Taming Wild Apples and Wild Berries

With proper care, you reap the bounty of wild apples and wild berries you've moved into your yard or garden.

| March/April 1981

  • 068 wild apples and wild berries2 - crab apple sappling
    Wild apples may be neglected orchard cultivars or descendants of domestic crab-apple stock, such as this winter-dormant sapling
  • 068 wild apples and wild berries - tamed blackberries
    "Tamed" blackberries make for easy backyard pickings.
  • 068 wild apples and wild berries2 - wild strawberries
    Intensely flavored "field" strawberries can be readily transplanted. 
  • 068 wild apples and wild berries - wild raspberries
    Wild raspberries are so delicious that foragers will be tempted to transplant entire canes in hopes of a greater fruit yield. The plant, however, requires judicious pruning.

  • 068 wild apples and wild berries2 - crab apple sappling
  • 068 wild apples and wild berries - tamed blackberries
  • 068 wild apples and wild berries2 - wild strawberries
  • 068 wild apples and wild berries - wild raspberries

With rural land being gobbled up at a rapid rate, it's increasingly difficult to forage many once-common wild delicacies. However, we've found that grafting a few scions from an old roadside apple tree to commercial rootstocks can insure our household against the awful possibility, some autumn, that our nearby source of wild apples will be bulldozed to make way for a new shopping mall. And our transplanted backyard brambles eliminate long expeditions to a favorite patch of wild berries, many of which used to end with the discovery that the local bears had beaten us to the crop!

Adaptable and Hardy

Most wild fruits and berries will thrive in home gardens, since such varieties are typically very hardy. In fact, in our section of Vermont—where winter temperatures often reach 30 below—many domestic species can't survive, but transplanted native berries and fruits, born and bred to withstand the rigorous weather, are strong and productive.

However, before you dash off and invite wild edibles into your yard, heed a word of warning. We've been lucky, so far, to find healthy stock in our remote area, but wild plants sometimes do harbor diseases ... many of which can attack and devastate tender, virus-free commercial breeds.

So if you're already raising fancy hybrid raspberries or blackberries, it would be wise to plant their wild cousins as far from the "commercials" as your space allows to prevent possible infection by leaf curl, orange rust, or verticillium wilt (the most common ailments of wild brambles). Also, keep all your foraged bushes away from tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and apple and maple trees ... and don't place wild stock in soil where those plants or trees have grown within the previous two years, in case the former "residents" might have harbored diseases that could damage your transplants.

There are three seasonal stages in taming wild fruits and berries. First, as the fruit ripens (in its original habitat), we mark the most productive and healthy plants or trees with a stake or some bright ribbon tied to a branch or cane. Then, later in the fall, we prepare the beds to which the wild natives will be transplanted, working organic matter into the soil, and correcting its pH balance if necessary. And finally, the following spring, we go forth with a shovel, burlap sacks, and anticipation, dig up our prizes, and quickly place them in their new homes.

Succulent Strawberries

The perennial wild strawberry (genus Fragaria ) is among the most delicious of all fruits (sample the berries a season before transplanting, however, because some wood strawberries— Fragaria vescaare all but tasteless). The large, commercially grown hybrids developed from native North American wildings have never matched the delectable, aromatic, "strawberry" flavor of most of their uncivilized ancestors.

Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019


Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters