The Best Things in Life are Free

In these tough economic times, it seems most people are tightening the belt and trying to cut back on spending. And while the idea of foraging for food is gaining in popularity, I’m surprised that most people still don’t take advantage of the tasty things growing for free all around them.

I’m not quite sure when it started, but a few years back I became interested in the idea of foraging. Truthfully, it was probably due in no small part to the fact that the Mr. is pretty good at being able to identify edible things growing in the wild and in more urban areas, too. On many of our walks in Scotland, we’d find wild cherries and blackberries and happily gather them up and stuff them into our mouths and pockets. Some of my best memories of walks that we’d done together involved discovering patches of brambles or cherries growing in the wild. And then a couple of years ago, I came across an article in the paper about a new book being released:

The book is written by two women who live in Edinburgh, and know the local area and all the various things that can be foraged from it very well. I bought the book and became very excited about the possibilities. The problem with trying to forage from a book, however, is that you better be darned sure you know exactly what you’re doing. Or else. So I got even more excited when I discovered on their website that the authors were starting up “foraging day tours.” The one the Mr. and I signed up for would be focused primarily on foraging for mushrooms, something I had always wanted to do, but had never had the opportunity.

It was a brilliant day out. We went up to Tentsmuir Forest, and spent the first half of the day gathering all mushrooms (edible or non-edible) we could find. We then came all together at a cafe and went over what we had discovered. The lesson I learned was that the more disgusting the mushroom appeared, the higher the likelihood it’s edible. I also learned that a single days’ worth of training wouldn’t be enough when it came to mushrooms to know what I was doing before I’d do it on my own and not die. So while the Mr. and I still aren’t skilled enough to be able to forage for mushrooms on our own yet, we are pretty good at identifying edible fruit and nut trees, which is much, much easier.

Here in Würzburg, we’ve become very excited about the plenitude of fruit and nut trees that we’ve discovered, and no one else seems to be harvesting. Some of it is growing on the street or in parks, and some of it is dangling over the fence onto the sidewalk (which as we understand, makes it fair game as long as you aren’t “reaching over” the fence onto their property). But it’s astounding because even the fruit that’s growing in private yards seems to be totally ignored and left to fall off or rot on the ground. (And that sooo pains me…I just want to knock on their door and ask them if I can have their fruit if they’re just going to ignore it). So far on our street alone, we’ve found cherries, plums, elderberries, Mirabelle plums (which we’ve collected and eaten), as well as apples, hazelnuts and walnuts (which won’t come into season until later).This was our bounty from a walk we did today, so we didn’t even bother to buy fruit at the store:


Plums and Mirabelle plums

There’s more of all the above growing near where the Mr. walks everyday to work, too. And in the city center a couple of weeks ago, we discovered a mulberry tree full of ripe, juicy berries – totally untouched. The Mr.’s plan is to mark all these places on Google Earth so we’ll know where to go each year, and at the right time of year.

Although it puzzles me why more people aren’t taking advantage of nature’s bounty, we’re perfectly happy to fill our bags and stomachs until things really do get desperate enough for people to start appreciating what’s growing around them for free.


About bittenbythebug

I love travel and have always been fascinated by other cultures. Back in 2004, I began my life as an expat in Edinburgh, Scotland. Fast forward 5 1/2 amazing years later to 2010 and the new chapter in my expat adventure: Würzburg, Germany.
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3 Responses to The Best Things in Life are Free

  1. Lindsey says:

    I was just thinking that it had been a while since you posted! Foraging does sound interesting. It’s something I never really think about, although I remember when you went on that foraging walk in Edinburgh. Just be careful you don’t poison your dinner guests!

    • Ha! Funny you should say that. We just had some friends staying with us, and while we were out one day we found Mirabelle plums and offered them some. We joked later in the day that we don’t know *that* much about foraging, and they were like, “oh, great….” But Mirabelle plums we definitely know. Tom’s aunt and uncle have a ton of trees on their property, and they harvest them every year to make schnapps, etc.

  2. Bonnie says:

    That sounds great! There’s a chapter in Cathy Elway’s book (The Art of Eating In) about a foraging group in NYC. That involved some foraging like you’re talking about as well as foraging in trash thrown out by bakeries, grocery stores, etc. I found it really interesting.

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