Who needs a farmer’s market, when you have nature’s market. That’s what I say! As an example, we are nearing the time when many Nebraska wild, native fruits and berries are ready to be picked, eaten in the field, or made into jams, jellies, pies, cobblers, syrups and wines. The fruits/berries of crab apple, chokecherry, ground cherry, sand cherry, gooseberry, blackberry, elderberry, buffalo berry, currant, wild grape and plum all should now be checked and monitored in your region for ripeness.
Of course, mulberries are available.
A prairie treat, sand cherries are very close to being ripe.
Later this summer crab apples will be ready for harvest.
I’ve always enjoyed picking crab apples.
Before setting out on a wild berry or fruit gathering adventure make certain you have landowner permission and the plants you are planning to harvest have not been sprayed with harmful chemicals. Always confirm the identity of the wild fruit or berry before you pick or eat anything. Familiarize yourself with a good field guide. This is where a veteran berry-picker becomes an invaluable resource. Also, if you see a bird eating a wild berry, don’t assume that berry is safe to eat. Birds eat many wild berries that are toxic to humans. Birds and humans aren’t the only ones who eat wild foods. Be sure to make some noise to alert other nibbling critters, such as fur-bearing animals and snakes, of your presence.
By all means involve kids in the harvest of these various fruits and berries, too, plus making goodies out of them. The kids will have a blast! I speak from experience. Some of my fondest memories as a child were picking plums in the thickets of our family farm with my Grandma Hintz around Labor Day and then going to her house to make plum jelly. Mmm – good! Foraging for wild edibles is among those wonderful family activities that help foster an appreciation of nature. So, why not begin a wild edible picking tradition with your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews!
Here’s a fun to make, tasty recipe for crab apple jelly. Try it this summer!
Crab Apple Jelly
1 ice cream pail of crab apples
1 pkg. Sure-Jel or Sure-Jel light
Canning, jars, lids, rings
Pick and rinse crab apples. Put in large pan with enough water to totally cover the crab apples. Boil slowly for ½ to 1 hour. Strain crab apples and water until all sediment is gone. Let fruit juice cool down. (Crab apples can be tossed.) Prepare Sure-Jel according to recipe on box. Add jelly mixture, pour in canning jars.