Wild Food Foraging: Apples, Chufa, Grapes and Wild Rice

James E. Churchill writes about wild foraging for apples, chufa, grapes and wild rice.

| November/December 1970

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    This is the way you'll find May apples in the field.
    Photo by James Churchill
  • Wild grapes
    While gathering May apples you might now and then notice a gleam of blue from vines that twine overhead around the branches of trees. Investigate these blue flashes. They will probably turn out to be wild grapes, a food so good that the Vikings named our entire continent Vinland after eating some.
    PHOTO: FOTOLIA/.SHOCK
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    The May apple in line detail.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Pickin' wild grapes by the bucketful.
    Photo by James Churchill
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    Chufa, fresh out of the mud.
    Photo by James Churchill
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    Chufa in line detail.
    Photo by James Churchill
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    Wild rice "in the swamp".
    Photo by James Churchill
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    Line detail of wild rice.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Indians use traditional method of harvesting wild rice on a Wisconsin lake. One canoe + two people = a rich bounty.
    Photo by James Churchill
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    Rice grains against a nickle for scale.
    Photo by James Churchill
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    No canoe? Use a flat-bottomed boat!
    Photo by James Churchill

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  • Wild grapes
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Though some may find it hard to believe, I know where there is a patch of May apples that covers a quarter-acre. Normally I see the plant growing in bunches only a few feet square and I was really amazed when I walked onto this patch while wild food foraging hunting Ginseng one day.

That year (1968) was the best I have ever seen for May apples and there were bushels of fruit in the quarter-acre "field". I visited the area again this late summer and while wild food foraging—even though it was a very dry year here—I easily found enough May apples lying on the ground among the brown, wilted plants to fill a large cooking kettle.

I love these golden apples that are softly skinned and sweeter than they have any right to be. They taste like tropical mangoes to me and the first one I eat every year brings back memories of a year spent on the island of Trinidad with its beautiful beaches, exotic plants and friendly, fun loving people.

May Apple Recipes

Some foods made from May apples are applesauce, drinking or jelly juice, marmalade and pie. The first step for marmalade—and many other recipes—is to make May apple puree. Wash the fruit very well and cut off the black tip and navel. Slice into small pieces and strain through a colander to separate the seeds and peels from the pulp. The pulp or puree, of course, is what you're after.



Make May apple marmalade by boiling four cups of puree and one box of commercial pectin together for one minute. Add two tablespoons lemon juice and five cups sugar. Bring to a high rolling boil. Pour into sterilized jars and cover with melted paraffin.

This puree also makes good applesauce if it is cooked over low heat for half an hour and sugar and cinnamon is then added to taste.

SUZANNE STEIL
3/30/2012 10:06:20 AM

According to the MN law it is illegal to harvest wild rice in the areas in which it is most predominant, along the Red River and the the lakes in that region, or on the Indian Reservations in northern MN. Do not indiscriminately harvest any wild rice you come upon without making sure it is a legal source. PS- Many of us buy the wild rice straight from the reservation sources, as the money goes back to the tribe.







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