When I was a kid, every fall, usually on a cool sunny day, my family would head to a meadow just down the road to pick the fallen fruit from several quince trees. We’d fill baskets and buckets with the golden fruit. Sure, those hard quince weren’t perfect–in fact there were lots of blemishes and yes, worm holes. But they glowed and smelled so fragrant that to this day, when I think of fall, I think of those gorgeous trees with the fruit that gave us quince jam and fruit candy all year long.
Another collecting jaunt was made on some of our hikes through forested parks. We’d be on the lookout for chives, or schnittlauch as my Swiss mom would call it. When we spied the grassy looking leaves, we’d pick them, bag them, and bring them home to be cut up and frozen for flavoring soups, stews, and potatoes with their gentle oniony taste.
Come to think of it, we foraged quite a bit: apples, gooseberries, blackberries, pears, dandelion leaves (not my favorite as a kid!) persimmons, plums, strawberries, blueberries, and walnuts are some of the things that come to mind. Oh, and on those hot summer days on the Chesapeake Bay, we’d wade out at low tide and scoop up blue crabs and oysters for dinner.
Maybe it’s harder to find as much now, but I’ve got my go-to spots for plums and blackberries. And then there are the generous people who share their bumper crops like my friend and neighbor with a prolific pear tree. During the fall, she fills bags of these pears and lines them up as offerings to all the neighbors who walk on the green space paths behind her house. They always disappear quickly! Or the neighbor who leaves a box of the most delicious tart apples at their curb with a friendly sign telling us to take what we like.
If you’re interested in sharing your own bounty, the Portland Fruit Tree project collects the fruit and, in true community spirit, distributes it to those who need it most.
Or if you want to swap your extra produce, check out PDX Swappers.
Wild Food Adventures is a comprehensive site devoted to learning about how to forage for your food in North America.
Interested in knowing where you can pick for yourself in the Portland area? Check out Urban Edibles where they steer you to actual sources of free food with a map marking specific spots as well as foraging information and a discussion list to exchange ideas and info. And I have to say, I really love the blurb from their website: “Urban Edibles is a cooperative network of wild food foragers. By creating awareness about what is available in our neighborhoods, we hope to re-establish the connection between people, environment and food.”