Wild Foods: Berry Foraging in Field and Forest

Foraging Out on the Farm

People in small farm communities up through the 1950s or 60s were not far from our hunter/gatherer ancestors.  We’ll talk about the hunting part on another day, but today I’m thinking in two articles about the gathering wild foods.   Yesterday Grandma Vera Anderson and I went to the woods for mushrooms.  But we could find plenty of other edibles out in the woods or the abandoned fields of the farms. Bre'r Rabbit book coverOf course the wild foods included blackberries and raspberries hiding shyly underneath Br’er Rabbits bramble bushes.  And I’m pretty sure that my Daddy would have wanted to read me a story about Br’er Rabbit as a preface to berry hunting.  I remember going out on the Anderson farm with my Uncle Bill and Uncle Herb and my Dad and some other folks and coming back with berries for cobbler and pie. My brother remembers a different berry hunting story.

Foraging to Earn a Pie of Grass

Contributed by Bro Kaser

My father, Paul Kaser, never believed my mother made enough pies. Once when we lived in a rural area, a neighbor woman came to borrow a rolling pin. I distinctly remember my mother saying as she handed over the implement, “I can’t tell you how many hundreds of pies I’ve made with that.” I remember it distinctly because of what my father said when the woman had gone on down the road, “Oh, Harriette, shame on you. You told that poor innocent country woman you’ve made hundreds of pies and she believed you. What did you do with all those hundreds of pies? I never saw them.”

Foraging for Blackberries

Photo by Memphis CVB at the Jones Orchard

Once, when we had a blackberry bramble patch out back, Mom said to my pie-starved father, “If you and Billy go out there and fill these five cartons with berries, I’ll make you berry pies.” We went out, I’m sure with the best of intentions. If you’ve ever picked blackberries on a hot day, you know that it’s as sticky, jaggy experience that leaves your hands red and itchy. But a berry pie is a soothing reward. We picked until our fingers were anointed with stains and our hands were red with scratches. We picked and picked, but we could not get enough to fill the last two cartons. Finally my father said, “If you want that pie, you’d better do what I do.” He stuffed his last carton with grass and covered the top with a layer of berries. I filled my last box similarly, figuring we would show them, then sneak them away while she made the pies from the full baskets. My mother took away all five cartons before we could pull the switch. That night two pies were presented. “The one over there is for you and Billy,” she said coolly to Dad. “I didn’t have enough berries for that one and had to supplement with the grass you picked by accident.”

A Berry, Berry Good BLACKBERRY Pie

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook 1953 Although Mother Would not have needed a recipe, this is the way she would have made her blackberry pie. If you have more blackberries than grass in your bucket after picking wild foods, you may want to try this pie. This recipe is adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook,1953 first edition, a relic of her home economics teaching days. Even the reproduction issue of this edition is now out of print and available only through independent sources. This recipe includes the finishing detail of how mother glazed her fruit pie crust for a beautiful crust.

Berry Pie

  • 2/3-1 C sugar
  • 4 T flour
  • 3 C fresh berries
  • pastry for pie crust
  • 3 T milk (for crust)
  • 2 tsp sugar (for crust)

Mix flour and sugar, clean berries, pour sugar/flour mixture over berries. Put pastry in bottom of pie pan, fill with berry mixture. Cut slots in top pie crust and put over berries. Moisten the edge of the bottom crust with water, and seal the top crust to the bottom crust around the edge. Brush top crust lightly with milk and sprinkle sugar on top for a sparkly glaze.

For those who would prefer their wild foods a little tangier instead of the sweetness of pie–read about digging up weeds.

5 thoughts on “Wild Foods: Berry Foraging in Field and Forest

  1. HeatherL

    I love blackberries. Your pie recipe sounds luscious. Yesterday I wrote about a nearby farm that has u-pick thornless blackberries. I am so there.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge