Aug 15, 2017

Blackberry Recipes (Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Drying, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now!)

Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now. Including Low Carb, Keto Recipes
We are having a bumper crop of blackberries this year! I've never seen either the thornless, domestic blackberries or the wild, invasive blackberries produce with such abundance. And while I already have enough berries in the freezer for one year, you can bet I'm taking advantage of this crazy good crop to preserve berries for years when the crop is meager. So...what can we do with all these blackberries? Oh, have I got ideas for you!

Freezing Blackberries

Freezing is the easiest preservation method to preserve blackberries for future use. The "right" way to do it is to lay the berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, pop them in the freezer, and when they are good and hard, pour them into freezer safe containers. The way I actually do it, however, is to pour berries into freezer safe containers of the size that contain the amount of berries I want for particular jobs, like making a cobbler or pie. Yes, the berries stick together. But no, it doesn't matter because of the way I am using them.

Canning Blackberries

* Whole Blackberries in Syrup
* Blackberry Lemonade Concentrate
* Backberry Jelly (without added pectin)
* Blackberry Jam (with added pectin)
* Blackberry Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
* Blackberry Jam (with Pomona's Pectin)
* Razzleberry (blackberry and raspberry) Jam
* Lower Sugar Blackberry Jam 
* Blackberry Apple Jam
* Blackberry Rhubarb Lime Jam
* Bumbleberry (blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry) Jam
* Blackberry Pie or Cobbler Filling  (another version here)
* Blackberry Syrup
* Blackberry Applesauce

Fermenting Blackberries

* Blackberry Fermented Soda
* Fermented Whole Blackberries
* Blackberry wine 

Baking with Blackberries

* Blackberry Crumble Muffins
* Blackberry Apple pie
* Iron Skillet Blackberry Pie
* Blackberry Custard Pie 
* Blackberry Trifle
* Blackberry Turnovers
* Blackberry Cobbler
* Blackberry Cheesecake Squares
* Blackberry Oatmeal Cookies 
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Frosting 
* Blackberry Crumb Bars 
* Blackberry Bread 
* Blackberry Pound Cake 
* Blackberry Coffee Cake
* Blackberry Banana Bread
* Blackberry Cheesecake Brownies
* Blackberry Crisp
* Blackberry Oat Bars

Other Blackberry Recipes

* Blackberry Iced Tea
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Spread 
* Blackberry, Basil, and Ricotta Pizza 
* Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn) 
* Blackberry Sorbet
* Blackberry Frozen Yogurt
* Cream Cheese Blackberry Crepes 
* Blackberry Tarragon Salad Dressing 
* Balsamic Blackberry Vinaigrette
* Thai Blackberry Basil Chicken
* Blackberry Glazed Salmon
* Blackberry and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
* Blackberry BBQ Sauce (another version here)

Low Carb/Keto/Diabetic Blackberry Recipes

* Low Carb Blackberry Cobbler
* Low Carb Blackberry Gelato 
* Low Carb Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn)
* Low Carb Blueberry Cream Cheese Crumble (substitute blackberries) 
* Low Carb Blackberry Coffee Cake 
* Keto Mixed Berry Cake Bars 
* Keto Blackberry Fat Bombs 
* No Sugar Added Blackberry Jam 
* Low Carb Berry Sauce 
* Low Carb/Keto Blackberry Cheesecakes 
* Low Carb Blackberry Custard Pie 

What About Dehydrating Blackberries?

I don't recommend it, because I believe it makes the seeds more pronounced. But if you'd like to try it, here are some directions.

You can also make blackberry leather (fruit roll ups).

A Word About Washing and Bugs

If the Internet is believable, a lot of people wash their berries before preserving or eating them. The trouble with this, though, is the flavor of the berries is greatly diminished after washing. If you're worried about surface bugs, just leave the berries in a container outside for an hour or so. Spiders and such will flee during that time. Hand pick any leaves or other debris off the berries. I don't get very picky about this. A few tiny pieces of leaves aren't going to hurt anyone!

Aug 10, 2017

A Proverb 31 Woman's Priorities

There is a lot of pressure in the Christian community for everyone to "have a ministry." What are you doing for the church? What are you, specifically, doing for God? However, if you're the mother of young children, this is problematic.

Every mom learns pretty quickly that if she wants her family to have a great home life, she has to juggle many things. She needs to not only care for her children's physical needs, but also spend time with them so their emotional and spiritual needs are met. She wants to keep a reasonably clean house and serve healthy meals. She needs to keep the laundry pile under control. To increase her family's health and self sufficiency, she might also want to do things like garden, preserve, and sew. She might also home school. And then there is her husband: She needs to maintain a good relationship with him, which also requires times and effort. That's a lot for one person to do! And then a Christian friend actually asks "What is your ministry?"

The Proverbs 31 Woman did many things, but she kept them in some semblance of balance. She didn't teach a women's Bible study but let her house turn into a scene from Hoarders. She didn't donate time to the local shelter but neglect to spend time with her husband. She didn't keep a blog to encourage other women but leave her children feeling like they never got much time from mom.

Balance is only possible if you have priorities. So, biblically speaking, what are the right priorities for a mother?

1. A relationship with God. Matthew 6:33 says "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." And in Mark 12:30, Jesus says the most important commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Remember, too, how Jesus told the ever-busy-housekeeping Martha that her sister Mary had "chosen what is better" by seeking God first. For the modern Proverbs 31 Woman, this means seeking God's will, and reading the Bible daily and praying continuously throughout the day.

2. Husband. It's not politically correct, but yes, our husbands are next in line. 1 Corinthians 7:34 hints at this by saying one of a married woman's top concerns is pleasing her husband. The reason for this is pretty simple: First, God created woman to be her husband's (not her childrens') helpmeet. Second, husbands and wives should set an example for their children - an example of how to live godly lives, which certainly doesn't include neglecting our spouse. (1 Thes. 2:11-12; Prov. 22:6) Finally, once the children are grown and out of the house, you'll want and need a solid relationship with your husband; that won't happen if you neglect your husband now.

3. Children. God tells us to create "godly offspring" (Mal. 2:15) and in Timothy, we learn that a woman's ministry is "bringing up children." In Deuteronomy, God says parents (not teachers) must teach children the ways of the Lord. God gave you children to to care for. They grow so quickly; don't busy yourself with other things and neglect the important ministry - your children - that God has put squarely before you. Remember, when they are older, you'll have more time for other ministries - but why would God entrust you with those if you neglect the ministry of your children?

4. Home. Like it or not, the Bible says one of the signs of a godly woman is that she cares for her home. This doesn't mean she should be Martha Stewart-esque or that she is a slave to housework. It's simply a recognition that if we live in sloth and ugliness, our attitudes and personalities will be affected negatively. If our homes are reasonably clean and comfortable, however, the entire family benefits. Husband, children, and wife can take refuge at home, feeling less stress and more peace. Proverbs 31:27 says a godly woman "watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." 1 Timothy 5:14 says young unmarried women do well to marry and "to manage their homes..." And in Titus, we are told it's good for women to "love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands..."

Those four priorities are huge. Honestly, it's the rare woman who can successfully add more and keep a decent balance in her life. In fact, it's interesting to note the Bible never mentions mothers with young children doing anything else - no other job, no other ministry. Nowhere does Jesus or anyone else in the early church ask moms, "What is your ministry?" Because their ministry is being a wife and mother. And that is a full time job.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

Aug 8, 2017

4 Ingredient No Sugar, Low Carb, Soft Serve Ice Cream

keto ice cream
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Is there anyone who doesn't love ice cream? Probably not. And on these hot summer days, it sure is nice to have a cool, sugar free treat to enjoy. Lately, I've been on an ice cream binge - mostly because my daughter wants an ice cream social birthday party, and most of our family is now eating keto. I wanted to be sure I had ice cream they could enjoy, too, so I've been testing recipes. (Poor me!) Here's what I've learned:

* There is no such thing as a truly low carb, store bought ice cream. And even if there were, the ingredients lists are truly disgusting.

* Low carb ice cream is really easy to make...but once frozen, it loses its creaminess unless you add glycerine or vodka, or you make an egg-based ice cream. Most of the time, that's too fussy for me.

* Homemade soft serve, low carb, no sugar ice cream is the bomb! Seriously, I have this stuff as a meal replacement and feel like I'm cheating when I'm totally not.

Here's my favorite go-to recipe.

Easy 4 Ingredient Low Carb, No Sugar, Soft Serve Ice Cream 
To make this ice cream, I use my Cuisinart ice cream maker, but you could use the bag method, or the mason jar method, instead.

1 1/4 cups heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sweetener (I use Sukrin1)
1/4 cup ice cold water
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract

1. Mix all the ingredients together in one tub of the ice cream maker. Turn the machine on and let it churn for about 25 minutes. Eat right away.

Churning mint chocolate chip keto ice cream.

This is just a simple vanilla recipe, but it's easy to jazz things up:

For coffee ice cream, omit vanilla extract and add1 level tablespoon of instant coffee.

For mint chocolate chip, omit vanilla extract and add 2 drops mint extract. In the last 5 minutes of churning, add 5-10 squares Lily's chocolate, chopped. (Or use the low carb, no sugar chocolate of your choice.)

For strawberry, omit vanilla extract and add 2 drops strawberry extract. In the last 5 minutes of churning, add 4 or more strawberries (chopped up).

For more easy flavors, browse your grocery store's extracts (found in the baking aisle) and add a drop or two in place of the vanilla extract in the original recipe.

Serves 4. Estimated Nutrition, according to SuperTracker, per serving for the vanilla ice cream: 266 calories, 2 g. protein; 2 g. carbohydrate; 28 g. fat

Aug 3, 2017

15 Useful Things to Do With Lavender (Plus Growing and Drying Tips)

Growing and Drying LavenderThis spring and summer, I've been having fun seeing what plants the previous owner placed in our garden. I'm especially excited by all the herbs, including quite a bit of oregano and thyme - and a few lavender plants. I've grown all these herbs before, but I've treated lavender mostly as an ornamental. That is, I've never done much with the blooms, except make a few sachets, and (one year) lavender soap.

Lavender makes a gorgeous and prettily scented addition to any garden, and can be either formal (think lavender hedges) or informal (a.k.a. scattered throughout a cottage garden). And the truth is, when you snip off those pretty lavender flowers, you encourage the plant thrive, and urge it to bloom again. Sure, you could just plop the cuttings into a vase and call it good, but why not find some more valuable things to do with them?

With that in mind, here are some ideas I came up with:

1. Cook with it. I admit, I've not tried this, and I do know that cooking with lavender requires a delicate hand. But this lavender cookie recipe looks like a simple place to start. (Here are some expert tips on using lavender as a culinary herb.)

2. Make bath salts. What a terrific gift this would be!

3. Make lavender linen spray. Lavender is such a soothing scent; this would be dreamy.

4. Whip up some lavender mineral water.

5. Stir together some lavender sugar scrub. This would be soothing after a hard day!

It's trendy to cook with lavender. Courtesy
6. Throw it, instead of rice, at a wedding.

7. Create some lavender bath bombs. Hmmm...I see a few Christmas gift ideas here.

8. Make lavender skin oil.

9. Brew some lavender extract, for cooking.

10. Like scented laundry, but not the chemicals that come with it? Try making lavender dryer balls or sachets.

11. Weave some lavender wands...a very traditional craft.

12. Stir together some lavender sugar. This would be tasty with tea...especially Earl Grey!

13. Stir together some lavender body lotion. This could be really relaxing after a long day.

14. Create some lavender vinegar.

15. Craft an old fashioned lavender pomander to keep insects out of closets.
Bees love lavender. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Maja Dumat

BONUS: Tips for Growing Lavender

* Buy a variety that likes your gardening zone.

* Add a bit of bone meal to the soil while planting your lavender.

* Water newly planted lavender well, then let it dry between waterings.

* Lavender grows well in containers, and it likes being a bit root bound - so use a pot that's just a little larger than the plant.

* Cut off blooms just above a double leaf. This encourages new growth and more blooms!

How to Dry Lavender

1. Cut off blooms just above a double leaf. 

2. Use a rubber band to hold a bunch of lavender together. The bunch should be no bigger than, say 1 - 1 1/2 inches fat.

To retain more of lavender's scent and medicinal properties, it's better to hand it to dry in a dark location. Courtesy
3. Hang in a cool, dark location (like a closet...It will make your clothes smell amazing!) until completely dried. 

4. Unless using dried lavender as a flower arrangement, remove the flowers from the stems, place in a glass jar with a tight lid, and store in a cool, dark, location until ready to use.

 Did You Know?

* Lavender is scientifically recognized as a pest repellent, a sleep aid, and a relaxer.

* Some herbalists promote lavender as a treatment for head lice.

* Lavender is antiseptic.

Aug 1, 2017

How Long Do Home Canned Foods Last?

