Having grown up in a fairly rural area with a family that possessed both culinary adventurousness and ingenuity, I have a deep seated appreciation of foraging. While the things you can get in a more rural area in the Pacific Northwest are a little different than you can get in the suburbs of the San Francisco Bay area, all of California is really blessed with an abundance of edibles just waiting for the taking.
Over the past two years living in the ‘burbs, I’ve kept my eyes open to see what was around me. There really is a crazy amount around, if you’re just willing to look. Many people have fruit trees that are unmaintained, the fruit going to waste in their yard. If you just ask, they’ll often let you pick some. Other bushes grow over fences and onto the sidewalk. My general rule of thumb is, unless I’ve asked, it has to be A) obviously going to waste (lots of fallen fruit) and B) somewhat in the public domain (over sidewalks, on city land, etc.).
I don’t just walk into a random person’s yard without their permission and jack their peaches. In fact, that tends to anger me. We have a very nice, huge avocado tree in the front of our complex, but someone who didn’t speak much English was there with a professional fruit picking poll with the obvious intent of selling them for profit. Thus, even though I pay rent to live where I do, I don’t much get to enjoy the abundance of avocados on that ancient tree.
Anyway, since about September, I’ve been a bit more into documenting my foraging activities, so here are some pictures.
black mission figs and lemons, all in my shirt.
mission olives from my friend Ben's tree (turned out to be somewhat of a bust, thanks to olive fruit flies)
chanterelles near my parents' house
December was a little busy and full of rain, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time for foraging.
citrus critical mass: lemons, meyer lemons, yellow grapefruits, and mandarin oranges
To me, it almost seems crazy to buy fruit now, just because of the overabundance all around. There are a number of benefits to foraging: 1) You know where your food is coming from 2) A carbon footprint of near zero if you walk or bike 3) Most of these fruits are grown without pesticides 4) People with fruit trees in their yard also tend to get sick of the fruit after a while, and if you asked if you could take or buy some, they’d probably be pretty glad. One thing to keep in mind though, is to pick sustainably. This generally means being nice to the trees/bushes/fungi and not ripping them to shreds or beating them up, leaving some for others and so that the source can keep producing for years to come.
Anyway, I’m not going to tell you where my foraging locations are. That’s somewhat top-secret, just because if there are too many people hitting up the same trees, bushes, or mushrooming grounds, there just won’t be that much left! My best advice is to just wander around your neighborhood, get to know your neighbors, and keep your eyes open. There’s plenty out there waiting for you.
Any ideas on what I should do with all this citrus? :)