Wild berries, cherries, grapes, plums and apples are far more nutritious and delicious than store-bought… plus, they’re free! Here’s how to find them:
Want free fruit that’s far more nutritious than you’ll find in the grocery stores or even farmers’ markets this summer? Go wild and pick some wild berries, cherries and plums!
The following are among the most widespread, nutritious and delicious wild fruits in North America:
1. Wild strawberries
Wild strawberries begin to pop up in open meadows, open fields and even woodland areas that get plenty of sunlight in the late spring/early summer.
More nutrient-dense than farmed strawberries, the wild variety are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E and B-complex, as well as minerals such as, potassium, manganese, fluorine, copper, iron and iodine.
Native Americans used to use the leaves of wild strawberry plants to treat digestive, kidney and liver problems, so throw those into your smoothies as well.
2. Wild blueberries, huckleberries and manzanita
Wild blueberries, huckleberries, and manzanita are all in the same family. These are the heat-loving berries, so expect to find them during the hottest months of the summer.
Blueberries and huckleberries are blue when ripe, and are found in the Eastern United States. Manzanita berries are red when ripe, and are found all along the West coast from Southern California to Alaska, and along the northern strip of the United States, all the way to Maine.
Wild blueberries are far more nutrient-dense than conventional. They have twice the fiber, four times the zinc, eight times as much manganese, and a tenth of the sugar compared to farmed blueberries.
Blueberries and huckleberries look very similar. True blueberries bear terminal clusters of berries with many seeds in the center. True huckleberries have flowers in the leaf axils and fruits with ten large seeds and resinous glands on the underside of the leaves.
When you forage for wild blueberries, look for the star at the top of the berry where the five sepals join together. If the star is missing, it could be the poisonous type and it’s best to leave it be.
Manzanita plants bloom in the spring with white or pink flowers, followed by green berries that look like apples. The berries turn red when they are ripe and can be used for jams, jellies or cobblers.
3. Bramble berries
This family contains blackberries, raspberries and wild roses. They grow in a tangle of thorny branches on the edges of roads, fields and meadows all over the United States. Peak season is July through August.
The elderberry shrub is commonly found throughout eastern North America.
Its clusters of small, cream-colored flowers are often seen on the road-side in late spring and early summer. The dark purple berries ripen mid-summer to early fall.
The only edible parts of the elderberry are the berries and flowers. The leaves, stems, bark and roots are very toxic, so it’s important not to include them when preparing elderberry as food.
The berries, bark and leaves have been used traditionally in medicinal preparations.
Here are instructions on making elderberry syrup you can keep around all year to keep your immune system strong.
5. Fox grape
There are several varieties of wild grapes native to North America, including Fox grapes. In July the clusters of tiny off-white blossoms are transforming into tart grapes. Vines can grow far into the tops of trees and are found in wooded areas throughout the continental United States.
Because wild grapes can smother trees, many forest landowners will be glad to grant you permission for picking and cutting.
6. Wild plums and cherries
These delicious plants are from the same genus, Prunus. There are about 30 species of them in the United States that ripen from late spring to early fall.
Both wild cherries and wild plums have white flowers and a large stone in the center. Their color varies from deep red to yellowish orange when ripe.
For more info, read this article: Wild Plums, Hidden in Plain View.
This plant can be found all over the eastern half of North America in damp woods or shaded clearings, often growing in large colonies. It grows from one to two feet tall emerging from the forest floor. The leaves hide the solitary flower which looks like an apple and blossoms in May.
They’re slightly poisonous while still green, so wait till they turn yellow and smell like lemon to eat them
The fruit is like a large berry and it contains many seeds. It can be eaten raw or turned into jelly or juice.