by Texas Homesteader ~
Our homestead is located in Northeast Texas. There are lots of native things growing all by themselves here that provide for us with no effort needed except the harvesting. Gotta love foraging for free food, right??
Common-sense disclaimer – always know what you’re foraging to eat. If you’re not absolutely sure, have your extension agent help identify the plant for you. If you’re still not sure, pass it by.
For instance – MAN-o-MAN I’d love to be able to forage mushrooms. But I’m just not comfortable with it. So although I’m virtually certain there are lots of safe edible mushrooms on our property, I pass them by. (maybe someday…)
But recently I was chatting with a friend about various things we’re foraging from our land. She was surprised there were so many foraging options. So I thought it might be fun to share these with your too.
Honeysuckle Harvested In April/May
Aaaaahhhh, honeysuckle. That sweet memory of childhood when you’d seek out those fragrant honeysuckle blooms, remove the tip and suck on the hollow flower to get that drop of sweet nectar!
My siblings and I used to rush to get to the ones at my grandmother’s house! I don’t know if the previous inhabitants here planted the vines or if they were just planted by birds, but they’re a treasure for sure.
We don’t have much honeysuckle here but whenever possible I capture those sweet blossoms and make Honeysuckle Jelly out of them.
(the years I can’t find enough blooms here on the Homestead I get plenty from my parent’s house)
Dewberries Harvested In May
Dewberries are very similar to blackberries. In fact many people call them blackberries. Dewberries grow wild here.
Those sweet berries grow on a ground-trailing vine covered with tiny slender thorns. They’re considered a nuisance plant for cattlemen’s pastures.
But we allow a patch of dewberries to grow in a back section for me to harvest when those berries are ripened to perfection, juicy & sweet.
I’ll harvest as many as I can and wash and air dry them. Then I’ll spread them on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer.
When they’re frozen I’ll scoop them up & place them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer until they’re needed. By freezing them like this the berries will freeze individually instead of into one big clump.
When I’m ready to use them I can scoop out as many or as few as I like. My favorite thing to make with them is Blackberry Cobbler.
Chickasaw Plums Harvested In June/July
Not only do the early spring blossoms delight our honeybees and give them a jumpstart on honey production, but these trees are pretty and produce plentiful albeit small plums.
We have a small cluster of these plum trees in one of our pastures. They ripen earlier in the year than our other wild plums on our property (Mexican plums, see below).
These Chickasaw plums are small cherry-sized plums, but to me they’re not quite as sweet as the Mexican plums. So I enjoy them raw from time to time when they’re ripe & I’m strolling past them in the pasture. But I typically reserve jelly-making to the Mexican Plums.
Jujubes Harvested In August
Our remote pasture has a cluster of Jujube Trees, also known as Chinese Dates. I’m assuming the original trees were planted by previous inhabitants of that property, long-gone for decades now. I suppose these jujube trees just grew into a thicket with all the dropped fruit.
That homestead house is long gone, but I’m able to See Evidence of Their Lives, and I can tell where their garden enclosure used to be. Perhaps these jujubes were planted as part of their garden.
Jujube fruit is small, about the size of a large olive & incredibly sweet. Jujubes turn from green to dark red when they ripen.
I love to harvest and Dry The Jujubes, then include them as a natural sweetener for my Pumpkin Granola.
Elephant Garlic Harvested In July/August
I hesitated to include this one in the list since it was obviously planted. But in the offsite pasture where an old homestead stood decades ago in the section we believe was their vegetable garden are several clumps of elephant garlic.
Elephant garlic heads are HUGE. They’re not actually a true garlic variety, but instead they’re closely associated with a leek.
However they look, smell & taste like mild garlic. We didn’t plant it nor do we ever tend to it, but I’m happy to harvest from it every year when needed!
Mexican Plums Harvested In August/September
I have a few native Mexican Plum Trees scattered throughout our property. They don’t seem to grow in thickets like the Chickasaw Plum Trees do. But these Mexican Plums are my favorites.
The fruit ripens in late August/September. So being outside harvesting them during that timeframe poses a slight difficulty with my severe ragweed allergies. But harvest them I do!
These small plums make the most flavorful Lazy-Cook’s Plum Jelly you ever tasted.
And I make that jelly with no added pectin by including plums from both the just-ripe category as well as very-ripe category to capture that natural pectin and delightful sweetness of the plums.
Persimmons Harvested In October
We have several areas of persimmon trees. Like most of our native trees, the fruit is smaller than some of the imported varieties. My persimmons are often large-marble sized and begin to ripen in September.
But as anyone who’s ever sampled a beautiful ripe-looking persimmon just a little too early – the astringent skin & flesh will surely make you pucker! I don’t even attempt to sample one until October/November when the fruit is almost smooshy.
Even then the skin is still pretty astringent. But if you’re able to peel the thin skin back, the persimmon itself if amazingly sweet. I enjoy them most often straight from the trees.
Although I know you could probably make jellies & such with them, I’ve never been able to get all of the skin off to eliminate that pucker-inducing quality. So I only enjoy persimmons fresh.
BUT I’ll also harvest a bucket of super ripe persimmons and toss them into the hog traps along with deer corn. And bibbidy-bobbedy boo the persimmons turn into fresh pork for our freezer!
Pecans Harvested In November
There are several small groves of various pecan trees on our property. Most are the smaller yet delightfully flavorful native pecans.
But there are a couple of huge Paper Shell Pecan Trees on a back pasture as well, I assume planted decades ago from previous inhabitants.
