Tame Foraging: Collecting Unwanted Items for Free

In these tame foraging tips for ambitious homesteaders, you'll learn where to find freely grown food and how to snag gently used and unwanted items for free.

| July/August 1971

  • Yard Debris
    Tame foraging items found by homesteaders including free fruit, nuts, and lawn clippings.

  • Yard Debris

Foraging in the wild for fruits, nuts and greens is a great way to keep plenty of the real stuff in your menus. But there are many earth things to be found in tame places, too. Here, for starters, are some of our lucky finds. Not that your discoveries will duplicate ours . . . but isn't that the fun of it . . . you never know what you might find. Be open and ready for whatever —something good is sure to turn up!

The Arboretum  

Usually found only in cities, arboretums have varied and exotic plantings of trees and shrubs. Often there are fruit trees with their fruit rotting on the ground, eaten only by wasps. We've picked up bags full of delicious apples and pears from the ground under old fruit trees in a ,Philadelphia arboretum. Nuts can be gathered here too . . . black walnuts, hickory nuts, beech nuts, butternuts, Chinese chestnuts.

And, for your craft work, there are often unusual cones and pods for use in making dried arrangements, earth wreaths and such. You wouldn't wrench these from the live tree, of course, but they can be found on the ground when dried and loosened by frost.

City And Town Parks And Streets  

Next time you cruise around town, LOOK at the trees. Chances are you'll find black walnut, hickory, maybe Chinese chestnut trees as curbside plantings. The true forager learns to spot these trees out of season and returns with containers when the time and the nuts are ripe. And there are usually wild cherries, blackberries and many edible greens in the parks. Euell Gibbons once made a full meal of food foraged in New York's Central Park.

Much city-tamed wild food goes begging because the average city resident doesn't realize it's edible. We've found fine clumps of purslane (eaten in India for thousands of years) in patches of curbside weeds. Burdock, lamb's quarter, dandelion, sorrel, chickweed and chicory are other examples of wild fare that can almost always be found within city limits.

Small Towns 

Small towns are gold mines for the tame forager, too. Elderberries and blackberries grow by the railroad tracks, cattails in the swampy "waste places", milkweed in vacant lots. Since seeds often hitch rides on trains, the right-of-way along a railroad track is an excellent foraging ground and offers a wide variety of plant life.


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