When my husband and I bought our house last fall, we had no idea what bounty our yard had in store for us. As we’ve watched the mystery sticks of November bud and bloom and put on fruit, it’s been a pleasure to discover the wealth of food resources our plot has in store. Many of these foods can be found in the wild elsewhere in New England–maybe along the side of the road, or maybe even in your backyard!
Please note: never eat a foraged plant if you’re not 100% sure what it is, especially berries. Many wild berries look similar to edible berries but are high in cyanide. If you think you might have an edible plant on your land but aren’t sure, find an experienced local gardener to talk to before popping anything in your mouth.
Sometimes called lemonheart clover, this tiny plant has heart-shaped leaves that taste strongly of lemon because they’re high in ascorbic acid. “Ascorbic” means “anti-scurvy”–these little gems are full of vitamin C and grow like weeds. Add them to salads fresh, or for a winter pick-me-up, dry them and save the leaves and blossoms for a lemon-flavored tea.
I love raspberries, and I was tickled pink to realize, come spring, that we have a good growth of raspberry bushes. They’re an excellent source of vitamins C and K, manganese (which helps your body use that vitamin C, among other things), and dietary fiber. Sadly, I have much to learn about encouraging a better yield from raspberry bushes, but picking the few berries we’ve gotten has been a good excuse to move a bit.
I did not care for blackberries before I tried them straight off the bush–it’s definitely a fruit where freshness is king. Each stem on our lawn has turned out mounds of easy-to-pluck, plump, tart, juicy pods of nutritious goodness (very similar to raspberries). The thorns are longer than raspberry thorns, but easier to avoid. I’ve been freezing most of them as soon as I pick them so I can enjoy perfectly fresh berries all winter long.
Do you have a big, bushy plant in your lawn that puts out tiny orange flowers in the spring? Check it for fruit! If it’s putting out what look like tiny apples, you might have a productive flowering quince. Many of these primarily ornamental plants don’t put out much fruit, but we’re lucky enough to have one that’s as active as a decent crabapple tree. I’m looking forward to giving my whole grain toast a little extra potassium with quince butter this fall.
We knew we had apple trees, but anyone who’s ever had a non-commercial apple tree on their property will tell you they don’t always produce the best fruit. Ours look promising as far as quantity goes–it won’t be long before we see how the quality holds up. If nothing else, we’ll have a good crop for vinegar, which can be used to help preserve the bounty from our garden next year!