Summer is the season for fruit! Except summer starts next week, so we’re still awaiting nature’s bounty.
The exception is black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis), which are the first cane fruit to ripen. Blackberries and wineberries won’t be far behind.
These black raspberries became accessible when a road crew “finally” (alas) mowed the roadside, reducing the chance of an unfortunate encounter with ticks and poison ivy. (Random mowing. Yet another reason why you shouldn’t count on roadside foraging.)
Recently, I found a wild pear (Pyrus pyraster) tree. The fruit doesn’t ripen until November, and remains small and gritty compared to cultivated pears. Rather than eating straight, their flavor is best enjoyed in infusions. Pear liqueur, anyone?
I also FINALLY found pawpaw (Asimina triloba) trees in the area. As is so often the case, they were there all along, I just didn’t know what I was looking for. The fruit should grow larger and turn yellow by August. I hope the weight of the fruit will help bring the branches closer to being within reach.
I am currently dreaming up a “food forest” for my front side yard, and pawpaws will play a role in the design. More on food forests in another post.
Deeper in the woods, female spicebush (Lindera benzoin) shrubs are starting to show berries. They will be ready to harvest when they turn red, much later in the summer and into the fall.
What I did not find in the woods: mayapple fruit! The lush carpet of mayapples had vanished. The few scraggly plants I could still find were too small for fruit, or the fruit was already gone. In two weeks, the entire harvest was just poof. Gone.
Not fruits, but still worth noting: yarrow & day lilies are finally flowering. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) made an appearance on this blog two months ago. This pretty herb is primarily used for tea, seasonings, or garnish. I am waiting for more flowers before I harvest any, so I can’t report on its flavor yet.
The shoots, flowers and tubers of day lilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are all edible, although some people find it upsets their digestive tracts. When introducing wild foods, you should always try a small sample first in case of adverse reactions.
Day lilies exemplify one of the main differences between foraged food and the industrial-agribusiness-grocery-stores. While they provide three different edible parts, the flowers (which are prime forage now) are each only available for a single day. You can’t really “plan” on having enough flowers on one day to feature as an appetizer for a dinner party. Nature doesn’t care about your hors d’oeuvre tray!