Monday, May 30, 2016

Foraging and Gardening, and Combining the Two

On Friday, I taught a private foraging class to a teenager with Autism; it was his second foraging class |(in the space of two weeks) since he enjoyed the first one so much. My kids came along, and together, we found some awesome stuff!

The first thing we found was some purslane, which is one of my favorite wild edibles, as it is delicious, versatile, and fleshy, which offers a nice change from the standard foraged goodies that are just thin leaves. I used that to make a salad that was popular with all the family- purslane, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, lemon, and salt.

After that, the next thing we collected together was pine nuts. The season is starting now, and you can easily collect a bunch in one go if you know what to look for. I shared here about how to know which is the right type of pine cone which would indicate that it's worth looking for pine nuts, the kind pictures below...

...But I'll be honest, lately foraging pine nuts doesn't usually work that way for us. What happens is that I, or my kids, spot pine nuts on the ground, look up, and see a pine tree above us, and then via hunting around, spot that type of pine cone. 

This is the season that it is easiest to find them, as they just fell down from the tree. When they fall, they are covered in a black soot, that makes them noticeable especially against a light background, like this sidewalk.

Once one or two are spotted, the hunt begins. The general area where you found the first one or two is fair game. Down hill a bit from the tree is especially easy to find them, as well as between plants, trees, and other obstacles.

Can you spot the pine nuts in the picture above?

How about here?

This should be an easier one.

How many did you spot? All 6, two in each of the previous three pictures?

Treasure hunting for pine nuts is great fun! But, this time of year especially, your hands get quite dirty from it, from all the soot.

Here is our loot that the kids and I collected from beneath one tree in a short amount of time.

You'll see some of them are darker, some lighter. The lighter ones were in Lee's pocket, where much of the soot came off. If you collect pine nuts a little later in the season, not immediately after they fell out of the tree, they'll look more like that, most of the soot off of it already, making it harder to spot them among the pine needles and dirt on the ground.

Another thing I found while foraging were these wild alliums (onion/garlic family), gone to seed. (Yes, that is an ice plant/hottentot fig plant in the background.)

I have been trying to spot seeds of these wild allium plants but never manage to see them. Reason being, that in our yard of our future home, I plan on seeding them with lots of wild seeds, of a variety that I want to be able to forage. I plan on removing any problematic plants (thorny, etc...) and just have a variety of edible plants that are tasty and non obtrusive, to allow my kids to play there while still having goodies that can be foraged. Alliums were on my list of plants whose seeds I wanted to scatter there, so when I saw these, you betcha I collected as many as I could find.

When I got home, I broke up the plants and put them into a wide, shallow pan. This allowed the heavier seeds to drop to the bottom and I was able to remove the stems more easily.

After removing the big stems, I still had some little stems left with the seeds. You can see the seeds here, looking like little black sesame seeds.

I put what was in this picture into a sieve, and what I got left with was mainly seeds and some chaff. I have to winnow to separate the two, but that will have to be another day.

What remained behind still has some seeds in it, which need to be separated from the flower heads they're still in. I probably will do that by placing it in a bag and pounding it with a rolling pin, but we'll see. I may have to do it by hand.

Speaking of seeds, the other day I also collected some seeds of wall rocket, a wild cousin of arugula, which I plan on writing up about, just as soon as I find my pictures of the plants that I took. I have only ever seen it growing in one small area in our nearest city, no where else, despite the fact that this plant is supposed to be very widespread in my country and around to world. Therefore, I decided to collect some seeds and try to spread them out a little bit in my community, and also to grow in my own yard. 

These seeds are quite tiny, and easy to lose, so I decided to not winnow them or try to separate them from their pods or stems...

Here the seeds are, the ones that separated on their own. But there still are many in the pods.

I am going to hope that these seeds take off, because I really love wall rocket!

And now an update on my window boxes! This mint is doing beautifully, already growing well enough that we can harvest from it and not worry about damaging it.

There's a volunteer something in that planter too, no idea what it is, but my suspicion is that it is either a type of squash or melon, but in general something in the Cucurbitaceae family (melon, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash family).

My purslane is growing like mad as well, but still not big enough to harvest... I have to work on my patience!

As I mentioned before, I have some volunteer tomato plants as well, they're also doing well. But there are still a few unidentified plants there- I suspect that they may actually be spinach, which, of all the plants, is the only thing that seems to be growing that I'd intended to grow in the first place... I could be wrong, we'll have to see when it is bigger.

I've been having so much fun foraging! Today I want to go out and forage some more mulberries as well as cactus paddles; mulberries to make fruit crumble or chutney, and cactus paddles to use in a salad my family loves, with chickpeas, tomatoes, and olives, all recipes that I want to include in my foraging cookbook, Penniless Foodie in the Wild, that I'm working on.

Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll also get wild spinach seeds and dock seeds today, also to seed my garden. But no guarantees for that.

Those of you who forage, what have you been foraging lately? Those of you that garden, what have you grown or harvested lately? Have you ever managed to seed wild plants in new areas? What tips can you give me in order to do that successfully?


  1. I don't forage. I will never forage, but it's fun to hear about your foraging adventures and your enthusiasm. The only wild plants we have are cherry tomatoes plants that seemed to pop up in our flower beds from nowhere. We are assuming a bird dropped a seed ( or we threw a cherry tomato off the deck) We get about 4-6 wild cherry tomato plants each year with tons of cherry tomatoes.

  2. Love to here about your successes. I have been finding wild pie cherries, thimble berries, lemon balm,fennel, mint and daisies. I wished pine nuts grew here.

  3. Hi Penny. Sorry to join in so late. Have you changed your foraging kit over the years? The missus and I carry bumbags with gloves, secateurs, mesh bags (billums), plastic doggy poop bags (free in every park!), plastic trowels, small ziplok bags and a few first aid things - insect repellant, bandaids, etc. I also carry a large mesh onion bag, some string & a folding pruning saw. We are tropical foragers and have a wealth of good eats available. Not just coconuts!


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