Recently, I've had a slew of questions about how long home canned foods last. Typically, the reader says something like: "I just found these peaches at the back of my pantry. I canned them in 1999. Are they still safe to eat? Or should I throw them away?"

Canning books and websites generally say that canned foods should be consumed within a year. But it's important to remember this is a "best by" date, not an expiration date. That is to say, after a year's time, the food will very gradually begin to lose nutrients and flavor, but it's still quite safe to eat. In fact, I've eaten home canned food that was more than a decade old and it didn't taste any different than food canned the day before I ate it. (A fun bit of trivia: The oldest known canned food that was opened and eaten was a 118 year old can of veal. No one died or go sick. Here's another fun story about very old canned food that was still safe to eat.)

Tips for Making Home Canned Food Last a Long Time

Of course, your canning methods make a huge difference in how safe your home canned food is, and how long it lasts on the shelf. Older methods (for example, putting hot jam into a jar, putting the lid on, then flipping it upside down in order to get the jar to seal) often lead to food that not only isn't as safe to eat, but also doesn't last nearly as long on the shelf. There are plenty of people who will deny this. ("But Grandma always did it this way...") Yet over and over again these same people complain they find spoiled jelly in their cupboard or that they have a "stomach bug" after eating their home canned food. (For the most up-to-date and safe canning methods, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.)

How you store your home canned food also goes a long way toward making it last virtually forever. Keep jars in a relatively cool, dark location. Storing jars where they get hot (for example, near a furnace or in the attic), where they will be exposed to sunlight, or where they will get damp (like a basement), all contribute to a shorter shelf life.

Looking for Signs of Spoilage in Canned Food

Whether your canned food is decades old or just a day old, always inspect jars for signs of spoilage:

* Inspect the lid before opening. If it's bulging up at all, the food has spoiled and should be carefully disposed of. (Canning jar lids should always be concave, if properly sealed.) Another sign that the food has gone bad is if food is leaking from the lid.

* Pay attention as you open the lid. If it comes off with no effort, don't eat the food, because it did not have a strong seal and could be spoiled. Likewise, if the food explodes out of the jar when you open it, it's gone bad.

* Toss out any food that is bubbly, scummy or moldy, or has an unnatural or bad smell.

If canned food displays these signs of spoilage, do not taste the food! Throw it out. Because deadly botulism could be present, experts recommend putting the unopened jar in a plastic bag, sealing it off, and disposing of it in the garbage. If the jar is leaking, do the same, but be sure to clean any surfaces that have touched the jar (like a shelf or countertop) by wearing rubber gloves (botulism can get into your body through the skin) and sanitizing the area with 1 part unscented chlorine bleach to 5 parts water. Let the mixture stand on the surface for 30 minutes before rinsing. Dispose of the gloves and towels or sponge you used by putting them in a plastic bag, taping it closed, and putting it in the trash. Apply the bleach mixture again, let sit 30 minutes, and rinse. Again dispose of all cleaning materials, like gloves.

Related Posts:

Jul 29, 2017

Weekend Links

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

"We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one."

1 John 5:19

* I am now over 40 lbs. lighter than I was in December, when I was diagnosed with type II diabetes and went on a keto diet. I can't even tell you how amazing that is, because I was at the point where I felt I'd tried everything (including low carb diets) to lose weight, and NOTHING worked. I'd really given up. I'm so thankful to my doctor for suggesting keto! Anyway, lots of people were asking me for an updated photo, so I had my 11 year old take some a few days ago. I've updated all my bio pics (I think). To see it, look in the left hand column.  <--- br=""> 

<--- br="">* You know the old saying "God works in mysterious ways?" It's so true. This spring, I was not happy I didn't have a big garden ready to go, but it was really a blessing in disguise. I've had a lot of trouble growing anything here, the climate is so different from what I'm used to. And everything I read about the region, and was told by other gardeners in these parts hasn't been true for me, either. For example, I thought cold weather crops would be no problem at all - things like kale, broccoli, and lettuce. But almost every single cool season plant bolted (went to seed) before I got a crop from it. Even growing an easy plant like zucchini is a bit of a challenge. I have two plants: One inside the greenhouse and one outside. The outside zucchini is still tiny. The inside zucchini is much bigger, but struggling already with powdery mildew. (I'm treating it with milk; see how that's done by clicking here.)

