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Favorites: Found Fruit

By Sandra Clark


I took a stroll through my instagram photos today (and you can too if you’re curious https://instagram.com/knifeforkswoon/ ) to figure what things I had figured were worth capturing and sharing lately. Those who know me and follow along on my largely domestic adventures are hardly surprised by the number of photographs of found fruit. Those who know me in real life know these pictures are just skimming the surfae of my addiction. I pick all the time, loads more than I document;  I’ve been doing this for years.

My first foraging was sweet: nipping the ends from honeysuckle blossoms and sucking the honeyed-floral nectar in droplets at each flower’s center. Divine.

The flowers sufficed for awhile. I would often snatch one as I walked by and enjoy the sweetness and redolent aroma of my childhood.Then I found something with more substance. Fruit. Fifteen years later in the center of San Francisco city I found blackberry bushes and then what has become my personal foraging paramount: sour cherries. I knew then that God loved me. Trees full of free sour cherries. The jam. The pies. The surprising lack of competition. I reluctantly told a few people about the treasure I had discovered, but no one else seemed to care or pick them.

Weeks ago, foraging tiny, magenta-fleshed cherry plums from a tree in front of the city public golf course I was stopped by a woman who asked what I was doing. I happily, generously announced my find and asked if she had tried them. She hadn’t. And she didn’t have any interest to try, she liked what she could buy at the grocery store. I felt sorry for her.

My favorite thing about foraging is not just the free factor, which is very, very good, but the adventure in it; trying something new, the hunt to find it, the thrill of having something I didn’t expect or garden. Flavors I can’t find elsewhere. The satisfaction of picking by myself, for myself. The wild nutrition in these wild edibles. And the exquisite delight of fresh flavors you can’t find at the grocery store.

I’m always on the lookout, keeping my eyes open to the world of flavors growing around me. And when I spot something I know is safe and it’s free for the picking, I’ll get right to it. I’ve foraged bushels and buckets and baskets of blackberries, mulberries, Juneberries, cherries, plums, cactus pears, figs, and grapes. Arm loads of lamb’s quarters and many happy handfuls of sorrel, sprigs of mint and so many chives.  I’m not sure why anyone would need to pay for rosemary in my neighborhood. Flowers I’ve found have scented my jams and gracefully garnished my dishes.

While the hope of finding more fruit to forage may be the most delicious part of my morning runs, it is the person foraging has made me that really tops my favorites list. I’m more engaged in the world around me, more observant, more connected and more aware of the passage of time and seasons. The flavors of the area are lodged in my memories. The world isn’t limited to the tastes at the grocery store, and thank heaven, the flavors and scenery is ever so much lovelier outside, even if they aren’t quite as reliable as the produce department.

Are you a forgager? What’s your favorite find?

About Sandra Clark

Sandra Clark Jergensen's writing (most often about food) has been published in Gastronomica, Apartment Therapy, The Exponent, and at Segullah, where she was once the Editor-in-Chief, and now as Features Editor. Sandra geeked out on food and writing as a master's student food studies at University of Texas, Arlington. She makes her home in California where she runs without shoes, foster parents, teaches cooking, develops recipes, and struggles to take pictures with her eyes open, and sometimes all at the same time. She is the owner and creator of thekitchennatural.com.

6 thoughts on “Favorites: Found Fruit”

  1. What stops me is not knowing if it's free for the taking. How can you know? Not in an accusing way, but in a "help me be a forager too" way.

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  2. Parks and green spaces are a best bet. I find most things while I'm out running or hiking. When it's somewhere you might wonder if you can forage like a parking lot or office or apartment building landscape, you can always ask. I consider it a public service pick fruit that would otherwise splatter on the sidewalk or lawn and usually propose it as such.

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  3. I was told that in CA, at least, if fruit is hanging over the sidewalk or in the median, it is free to pick. I hope that is right, because I, like you, enjoy found fruit very much. Here is Oakland, it is often lemons (and sometimes people will just put out bags that say free to take on their sidewalk) or plums. I wish that would happen more often because if there is one thing I can not stand, it is seeing fruit rotting beneath a tree. I think that most people do not realize that fruit that has ripened on the tree or vine tastes much better than any fruit you can buy in the store. Even better than farmer's market fruit. It is the best!

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  4. JP- amen. Nothing is better than peaches warm and ripe from the tree. And yes- that is the protocol here too unless there is a sign otherwise.

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  5. My kids are wild about harvesting chestnuts at a local park, I wonder if I can find ways to branch out and still involve them. (Because a) chestnuts hold up wonderfully well to toddler manhandling, and b) parks are relatively easy places to keep kids out of trouble – I could see complications with messier treasures or less forgiving places.)

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