Urban Foraging

Look carefully as you drive through more heavily forested areas of the neighborhood, and you may just see a few errant polka dots of red here and there in the bushes. Take the time to investigate, and your curiosity will be rewarded; It’s raspberry season, and wild berries abound, free for the taking. Although initially difficult to locate, just one good patch of these edible jewels will produce plenty of good eats, and good fun too! If you’ve ever spotted some of these rarities but haven’t known how to proceed, fear not- It’s really quite simple. It’s not rocket science after all, but many years of tireless picking has taught me a few valuable tips…

If you’re not 110% certain that your berries are edible, unsprayed, nontoxic, and otherwise fit for human consumption, just don’t pick them. It’s a real bummer to see berries go to waste, but trust me, they’re simply not worth risking your health for.

Dress appropriately. Sure, it may be 90 degrees out and humid as hell, but you should still plan on wearing long pants and sleeves. Berries tend to go hand in hand with thorns, and they’ll tear up your arms and legs if you’re not covered. Sneakers are mandatory too… As for foraging in high-heels, I can tell you from experience that it’s a very bad idea, period.

Be prepared to fight. You’re not the only one out there that wants those sweet jewels! There will be bugs, and lots of them; mosquitos, spiders, beetles, slugs, miscellaneous creepy crawly things, you name it. If you can’t handle the thought of accidentally picking a big, meaty insect instead of that berry you were after, you might not want to try this.

Be critical and selective. When you find a good spot, the sheer number of potential treasures can be overwhelming. Instead of just grabbing every colorful gem in sight, really look at what you’re taking and only go for the biggest, most deeply colored berries you can find. Give the smaller ones a chance to grow, and you’ll be happier on subsequent visits.

Think like a berry. Where do berries like to grow? Don’t just approach the bushes at eye level- Crouch down, poke under leaves, push through branches. The best clusters are often hidden deeper inside the bush, more protected from the hungry wildlife.

Don’t be overzealous in your picking. Leave any berries that seem to be overripe, moldy, or infested with bugs. If they squish between your fingers and leave you stained with juice, they’re generally no good (just make sure you aren’t grabbing them too roughly in the first place though!) Let the pale or under-ripe berries be as well, since you can always come back in a few days and do another round of picking, getting much better berries than you would have in the first place.

Plan on either eating, freezing, canning, or baking with your berries immediately. They don’t last like store-bought produce, and tend to go bad in just a few days. Don’t waste time! To freeze them, I lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze until solid, and then transfer them all into a big air-tight plastic container. Repeat as needed.

Should all your best efforts fail, check out the U-Pick or Pick-Your-Own farms in your area. It may not be as thrilling as hunting down your own wild berries, and you will have to pay, but they’re still guaranteed to be fresher and tastier than anything you find in the supermarket.

Now, don’t waste any more time, get out there and start picking- The season won’t last long!