* QUICK TIP: If you have fresh, aromatic herbs on hand, you have an automatic room freshener. Just scatter torn leaves or blooms on the floor and vacuum them up!

* Every parent needs to read this...right now. How pedophiles and sex traffickers "groom" children to trust them...even more than they trust their parents.

* Salmon tested positive for cocaine, anti-depressants, and more.

* And another reason I'm avoiding seafood. (Radioactive material.)

* Stuff everyone should know about Lyme disease...but doesn't. You might even have to educate your doctor.

* Old school "fidget spinners." More fun because you make them yourself.

* Got a lot of zucchini already? Try fermenting some zucchini pickles! 

* Planning on watching the solar eclipse? NASA says to be very careful what eclipse-safe glasses you purchase. Some are fakes and may permanently damage eyes.

Oldies But Goodies:

* How to Tell When Figs are Ripe (video)

* The Ins and Outs of Homesteading with Kids 

* Canning Dilly Beans (Pickled Green Beans)

Jul 27, 2017

Sleep Deprivation is Not a Virtue

"It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep."

In 2009, when my youngest was a year old and I was still in a sleep-deprived daze, I blogged about the importance of sleep. Since that time, however, it seems more and more Christian books and blogs are turning sleep into the enemy. Don't give into "the flesh," many say. Instead, get up early and you'll be more holy, many imply. Only moms who rise before the rest of the household keep the house - and themselves - orderly. Somehow the idea of getting less sleep has been confused with being more godly.* Um...really?

While it's true the Bible speaks against laziness and sleeping late all the time, the idea that sleep deprivation is virtuous is not from the Bible - it's from the world. All around our nation, we see moms (and dads and children) who are sleep deprived. This has lead to a host of problems in the U.S., including obesity, depression, grumpiness, inability to respond well to life's difficulties, poor decision making, car crashes, and much more. This isn't a good way to care for the bodily temples God gave us. Even from a purely spiritual point of view, sleep deprivation has its consequences. When we haven't had enough rest, it's harder to behave in a loving, giving, Christ-like fashion. And getting even just an hour and a half less sleep each night reduces our alertness and ability to think clearly by 32%. How can we make right choices for the Lord when our thinking is so impaired? Even our joy can be sucked away when we're sleep deprived. This is not what God wants. Quite the opposite, in fact.

But, some moms say, how can I have time alone with the Lord if I don't rise early every morning? First, know this: The problem isn't necessarily rising early. The Proverbs 31 Woman gets "up while it is still dark," after all. The problem is rising early even though your body requires more sleep. The problem is making yourself sleep deprived because of the mistaken notion that doing so will make you more worthy. So if you can rise early, spend time with the Lord, and still get all the sleep you need, fantastic! But if rising early makes you feel dizzy, nauseated, wiped out, and/or impatient and grumpy, then you'll be a wiser woman if you sleep a little longer. There are lots of ways to spend time with the Lord, even when you're home with little children all day. (For a few ideas, go here; and think of Susanna Wesley - mother of John and Charles Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement - who, with 10 young children underfoot, maintained her prayer life by flipping her apron over her head to create a certain "calm" while she spoke with God.)

But, some moms say, how I can keep the house tidy, homeschool the kids, make myself look presentable, be active in the church, socialize with my friends, run the kids to their activities, do the shopping, have hobbies, and so on, if I don't get up early? There aren't enough hours in the day! You're right; there aren't enough hours to do all that. As Jesus told Martha, there are many good things to do, but a wise woman carefully chooses the most important activities.

We live in a society that worships busy-ness. Moms buzz around the house and to various activities, always busy, busy, busy. But this isn't the life the Bible recommends. Jesus, though he had an active ministry, found time to spend with his Father, to spend with his family and friends, and to rest.

Busy-ness has a way of putting a barrier between us and what's important. Moms (especially those with young children) have some tough choices to make. They can run around busily doing good things (perhaps fairly well, perhaps not), or they can focus on what's most important in their lives right now: God, husband, and children (in that order). It's no coincidence that in Titus Paul says, "...urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." (2: 4-5; emphasis mine)

Being a wife and mother is a full time job. And because of the society in which we live, it's easy for mothers to get distracted from this job. That distraction costs families a great deal. And it costs many moms sleep - one of the things they most require in order to fulfill their Godly purpose.

