Spring is a great time to take food foraging hikes. I grew up in a rural area and learned to recognize some edible foods as we ranged on our 200 acre farm. I love the idea of food foraging, because that is exactly what happens — you find food growing in unusual places and definitely not planted by the land owner and not necessarily cultivated either, but they come back year after year. A classic example are wild berries. Our tiny yard (in comparison to a rural farm) has acquired some berries and we did not plant them. But we are enjoying their harvest because I recognize them as an edible fruit and have made the effort to search them out.
When hunting for berries, I do several things: first I wear gloves that are flexible enough to feel the berries so I don’t squash them. A long sleeve shirt will minimize briar scratches on your arms and exposure to mosquitoes or other biting insects. I also wear knee-high boots to minimize bug or other animal bites while standing in unknown ground and I carry a container with a lid to hold the berries without spilling before I get back home.
We gathered enough berries from our yard to which we added some frozen blueberries and cherries to cook up two cobblers. The flavor of such a treat motivated me to look beyond my yard. Not far from our home is a cemetery with a chain-link fence. We drove by it the other day and realized that it was another unusual place for berries. They were large enough that we spotted them from the car. Yesterday’s walk took me and my basket (with a plastic container so as not to stain the inside of our basket) back to the fence-line. I walked the fence-line three times each time finding more berries. I know they didn’t hide from me the first time and then sneak out for me to catch them on a second or third pass, but somehow it felt like that because I thought I had searched diligently the first time by. This food foraging trip acquired 2 pints of dew/blackberries. We will be able to make at least one more berry cobbler or freeze them for later.
Biscuit Topper: Sift together
1 Cup sifted all-purpose flour
3 Heaping Tbs sugar (adjust to how you like it) we like it cake-like
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Cut 1/4 cup butter into mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs
Combine 1/4 cup milk and 1 slightly beaten egg
Add all at once to dry ingredients, stirring just to moisten. Set aside.
Combine 2 pints berries with canned pineapple chunks, blueberries and cherries (or all berries if you have them) add 4 oz can pineapple juice and 1/2 cup water. Cook to boiling and slowly reduce. Add 2 TBS sugar. Test for sweetness. We like it tart. Add 2 tsp corn starch and 1/4 cup juice mixed together to make a slurry. Continue to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Spread into 9×12″ casserole. Drop biscuit topper randomly by tablespoons over top of fruit mixture. Bake at 400º F oven for 25 minutes. Check for golden brown topper. Remove from oven and allow to cool (as long as you can wait). Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
* Adapted from Better Homes & Garden The New Cookbook (vintage edition ©1968)
Billie Nicholson, Editor