnut. Depending on the tree, you can find large, delicious, easy-ish to crack walnuts for free every other year or so.
Not pictured, but within sight from where I snapped the pic: pawpaw trees, spice bush, and autumn olive bushes.
There’s plenty to find out there–go searching!