So while some moms may wear their sleep deprivation as a badge of honor - and some may even look down their noses at moms who don't rise before dawn - a wise woman smiles and knows that busy-ness and sleep deprivation aren't what makes a Proverbs 31 woman.

* This post assumes you are a reasonably mature person and aren't staying up all hours of the night working or playing. This post also assumes you don't have an infant in the house - because sleep deprivation is a natural part of caring for an infant; however, moms of babies should do everything possible to take naps. 

This post was originally published in 2012.

Jul 24, 2017

Foraging for Wild Berries

Foraging for Wild Berries, Eating Wild Berries, Picking Wild Berries
A bucket of wild berries. That's what started it. On my personal Facebook page, I posted a photo of a bucket of wild berries I'd picked, and suddenly I was getting all kinds of messages: "Are those really safe to eat????" "We've had those for years, and I never knew I could eat them!" "Will you teach me about eating wild berries?"

Even though we - like most Americans - live in a wild berry-rich environment, most people have no idea so many of them are edible.

But here's the thing: Wild foods are generally more nutritious than what you buy in the store. (Years of selective breeding - which has nothing to do with GMOs, by the way - have given us standard garden and grocery store varieties that might look pretty and hold up well to handling, but are less nutritious than they once were.) And who can argue with the idea that free food is good food? Not me! And while I don't advocate harvesting all the wild berries you find - animals need some, too, and left-behind berries lead to more berry bushes or briars - it's a shame more people don't take advantage of the free food around them. (When we lived in the suburbs, a lot of local people needed food - especially healthy food - and we had tons of wild berries and public fruit trees around that very few people took advantage of. So sad!)

How to Learn Which Berries Are Safe

Most people are smart enough to know that if you can't positively identify a wild plant, you should never eat from it. But very few bother to learn which plants are safe to eat. Maybe they aren't sure how to go about it. Here are some ways I've learned these things:

* Talk to old timers. They grew up in an era when harvesting from the wild was more common and they can often teach you which berries they grew up eating.

* Get some great guide books. To be truly useful, they should focus on foraging in your region and have plenty of color photos to help you identify plants. I recommend using the Internet in conjunction with such books. For example, if you think you've identified a certain type of berry using you foraging guide book, hop online and search for more information. I like to do an image search to make sure the plant I think I have corresponds with the images; then I'll read a bit more about the plant online.

* Consult your local extension office. Many extension offices will help you identify local, edible berries - and they may even supply recipes for eating and preserving them, too. To find your local extension office, click here.

Salal berries.
Where to Look for Wild Berries

The next hurdle is teaching people to open their eyes to the food growing all around them. It's truly a matter of practice.

If you live in a city or the suburbs, try scouting for berries at parks, on the edges of parking lots, rest stops, around athletic short, anyplace nature has been allowed to take over. State parks are often an excellent place to begin your wild berry quest, too. (It's perfectly legal to pick berries at state parks, as long as it's for your own personal use.) I recommend finding a ranger at the park, and telling him or her your mission. Often the ranger can give you tips for where to find good patches of berries.

In rural areas, seek out the edges of forests, or openings within the forest, which offer enough sun for berries to grow and thrive.

Do be careful not to wander onto private land. If you pick berries on someone else's property, that's called stealing. On the other hand, it's fine to knock on someone's door and ask if you may pick berries on their land. The kind thing to do is to offer to give some of the berries you pick to the landowner.

Also, you'll want to avoid picking berries near the roadside or railroads (where they may be contaminated with vehicle pollution) or anywhere that might have been sprayed with an herbicide (like along roadsides).

Good Beginner Berries
Bunchberries. Courtesy of Jason Hollinger.

For the novice wild berry forager, it's usually best to stick to berries that resemble garden variety types. This includes:

* Blackberries
* Raspberries
* Strawberries
* Salmonberries (which look a lot like raspberries, but may be salmon-colored)
* Cranberries
* Blueberries

Later you can move on to learning about some of the less known berries, including:

* Salal
* Thimbleberries
* Huckleberries
* Gooseberries
* Currents
* Chokeberries
* Bunchberries
* Elderberries
* Hawthorne
* Juneberries/Serviceberries

and many others.

Added Resource: A list of common poisonous berries. Remember, there may be others in your area! Never eat any berry you cannot positively identify.

Black elderberries. Courtesy of R. A. Nonenmacher and Wikimedia Commons.

* Title image (wild currants) courtesy of Emilie Barbier.