11 Must-try ways to preserve elderberries

We’ll be picking wild elderberries soon, and after we get them off the stems we’ll need to cook with them or preserve them. This article is about preserving them for later. Why preserve them? According to Wildman Steve Brill: “Avoid unripe, green berries–they’ll get you sick. Even raw ripe elderberries make some people nauseous. Cooking or drying dispels the offending […]


What is urban foraging anyway? 2

I consider myself an urban forager, and many people have asked me exactly what I mean by that. To me, urban foraging is more than just walking through the woods (although that’s definitely a part of it). And it’s more than just wandering through town looking at people’s yards and gardens. First, let me say what it is not (at […]


12 Ways to preserve your pears

The pears are falling from the trees, so it’s time to collect as many as you can and put them up for the winter. Here’s a roundup of ideas I’ve tried (or will be trying very soon!) Pear butter, crockpot style Pear butter, stovetop style Freezing pears in syrup Spicy pear preserves Canning pears in syrup Pear sauce with spices […]


The wily wild plum 1

I took my children to Lake Shetek State Park in southwestern Minnesota today, and while chatting with the Park Ranger she mentioned there was a plum tree in the park, but she didn’t know where. We had a quest! We drove along the gravel roads, and I happened to look over at the right moment and spotted a tree with […]


Making your own fruit picker 1

The main problem I have with fruit trees is that they very seldom stop growing at 8′ tall. Most of the best looking harvest is far above that, so I need a way to extend my reach. Enter the fruit picker. I have a very old one my father passed on to me, and it works. That’s about all I […]


On cider, scrumpy, and Scotland

I was chatting with my friend Polly from Glasgow, Scotland (imagine Craig Ferguson’s accent, but prettier. A lot prettier.), and I mentioned that we had given our children some apple cider. She was horrified. “Ye do that with your weans?” I told her cider is no big deal, and she pointed out that cider is alcoholic. I said “That’s hard […]


Making use of wild plums

I’ve written before about how to find the wily wild plum. Once you’ve located them and picked your fill (with your homemade fruit picker, of course), you’ll need to find a way to make use of your bounty. Here are a few ideas. Click on the blue links for the associated recipes. Preserving them Canning wild plums (and some recipes) […]


Feral foraging: not-quite-wild fruit 2

Have you ever driven down the road and spotted an apple tree on an empty piece of land? That’s what I like. Finding an old farm, or where a house used to be, anywhere people planted fruit in the past but are no longer around to harvest it. I’ve even come up with a name for picking fruit from those […]


How to ID that unknown apple 1

We’ve been acquiring a lot of apples lately, and some of them are just plain mysteries. They’re either from old properties, gifts, or sometimes it’s just from “that tree in the yard”. A local man sells apples in his driveway, and one of his varieties is called “Tree #2” because when he bought the house 60 years ago, it was […]


A peck of peppers (pickled and preserved)

A friend recently gifted us with a bag of peppers from her garden. She had used all she could, and decided it was time to “share the wealth”. We snapped them up. To be fair, there wasn’t quite a peck. A peck is actually 2 gallons, or 1/4 of a bushel. But it was a fair amount. The assortment included […]


Rediscovering “lost” apples

It can be nearly impossible to identify unknown apples, especially feral ones. There are a few ways to narrow it down, but Seed Savers Exchange orchard manager Dan Bussey is writing a book about 20,000 named apple varieties in the US, and there are probably many more out there that are lost to time. And yet, grocery stores only carry […]


Getting orchard apples for a fraction of the price 1

Do you want to try some high-end apples at bargain basement prices? Culled apples are the way to go! In my article about urban foraging, I mentioned asking produce sellers for “canning” or “freezing” grade fruits and vegetables, which are the “not-so-perfect” ones. Some orchards do the same thing with apples — they’re called the “culls”, and they’re a fraction […]

why you should avoid conventional grocery stores

Minnesota State Parks: A forager’s dream! 1

Foraging on public lands may or may not be legal, depending on the location. In Minnesota, though, it is always legal in state parks and state forests. I had always heard that it was, but I wanted to make sure so I searched through Minnesota’s laws until I located it. It’s Minnesota Administrative Rule 6100.0900 (2) (E). 6100.0900 ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION. […]


