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.
There are not many things that will grow in my zone that I will not at least try to grow if I have the space and resources to do so. I really like to grow fruits and vegetables, particularly those that I am familiar with from when I was young. They are just as productive now as they were then. The only problem is that I do not know how to cook. I can freeze, can or pickle large quantities of produce, but cooking is something that I leave to experts.
I notice that almost all garden columns or blogs include recipes for the produce grown in home gardens. Mine does not. Except for a few recipes for pickles, jams and jellies, I just do not have any recipes that I would share.
When I get big winter squash, I really do not know what to do with them. I sometimes give them away to those who will cook them. Sometimes, I just cut them up, cook them, and then freeze what I can not eat. They are fun to grow, and I really like how I can keep them around for such a long time before I get around to cooking them; but they would be so much easier to work with if they were small like summer squash.
This weird squash was on the kitchen counter for a long time. Before it was cooked, it was very smooth, without any lumps, bumps or beady eyes. It was not ridiculously big. In fact, I only cut in half and ate it in two days. At the time, I was in a situation where I had a microwave oven in which to cook it, so I did so for several minutes. With a bit of butter, the first lower half was quite good, and separated nicely from the outer skin. I cooked the upper half in the same manner on the second day. It was making weird noises as it cooked, as if it were very unhappy about something. It was hissing and spitting for the several minutes that it was in there.
When I opened the door, this is what I found staring back at me from a small puff of steam! It looked angry! Apparently, it did not like to be cooked that way; or perhaps it was just a hateful squash. Regardless, it was rather creepy, and difficult to enjoy. I peeled the outside away and discarded it, but could not help to think that it was still watching me from the trash can with those beady tan eyes and crooked mouth! I do not think that I will be growing this variety again.