I love the larger Paper Shell pecans because they’re so easy to peel and yield more edible nut with less effort.
And I use pecans a LOT. In my homemade Apple Crumble, our favorite pumpkin granola, Chunky Apple Bread and more.
Soapberries Harvested In November
Although this isn’t a food to forage, a relatively recent find is a few Western Soapberry Trees found on our remote pastures. They’re related to soapnuts I believe, but they’re not the same.
Western Soapberry trees are native to North America. They produce a berry which contains saponin. Native Americans and early settlers used the ‘soap’ produced from these berries for cleaning. So do I!
My favorite use is to make them into an all-natural and zero-waste Soapberry Shampoo. It’s all I’ve used on my hair for years now.
It’s the perfect zero-waste way to keep my hair clean & shiny. Nothing needs to be manufactured, shipped to warehouses & retail establishments and sold to me in a plastic bottle.
I make it myself! A true zero-waste treasure for sure.
Other Foraging Opportunities
Although not botanical foraging, there are other ways our beloved Homestead provides for us.
Wild Game Harvested In November Thru March
RancherMan’s an accomplished hunter and he keeps our freezer filled with meat, whether wild hogs or deer. Most of the meat in our freezer is from his Harvests of Wild Hogs.
In our area wild hogs are an extremely overpopulated pest. But it’s just pork!
So as long as you don’t harvest a large boar (been there, done that, will NEVER do that again), it’s a delicious, mildly-flavored meat that we use for Pork Roasts – Carnitas Tacos – Pulled Pork Enchiladas and more.
RancherMan also harvests a deer each year. My favorite way to use the venison is as a beef substitute in my Cowboy Dark Beer, Black Bean Chili.
But to be honest, both kinds of meat are almost used interchangeably with whatever I’m cooking. I’m thankful for this meat in our freezer that keeps us nourished.
Honey Locust Trees – Perfect Firewood
We have many Honey Locust Trees on our property. Those thorns are mean, let me tell ya! They’ll go right through a boot or even a tractor tire and can cause cattle to become lame.
We’ve been on a mission to remove as many of them from our property as we can. But at least they have a very helpful purpose in the meantime.
The spring blooms are sought after by our honeybees and it results in some delightfully-flavored honey. Who knew??
But recently I discovered another great use. Honey Locust wood makes perfect firewood.
It burns clean with very little smoke or aroma and almost no spark. And it burns a LONG time and leaves very little ash.
If you can get past those darn thorns, a Honey Locust tree puts in some double duty keeping us warm in the cold winter months!
Wildflowers Make Delicious Honey
The various wildflowers that grow in the pasture are not only beautiful, but provide valuable food for our honeybees.
That in turn provides us with delicious honey, which I use in much of my cooking.
Some of the cooking uses are RancherMan’s favorite Honey/Oat Sandwich Bread and my Homemade Whipped Cream, among other things.
Eating Fish From Our Pond
I’m not a big fish eater – now boy is that an understatement! But I’ve requested that RancherMan harvest some of the bass & catfish that he catches from any of our ponds.
I know how healthy fish is in the diet and so I’m committed to attempting it. And if RancherMan’s out there fishing anyway, might as well, no??
What Do You Forage?
These are a few of the things I could think of, there could certainly be more. But I’m ever so thankful for the blessing of the foraging provisions provided for us.
Do you have things you’re able to forage where you live?
Links In This Post:
- Honeysuckle Jelly
- Blackberry Cobbler
- Identifying Jujube Trees
- Evidence of Past Family’s Lives
- Preserving Fresh Jujubes
- Homemade Pumpkin Granola Recipe
- Lazy-Cook’s Plum Jelly
- Simple Apple Crumble Recipe
- Chunky Apple Bread Recipe
- Identifying Soapberry Trees
- All-Natural Soapberry Shampoo
- Harvesting Wild Hogs
- Slow Cooker Pork Roast
- Carnitas Tacos Using Leftover Roast
- Planned Leftovers – Pulled Pork Enchiladas
- Cowboy Dark Beer, Black Bean Chili
- Honey Locust Trees, Useless Yet Useful!
- Harvesting Honey
- Honey/Oat Sandwich Bread Recipe
- Homemade Whipped Cream Sweetened w/Honey
- How To Tell When Watermelon Is Ripe
- Luffa A Surprising Zucchini Substitute!
MORE Gardening Posts
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Regarding foraging for wild food, the main thing we have wild and hugely available are blackberries. There are three kinds in this area. I’m not sure any of them are native. the best for jelly or juice are the Himalayas. They are big, quite sweet and pretty seedy. The primo berry for pies are the little vining type. My mother always used to say they tasted like battery acid. I’m not really sure that she ever actually tasted battery acid, but with sugar and a bit of flour in a pie crust it is food for the gods. The bird man who lives with me planted a mislabeled berry in our fenced garden area years ago. Thinking they were seedless only to find out that they are thorn less – I love that. They are big, sweet and juicy. There is one other variety but the berries are not very good, and I can’t think what they are called. Keeping the blackberries “at bay” and out of the pasture is always a challenge. The neighbor who cuts and bales our field gives the berry vines a run at when he is here dragging the field before mowing. Living in the country, you just can’t beat it!!!
“Tasted like battery acid” – HA! Candace your sense of humor is always on-point! I’m super-duper jealous of your thornless blackberries. I’ve heard of these beauties but have never grown them. I’m thinking perhaps I need to change that. Thornless would be delightful. ~TxH~