Apple foraging in action

While 2014 wasn’t a good year for mulberries or acorns, it was a banner year for apples. We had many more than we could possibly process, and had to leave some trees untouched. We have over 400 pounds of apples (about 8 bushels) either already processed or waiting, with more on the way. They were gathered from friends, farms, and […]


Finding next year’s asparagus 2

May is when you’ll be harvesting wild asparagus, but the time to find it is now! Starting in June and July, wild asparagus grows tall. It branches out and goes to seed, looking very much like a spindly Christmas tree (complete with little red and green seed ball decorations). If you know what you’re looking for, you can pick it […]


New test kit detects toxins in wild mushrooms 1

Have you always wanted to forage for wild mushrooms but you were afraid of accidentally collecting a poisonous variety? A new crow-funded invention could change all that. Most would-be mushroom hunters are generally discouraged from the hobby when introduced to the activity without the aid of an experienced mushroom hunter or guide in fear of consuming a poisonous species of […]


It’s time to make maple syrup 1

It’s getting to be that time of year for those of us who live in the right climate — maple syrup time! Our family has been tapping trees for many years now and it’s something we really look forward to. We don’t have sugar maple trees on our own property, so we help out at the Sugarbush Boil-Off at Lake […]


Tap your own maple water for a refreshing healthy drink

It’s maple tapping time, but did you know you can get more from maple trees than just maple syrup? Companies are now marketing maple water as the next health drink, and you can go tap your own for free. Bettersweet, one company that sells maple water, says: One ingredient. 35 simple calories with the perfect hint of sweetness. It not […]


Maple syrup can help save your life

Everyone knows that real maple syrup is delicious and nutritious, but now it turns out it may help fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well. It’s been known for a while that maple syrup is good for your health in many ways, including nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium and 54 different antioxidants. It’s much healthier than sugar, and best […]


It’s asparagus time! 1

The wild asparagus has finally arrived in our part of Minnesota. It was late this year, and we had checked for weeks with no sign. But when an asparagus spear appeared in our garden, we knew it was time to look again. We had our previous patches marked on our map, and as they turned into “christmas trees” in June […]


Finding spring asparagus

While it’s easier to find asparagus in the summer or late fall (when it’s too late to harvest), you can find it in the spring as well… if you know what you’re looking for. The spears of asparagus are nearly impossible to see from the road, unless they’re so tall they’re starting to go to seed. But the dried stalks […]


10 great ways to use wild asparagus

It’s harvest season for wild asparagus, and here are 10 ways to enjoy it now or preserve it for later. First, unless you’re using the entire stem, you’ll need to process it. Break off the bottom inch or so — if the stem is too woody, it will bend instead of snapping cleanly. You can also cut it with a […]


It’s time to find elderberries

It’s the middle of June, and the elderberries are beginning to flower. This is the easiest time of year to find them! The University of Minnesota extension office says: The common or American elderberry is a shrub growing from 4 to 12 feet tall. It is found in moist soils along roadsides, ditches, streams, and in fields. It has creamy […]


Use Google Maps to mark your foraging spots 5

Have good foraging spots but forget where they are from year to year? See something promising by the side of the road and want to check it out later? Google Maps is the answer! I don’t have a handheld device with GPS (I’m too old to be learning new tricks), but this works perfectly. I just make a note of […]


Cooking With Kids

Even toddlers can help out in the kitchen!  It’s important for children to learn to cook meals and snacks — and they just plain like it. When families cook together, everybody benefits.  Kids learn skills they’ll need for a lifetime, mealtimes are more enjoyable, kids are more likely to sample more foods, it’s a wonderful way to pass on families […]