Felton League, the Facebook group of the homeless and their friends in Felton, California, briefly mentions the source of some interesting, but typically overlooked fruits that can be found in the wild or unrefined landscapes. Blackberries, American plums and elderberries collected from rural roadsides have produced award winning jellies for the Santa Cruz Mountains Harvest Festival.
Unlike the fruit that so many of us put so much effort into growing in our home gardens, these fruits and others are productive without any help. They are commonly overlooked only because they are so easy to ignore. In some ways, they are inferior to ‘garden variety’ fruit; but they also have certain advantages. Free fruit that takes no more effort than harvesting is obviously a good thing.
The most common wild blackberries are actually Himalayan blackberries that have naturalized. Unfortunately, they do not compare well to garden variety blackberries. They are not as abundant, and are difficult to pick from the wickedly thorny and rampant canes. Blue elderberries really are native, and are just as good or maybe better than black elderberries from eastern North America.
Figs, olives, grapes, rhubarb, prickly pears, apples and various citrus can sometimes be found in abandoned or neglected landscapes. Walnut, almond and wild plum trees sometimes grow from self-sown seed. Purple leaf plum is not always as fruitless as it is purported to be. Then there are all the other ornamental plants that happen to produce fruit that is useful to those willing to try it.
For example, Australian brush cherry, English hawthorn, Indian hawthorn (‘Majestic Beauty’), strawberry tree and even common freeway iceplant all produce fruit that can be cooked into luscious jelly. Of course, no fruit, particularly unfamiliar fruit, should be eaten or experimented with until it is confirmed to be safe for consumption. Many fruits really are toxic! Also, fruit should not be harvested from where it might be illegal to do so, such as private property or parks.

NOTE: This is an old article. Felton League is no longer a group on Facebook, but is now a blog here on WordPress.B90803K

6 thoughts on “Forage To Find Unexpected Fruit

  1. We often sample some kind of fruit on our walks. Wild wimberries have been almost completely stripped from the bushes by humans. There are so many wild blackberries and raspberries this year (just green berries for now), I think we’re in for a bumper season- we’ve had more rain than last year. To find wild plums or damsons, you need to know where to look.

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    1. That must be nice to still have the plums, even if you must go out to look for them. Ours finished a long time ago, and I was not there to gather any. I want to make jam out of bot the red ones and the amber ones, to see how different the flavor is. (They are not native, but are the naturalized American plums that were used as understock a long time ago.) Our native blackberries are mostly crowded out by the nasty Himalayan blackberries, which are still producing. I wrote this topic for this region, but I am fascinated by the fruits that can be found in other regions. I have never seen a black elderberry or a wild muscadine. I can grow muscaddines here, but they will always be exotic.

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    1. That is rad! I have heard about those huckleberries, but never actually seen them. Ours are very different. They make only a few berries, and they are not all that great. Do you also see the black elderberries? I am satisfied with our blue elderberries, but it would be nice to try cooking with more traditional types.

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  2. Wh
    When I lived in Ohio we had black elderberries growing wild
    around the farm . My son made elderberry wine I made pies and froze some . They are ready this time of the year .
    I have never seen blue elderberries .

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    1. Black elderberries are the classic American elderberry. Those from the East know them like we now apricots (except that apricots are not native). It was a fruit that I always wanted to experience. Yet, I had always ignored the blue elderberry like everyone else. Except for the blue ‘bloom’, it works just like the black elderberry, although I believe that the black elderberry is more reliable for richly flavored berries. Ours fluctuates more with the weather.

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