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!