Its late October and the pecans and black walnuts are beginning to fall. I find black walnuts too much for me to deal with but I love pecan season! Good pecans will be lying on the ground without a husk. They shouldn’t be too light. It’s hard to describe but you’ll get a feel for it within 10 minutes. No holes either.
Now, where to find pecan and black walnut trees? Older neighborhoods. Probably before 1970. People in the 80’s began to see trees that drop nuts and pollen as a pain and planted easier to manage trees. I like to dehydrate my pecans before use. I also started keeping them in their shell until I’m out, then I crack a quart jar at a time. Black walnuts are very strong in flavor…it might help to soak them after cracking then dehydrating.
Now my new fall foraging find….juniper berries. On the east coast we have juniperus virginana commonly known as eastern red cedar. The taste may be slightly different than juniperus communis but it is edible as are all but one juniper species from what I have read. I’m hoping to dry some berries and grind them for a spice. But what really inspired me was a blog from Colorado where juniper berry syrup was going to be used for a non-alcoholic gin and tonic flavored soda. I thought that was brilliant and had to give it a try: wildfoodgirl.com
As for public land with edibles, that’s a tricky question. State parks do not allow foraging. National forests do with a free permit but we don’t have any national forest around here. I would start with college campuses, older neighborhoods, and parks in older neighborhoods. In Hampton there is a good pecan tree in the parking lot of the golf course, the skate park, and one on a vacant lot over hanging the parking lot of a 7-11. There are a number of mulberry trees along Settler’s Landing and the Hampton River. I consider all of these places public land. There are plenty of American Persimmon trees in areas that have been cut and have plenty of water. They are easy to spot at this time of year because they have bright orange fruit the size of small plums. I haven’t figured out what I like to do with those yet.
I use this book as my first pass in this area for mushrooms: brmushrooms.com/
It focuses on the types of mushrooms you are likely to find here and when. But because the wrong mushroom can kill you, I never use just this book or the web as my only identification tool. I try to cross reference three sources and do a spore print before eating for the first time. With that said, I made a great wild mushroom soup last night with morels from a friend, black trumpet from my sister, and vase shaped puff balls and chicken mushrooms I collected in Hampton. It was great and everyone, including my 3 yrs old, is fine and dandy this morning!
A link to a recipe booklet from the Colorado Extension featuring common foraging items.