Foraging for edible goods

There’s an ongoing debate about whether growing your own food in your backyard is really profitable (in terms of money – there’s no doubt it’s healthy, educational and satisfying). If you are aiming for a productive vegetable garden that will reduce your grocery bill, it is important to stay focused on the goal, as with the prices of seeds/plants, potting soil and water, the scale really may tip.

Fortunately, no such considerations exist when it comes to foraging for wild-growing bounty – whether actually wild plants or domesticated species that grow in your area with little to no help from anyone. There’s no excuse not to pick up good food that is right there for the taking!

Every fall, our family gathers olives to pickle, from trees that had been once planted by someone but are now untended. There’s also a bounty of grapes, pomegranates, figs and carobs – all plants that grow well locally, require minimal water and care, and keep producing almost without effort once they are up and going. There are also old, productive pecan trees most people don’t bother with, because they like their pecans shelled and neatly packaged.

Figs are my favorites – they are easy to pick and process, delicious eaten fresh or made into jam or pie filling, and I love them dried, too, though I have not yet been able to gather enough for drying.


Photo: the first figs of the season are ripe, and there are plenty more to come!

Furthermore, in many urban neighborhoods there are citrus trees planted for decorative purposes, which are actually insanely productive. Most people don’t bother picking those oranges and grapefruits because they somehow think the effort is beneath them or just not worth it. A year and a half ago, we spent a memorable morning picking miniature oranges. Though January, it was a warm day, and I was fagged soon – no wonder, as my son Israel was born a little more than 24 hours later! The oranges kept in the refrigerator for several weeks without spoiling, and they were still in perfectly good condition when I finally recovered from giving birth and found the time to make jam out of them.

Another local fruit to be picked around here for free is the prickly pear, an introduced species that has done so well in Israel it has become one of the symbols of the country. It grows practically everywhere, and its season is almost here now. Those who live in Western US and Mexico are surely familiar with it as well.

In every area of the world there is some wild food growing free for the taking, to be enjoyed by all who can appreciate the thrill of getting delicious goodies with very little effort: greens, fruit, nuts, berries, mushrooms. So why not pick up a basket and go exploring? Lots of fresh produce is waiting out there, all for free.

By the way… I am now on Earthineer. You can find me there as SmallFlocksMom. I’d love to connect with you! 


Author: Anna

An Orthodox Jewish wife and mother enjoying a simple life with her family and chickens, somewhere in the hills, in Israel.

13 thoughts on “Foraging for edible goods”

  1. Just started reading your blog and love to read what you have to say! I live in Arizona, but my family is from southern, coastal Spain where prickly pear also flourishes. These past few years my mother has prepared prickly pared “green beans” for family members who had never had prickly pared pad cooked a la Mexico. Delicious! Second helpings all around. My father has often said that it is funny that they would often harvest pads as food for the animals, but we’re never as hungry or daring as the American Natives tribes to eat them themselves. The ignorance of not taking advantage of a food source in there midst!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carolina, thanks for stopping by! Indeed, so much good food just goes to waste. Just yesterday we drove by an awesome orange tree covered with ripe fruit. Nobody bothered to pick it and some of the oranges had already fallen down to the ground and rotted. What a pity. I do wish we could have stopped for some harvesting.


  2. I’ve been reading your blog, off and on, for over ten years, and I love the new format! I’m so glad to see you becoming a more professional blogger because you’re a great writer.

    We have many apple trees around our suburban neighborhood, and most people don’t bother to harvest them. We used to go around and ask to pick them, and people always said “yes” because they didn’t want them falling on their lawns. Thanks for the reminder to gather the free food, and to also do the work of drying, canning, and freezing.


    1. Marie Claire, thank you for your kind words and for following my blog so faithfully! If I had access to a decent quantity of free apples, I’d love to try making cider. Good quality cider is hard to find and expensive.


  3. Certain vegetables are definitely worth planting in the own garden. I’m thinking about courgettes. They are very expensive here when bought at the supermarket, but in the garden, they can grow so fast!
    I would love to be able to grow figs around here. Just last week we bought 2 figs for 2€…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Miu, definitely. Some vegetables are more worth to invest in – those which are expensive in your area, those which lose freshness very quickly, or those you particularly like. For example, slaving away for potatoes or onions just doesn’t make sense for me, as these are so cheap and good at the store. Tomatoes, on the other hand, are a different story. It seems like one time out of every three we either don’t have enough tomatoes because they are so expensive, or their quality is unsatisfactory (taste like plastic).


  4. I do love zucchini (courgettes) and in the States the yare generally pretty inexpensive. I have a dish I make with green and yellow squash, along with red sweet bell peppers that is a great side dish. Sauté the peppers, cut into square pieces, for a few moments, and then add the thinly sliced squash. A bit of butter or oil and a splash of soy sauce, and you have some gooood eating.
    Zucchini do grow so fast in the garden! Our eldest daughter had one “get lost” under her back porch and her husband has to take off the lattice work to get it out. The thing would have fed a family of four for a week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love zucchini too! They are so versatile. They go in soups, quiches, fritters, and even bread and cakes. Perhaps we should try growing some next year, though they are pretty inexpensive here too.


  5. I’m sorry, but I’m just so troubled by the fact that you refer to those olive trees as abandoned. Is this really true? Weren’t they planted by displaced Palestinians? Am I wrong about this?
    And why don’t you ever, ever mention Palestinians?
    Thank-you. I truly ask only because I really want very much to know.


    1. The land we live on had been lawfully purchased by a Jewish man from Arabs who were quite willing to sell. The olive groves in our surroundings consist of very ancient trees that appear to have been uncultivated for decades.

      I do not use the term “Palestinians” because I consider it an euphemism designed to give legitimacy to a made-up nation of Arabs with no real history or cultural connection. So I use the term Arab, or Bedouin in relevant cases.


  6. Thank-you. I am from a blended family of admittedly secular Jews and Catholics, so I appreciate your willingness to reply. I’m glad to hear your info about your land and trees – they are probably some of the most ancient trees on Earth.
    I won’t argue with you, because I can see that we will never agree. But I must just say that with all of your insight into human nature, it makes me sad to read your reference to any human beings as having no history or cultural connection.
    Shalom from Claire


    1. Claire, thank you for your reply. I do believe every human being has a history or a cultural connection. Arabs residing in Israel do have a cultural heritage – as Arabs. “Palestinian” is, in historical perspective, a newly coined term and a cleverly used hoax.
      If you wish to continue this discussion, you are most welcome to email me, as I try in general to steer clear of political topics when blogging (although I do realize that my very identity and place of residence are a political statement).


  7. Please feel free not to approve this reply, as it does extend this exchange further than you indicated was your preference. I won’t be offended!
    I just want to thank you for the invitation to email you. Your last point is so astute. This issue is an agonizing one for me and for everyone in my large, extended family. But I’ll only write if I think it can be productive, because the same painful arguments have been extended by both sides for so long.
    Congratulations on the success of your blog.


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