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Have you ever done any fall foraging? If you like to forage, you should know that fall is a great time to forage for wild food and herbs. It is such an enjoyable experience to get out there in nature and get free wild food and medicine.
Last weekend I went to the mountains for a little solo fall foraging trip. I took my two dogs, and we went for about a 25-mile drive. Near the lake, just a few miles from my house, I found a big bush loaded with beautiful frosty blue elderberries.
I just love elderberries! Every time I see some in the wild I have to pick some. This time I picked 2 ziplock baggies full, and left the rest for the birds. I find it so strange that I have black elderberries on my property, and not 5 miles down the road there is wild blue elderberries.
I’ve heard that the really light blue elderberries have a nice coating of wild yeast on them, that is what makes them so light colored. Hopefully I can figure out what to do with that wild yeast.
Here is a great post from a fellow forager on making a wild yeast starter. Either way, I’m going to use up these berries in the months to come. Fall is about the only time in North America to gather elderberries, so you can make your own medicine. Elderberry syrup is an awesome immune booster, and it tastes amazing! You might even have to remind the kids that it’s medicine, not just to drink! I talk more about elderberry syrup in this post.
I found a huge old apple tree, not on anyone’s property, and gathered several pounds of apples while my dogs ran around. I even climbed the tree to try to get to some of the apples, then threw a stick boomerang-style into the tree to knock some of the apples down. I’m thinking of doing some apple jelly and apple butter, and some apple desserts will have to be made! Surely most of you have done a little fall foraging of apples. Expand your horizons to find some in nature, for free!
A ways farther up the road, I pulled over into a nice area off the main road and let the dogs out. I found a grocery bag full of nettle (creamy nettle soup, anyone?). Then I picked another grocery bag full of burdock and burdock roots. I know burdock is good for lots of things, but I need to research what exactly I want to make with this haul! Probably a burdock tincture.
A little walking around the area yielded a ziplock baggie full of rose hips. It’s funny, I had tried to pick some at a lower elevation, and they would barely come off the branch! Up here, though, they pulled off so easily. I’m dying to try to make some rose hip jam or syrup. Rose hips have a crazy amount of Vitamin C, and are so good for boosting immunity (as well as tasting good)! Fun fact, children actually helped pick these in Europe during WWI in order to make rose hip syrup to prevent scurvy. I have more about rose hips here.
I need a lot more rose hips to make a decent amount of syrup! Rose hips are sweeter and better tasting after a few frosts, so they are best to reserve for fall foraging. Maybe I’ll get a bunch on our hunting trip at the end of the month.
On the way back home I found a bunch of huge mullein plants with some flowers on them. There weren’t too many, I always seem to miss the “sweet spot” on mullein flowers! These flowers seem to be in bloom from late August through October here. But I was able to get a ziplock baggie full of the beautiful tiny yellow flowers.
As soon as I got home I put some of the mullein flowers on my herb drying rack, and into 2 small jelly jars. In the jelly jars I also put some minced garlic, then filled them both up with virgin olive oil. This is a wonderful healing oil for earaches and ear infections.
My mom swore by garlic oil for ear infections, and putting the mullein flowers into it just raises the soothing and medicinal quality of this oil.
Mullein oil needs to infuse for about 4 weeks, then will stay in the fridge. When the oil is needed, just warm gently (just barely warmer than body temperature), and put a few drops into the ear canal. It’s usually easiest if you tip your head to the side so the oil doesn’t run out, then put a small piece of cotton ball just barely into the ear canal. Check out my posts here and here on home remedies from foraged herbs.
I have another post on using mullein medicinally. It’s a wonderful lung ally as well, and I always have it on hand for colds and flu.
Dandelion root is another wonderful herb for fall foraging, as it’s sweeter in the fall. When it’s roasted it makes a delicious coffee substitute. Caffeine free and just a touch of the familiar bitterness of our beloved coffee! Plus, it’s a wonderful herb for liver health, and a great detoxifier. I didn’t forage any this trip because there really were no dandelions in the mountains where I went that day.
Chicory root is another good one for fall foraging. It is great mixed with roasted dandelion root to make a coffee substitute. I have been hesitant to forage this one, because by the time it’s fall and the chicory root is ready to harvest, it has lost its tell-tale purple flowers. I haven’t been able to positively identify it in the fall when it’s best to harvest.
Another great wild food source is Autumn Olives. I wanted to go up much further into the mountains that day, to gather some berries that I believe were Autumn Olives. I have never foraged them before, since I never pick anything that I’m not 100% sure of. And I was always raised to believe that most red berries are toxic.
Before this trip, I downloaded a bunch of pictures of Autumn Olive to my phone so I could make sure it was the correct fruit. I have heard they make a delicious jam, and I would love to try it!
What would be better than gathering a bunch of free berries to make some great jelly or jam out of? Not much, in my book! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go far enough up into the mountains on this trip. I guess it’ll have to wait for our hunting trip as well.
Black walnuts are also wonderful for fall foraging. They take a bit of processing (and the hubs hates them, so he won’t be any help), but they taste great in my opinion, and the hulls are medicinal. A tincture from black walnut hulls is anti-fungal and can be used to cure foot fungus, athlete’s foot, or ringworm. We have a couple black walnut trees on our property. I’m going to have to try to do something with them this year.
Jerusalem artichokes are ready to harvest in the fall as well. I have yet to try these, but they are definitely something I want to add to my property someday. They are a starchy root vegetable, and many people consider them a potato substitute. But they grow and multiply like crazy, and have pretty sunflower-like flowers at the top of extremely tall stems. To the untrained eye, it might be overlooked as a food, so they are great for preppers to grow on their properties.
Fall is also the best time to forage juniper berries. You might know these as the flavor component in gin, but they are medicinal and sometimes used in salves. They also usually have a wild yeast coating on them and can also be used as a wild yeast starter.
This little solo foraging trip was exactly what I needed. Today was such a beautiful fall day, I definitely needed to be outside. Being in nature always energizes me, and just hearing the birds chirping and frogs croaking was so calming. The dogs kept me company, and they had a good time too. All in all, it was a great day. I just wish I had thought to put in more gas before I left! I actually wanted to go a lot further up, but I was low on gas and I have a tendency to get lost. So we just did the 25 miles. Still 100% worth it, and a really good time.
Do you want to try foraging but are nervous about it? Then you’ve gotta check out my post on the basics of foraging. It will help give you the confidence to do it yourself, for free food and medicine!
Do you ever forage by yourself? What do you forage in the fall? Do you have anything to add to my list? Please share!