If you’ve never braved thorns and strange looks from passers by while hunting for wild dewberries (a cousin of blackberries) then you are missing out on a tasty and soul satisfying activity. This past weekend we visited friends a few hours out of town, and because I knew we’d be coming home late that night I took my time driving on the trip out, making sure to stop once or twice to check on the progress of the dewberries.
Dewberries grow on trailing vines, while blackberries grow upright on canes. Dewberries are usually a little smaller and more fragile than blackberries, but taste the same. When I was a kid I learned to keep my eyes peeled in early spring for the tiny white blossoms that precede the tart/sweet berries by several weeks. They grow wild on the edge of woods, along railroad tracks, and in open but untended fields. I spotted several patches with berries in every stage of ripeness, from their hard green beginnings to the almost ripe red and perfectly delicious black. The window to pick dewberries usually only lasts for about two or three weeks, so I know exactly what I’ll be doing next weekend.
Normally I’ll make at least one dewberry cobbler and several jars of dewberry preserves, but last year I decided to get fancy and make dewberry macarons, using the dark purple juice of the dewberries to color the shells and making dewberry curd for the filling. Although I wish I’d taken more photos, what I really wish is that I had a plateful of them next to me right this minute. The macaron shells came out perfectly, with the little feet that you’re supposed to get when they bake and the subtle snap when you first bite into them. The dewberry curd had just the right balance of tart and sweet.
We really are fortunate to have an abundance of wild food in this part of Texas. There are pecan trees everywhere, and I use them on so many things ranging from nut encrusted salmon to sweet potato and pecan pie.
I gathered the last of the pecans in our yard just about a month ago, and have already been
snacking on cooking with them.
Loquats are ready to pick right now, and will last for another week or so. Last year I made a loquat jelly with red pepper flakes, the heat from the pepper a nice contrast to the peach/mango flavor of the loquats.
When we moved into the house about six years ago I discovered wild onions growing in our yard, and this time of year we use them in everything, including the Cajun style jambalaya that has been my go-to dish for many years now. In fact, I’ve made it so many times that Jan has to employ what I can only imagine is a superhuman effort not to roll her eyes when I tell her what I’m making for dinner.
If you’re interested in foraging for wild foods I’d like to suggest Hank Shaw’s excellent site. Hank travels all over the U.S. looking for wild edibles and is always an enjoyable read.
I’d love to hear some of your stories about foraging.