Stalking the Wild Fruit: Foraging Local Fruit by State

Reader Contribution by Wendy Akin
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Look for plum blossoms like these to find wild plums.

I was 13 years old when I found my first field of wild strawberries, no bigger than the tip of my little finger and packed with flavor. I made jam that won me my first state fair blue ribbon. Later that summer, following that trail another quarter mile, I found a clearing where blueberries and huckleberries grew wild and sweet among huge boulders. Since then, I have searched for wild fruit everywhere I have lived.

There is wild fruit nearly everywhere, free for the picking. This spring, as soon as leaf buds swell in your area, go looking for blooms. Take a ride, get somebody to drive for you, so you can search roadsides and fields, along railroad tracks, in power line right of ways, and maybe even an abandoned homesite, looking for brushy shrubs, brambles, vines and trees with white flowers.

Go by car, tractor or ATV, on foot or, best of all, horseback. Make good notes of the location and go back later to check progress and again, armed with a bucket, to harvest the wild fruit. Be sure you’re not trespassing in somebody’s orchard! If there’s a house nearby or any signs of maintenance, ask before you pick.

Wild blackberries in bloom.

Fruits to Forage by State

Here are some of my finds for the jam pot:

New York: Strawberries, blueberries and huckleberries. 

Maryland: Blackberries — acres of them! And also, at the USDA farm in Beltsville, pick-your-own strawberries and cherries (although we had to pay for those).

Georgia: Blackberries, muscadine grapes, wild plums, native pecans and black walnuts.

Texas: Right here on my own farm and growing wild are blackberries, native pecans, wild plums, persimmons, elderberries and mustang grapes. 

Rhode Island: I found bayberries loaded with ripe, waxy berries, but wasn’t allowed to pick them. Maybe you’ll have better luck.

All through the South, you’ll find blackberries and muscadine grapes growing wild. Where pecans are grown, through the South and up to Missouri, you’ll find pecans the squirrels have planted. Along the Atlantic Coast, there will be beach plums, berries and bay. Throughout New England, you’ll find berries and Concord grapes.

Think about the commercial crops in your area and look for the wild varieties. Look especially for brambles and blooming shrubs and scrubby trees. God gave us abundance — search it out.

A word of caution: Snakes like fruit as much as you do. Watch where you step, and make a lot of noise. Dress properly with sturdy shoes. Have fun!

An ancient pear tree struggles to survive.

Wendy Akinis a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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