Sunday, November 3, 2013

There's An App For That

Do you forage for food?

I'd never exactly put that word to it until recently, but I do.  I always have.  I grew up with parents who were foragers.  Some of my favorite childhood memories are fruit picking trips cleverly disguised as weekend family camping trips.  Not far outside of Shelley, ID (my... how far I've wandered!) you can, or at least you could 30-40 years ago, drive up into the mountains through Wolverine Canyon.  We did that a lot when I was kid because, looking at it with today's insight, it was both nearby and filled with resources.

I remember 'harvesting' these things in Wolverine Canyon:

  • Chokecherries
  • Elderberries
  • Currants (Yellow, Red and Black ones)
  • Oregon Grapes
  • Crawfish
  • Trout
  • Deer
  • Sage Hen
  • All kinds of fallen trees for firewood
  • Watercress

We'd bring one or more of these things home on any given trip.  The next day or two would be devoted to preserving (except the crawfish and watercress which were always used fresh) the bounty for later use.  Chokecherries, Elderberries, Currants and the Grapes were quickly turned into jams and jellies.  The trout was filleted and sage hens cut up and either frozen or canned.  Deer was usually processed at a local butcher who would do game meat.  And wood was chopped down into smaller pieces to burn as supplemental heat all winter.

A few times my dad cut Chokecherry branches that had naturally formed into a good shape for a cane or walking stick and then peeled back the bark, shaved them smooth with his pocket knife and, when they were well dried, oiled them so they are a luscious natural wood finish.   Later they were cut to height as he sold or gifted them away.  I still have the one he made especially for my mom and if I shrink the way she did in her later years one day it will be the right height for me, too.

It was just a normal part of how we lived.

Just like picking asparagus growing along the roadsides in the spring...  Or picking the extra apples, with permission of course, from a neighbor's tree for juice, jelly, apple sauce, pie filling and dehydrated apple chips.

Some day make your own apple chips!  Try dipping the apple slices in cinnamon and sugar before drying.  Or... my favorite:  strawberry banana jello powder.

Everywhere I've been after that it's a normal thing to mentally tally the resources around me.  Now there's an app that will track a lot of that for me.  I signed up on Neighborhood Fruit and took a look around this morning.  It seems like a pretty new thing that doesn't have a lot of information entered in for many locales yet.  But it's an interesting idea.  One I really like and will continue to check back periodically.

On Neighborhood Fruit, you can both enter information about fruit you have available to others who will come glean it and search for those opportunities for yourself.  Some estimates say that as much as 80% of the fruit growing in backyards around the country is not used while the fruit we do eat is grown in water-intensive orchards far from our homes.  That just doesn't make sense to me.  It's not sustainable or responsible.

In the spring, I have every intention of adding fruit trees to my yard.  And I know they'll produce more than I could ever hope to use myself.  I will be entering them on Neighborhood Fruit.

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