September 3, 2015

Foraging the Minuteman Bike Path - Summer

Continuing the series started with Spring, here are the edibles I've turned up in summer.

Mulberry - 4
Morus rubra
There are a number of mulberry trees along the path, easy to find once the fruit is ripe and starts falling on the pavement. This one is in Lexington, next to the compost facility between 128 and Hartwell Ave, and there are a couple in Arlington.

I don't find most mulberries that delicious; their appearance makes my brain sort of expect a blackberry, but then it turns out to have no tartness and the taste is often pretty bland. Better than many a bitter weed certainly, but I do not feel terribly motivated to stop and snack on them or gather them to take home. I'm sure the propagated varieties are better than the wild ones on the path.

Sumac Berries - ?
Rhus copallina
There are plenty of these around. You can soak them in water to strip the malic acid which coats the berries, add some sweetener, and have a drink resembling lemonade. I haven't tried it yet; you must gather some days after a rain, since rain dissolves the acid and it takes the bush a little while to restore it. I did have a nice sumac infused beer at the Aeronaut microbrewery in Somerville once, while attending a "3D Printing & Beer" event there with my coworker Branden.

Daylilly buds & flowers - 3
Hemerocallis Fulva
This plant is shaping up to be a real foraging winner, building on it's success as a roasted shoot in spring. I gathered some unopened flower buds from a stretch near the Hartwell ave. crossing in Lexington.

and roasted with olive oil and salt (along with broccoli that was for dinner).

Turned out pretty well, maybe not as good as the shoots.

 The flower is also edible, probably would be good deep fried. My kids enjoy the novelty of eating the flowers, and they are attractive on salad. Kind of spongy and mild.

Redbud Seedpods - 2
Cercis canadensis
Tried eating these raw and they were extremely tough. Maybe cooking them or getting them earlier in the season would improve things, but they seem awful skimpy anyway so I'm not terribly motivated.

Rogue Stone Fruit - 3
Prunus Persica
Not sure if someone planted these or they grew from a pit that fell or was discarded. This nectarine (which was not ripe at the time of the picture) was growing on the path right of way, but just outside the fence of an obvious fruit enthusiast with multiple fruit trees in their yard. Near Spy Pond in Arlington. There is also a peach in the same area, and I think a plum too. Last year I was watching the peaches, but just before I thought they were ripe one day they were all gone except the ones too high to reach.

Early Crabapples - 5
Malus sieversii
These are many apple trees on the path. Some of them are clearly decorative crabs, others may be grown out grafted trees from someone's yard or homestead. Lots of them look like wild seedlings, spread by birds or maybe grown from discarded cores back when the path was a railway. Some of these ripen in August and September. You can tell the fruit is getting ripe by looking for some drops.

This year (2015) looks like a blockbuster for apples; pretty much every tree I have seen in the state is heavily loaded with whatever fruit it bears. The decorative crabs don't give worthwhile fruit; while occasionally tasty they are too small at around the size of a little marble, and the stem too tenacious to make going after them a good use of harvesting time. But a number of seedlings and grafted crabs are excellent.

In early August the ~2cm diameter apples ripen on a small stature tree in a grassy strip between the path and a parking lot near Arlington Center. This tree is one I tried to graft on last year, but most did not take. About half the tree is dead, which I didn't realize at the time of grafting.

There are a couple trees that give big fruit near where the path crosses Bow street in Arlington Heights. Some are ripe in late August, but I find the fruit bland. The trees are tall and skinny too, so most fruit is out of reach.

Not strictly on the path, but along where I ride to access it, there is a super tasting crab which hangs out over the sidewalk on the east side of Mass Ave. in North Cambridge. It makes ~15mm dark red fruit with red flesh that tastes great. I think it may be a Dolgo. I often ride that block up on the sidewalk so I can reach up and snag a handful of tiny apples to munch while riding the last stretch home from work, core and all. Usually I spit out the pulp after chewing it up and sucking the juices.

Milkweed Pods - ?
Asclepias syriaca
There is some controversy over whether one really should eat milkweed or not and if so how many times to boil it. The milkweed shoots I ate in spring were not bad, but not compelling enough to make me want to return to this plant. Last summer I picked some pods, but when I cut them open at home they were already too mature to eat (i.e. getting fluffy). The ones below are actually in my yard, but they also grow on the path. There is a nice bunch of them where the path crosses the entry drive for Four Seasons garden store in Lexington.

Other stuff that is probably around but I haven't found yet:

  • Wild Blackberries
  • Elderberry

So, less stuff around than spring, but on the whole not too bad. Fall is the best foraging in my opinion; I've been catching whiffs of wild grapes in a spot or two in Lexington, and I see the green fruit is getting bigger on the autumn olive bushes; looking forward to the wild tastes of autumn!


BB said...

Thanks for posting this, and may I suggest next year you try milkweed florets when they are still bunched tightly? They look like little broccoli heads and have a nice mild flavor. I usually snip a few and eat them raw when I'm out in the garden.

Looking forward to more foraging posts.


Jennifer Arrow said...

Foraging is so fun. Purslane is like gold to me.