For many years, my summer vacations centered around visiting my in-laws in their coastal New England home. They were idyllic times, spent mostly outdoors in the sun, sea, and sand. Long, lazy days left plenty of time for leisure activities, among them, fishing, at least until my kids were born. Who had time to stand at the shore and surfcast for hours on end hoping to bring in a battle-ready bluefish or a feisty striper? Not me and certainly not with antsy kids in tow.
But foraging was altogether different. The promise of a perfectly ripe blackberry or wild grape is intoxicating to a child and incentive enough to get them to walk just a little further. Discovering a hidden patch of spring-fed watercress (too peppery for little tongues) was thrilling, especially when it meant squishing mud between their toes. Eventually, electronic devices were too much to compete with, which dovetailed nicely with my increased need for tween-free vacation time, and I was free to forage at will.
Blackberries, wild grapes, beach plums, wild apples, and rugosa rosehips are ubiquitous in New England and make amazing jams and jellies, which I made the old-fashioned way—just sugar and fruit. My goal was to only buy sugar and new canning lids with fresh gaskets for safe preservation. Everything else was either foraged or reused from previous years. Currently, I’ve gone down the wild mushroom rabbit hole.
The endless pursuit of finding free food never gets old for me, wherever I am. In fact, this month I’ll be urban-foraging with “Wildman” Steve Brill in Brooklyn where I’ve seen wild rhubarb, garlic mustard, purslane, and lots of mushrooms during my early morning trail runs. Maybe I’ll even pick some!