Picking Wild Berries
Foraging is a hot new trend – and is quickly becoming a way of life for many people. Perhaps no other type of foraging is so appealing to such a wide variety of people than picking wild berries. And no wonder; wild berries are scrumptious, as fresh as they get, free, and highly nutritious! What’s not to like?
Know Your Berries
Before you go foraging, it’s vital to make sure you can properly identify edible berries. Not every wild berry is safe for human consumption, and many are not all that tasty. A good foraging guide for your general area is helpful in narrowing down the possibilities. Better yet, get together with someone who’s been foraging berries for years. Never eat any wild plant or berry unless you are absolutely certain you’ve identified it properly.
What to Bring
Those of us who love to forage always have a few bags in the car, in our pockets, or in our purse – and ordinary plastic or cloth bags work fine for berry picking, too. (Just be aware that berries are bound to stain cloth bags.) Buckets with handles are the preference of many people, but make sure they aren’t too big. If you fill a large bucket with berries, the berries on top will crush the ones on the bottom. Besides, large buckets of berries are also very heavy. Instead, opt for several smaller containers.
It’s also smart to wear a long sleeved shirt and pants, since many wild berries have thorns. Also bring along some wet hand wipes, to clean your berry-stained hands when the picking is over.
Where to Pick
It’s fine to forage berries in an urban area. Just make sure you’re not on someone else’s property (or you’ll be stealing). Berries that overhang the sidewalk are a gray area, but it’s generally a good idea to find somewhere else to pick. Also, be aware that some briars and bushes may have been sprayed with chemical weed killers.
You can also find berries in wilderness areas. Just make sure you’re on public land.
What to Do With Them
Most of the common berries, like strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, are terrific eaten fresh. Put them in cereal, yogurt, or cool drinks. Or add them to pancakes and muffins, crisps and pies. Other wild berries are generally more palatable with cooked with other, sweeter berries, or with added sugar. You’ll know ‘em when you taste ‘em! Use these for baked desserts and jams.