I’m off again on another adventure. This time I loaded up the car and headed north, final destination Watervliet, Michigan. Before I got on the road I needed to gather provisions for my travels. As food prices continue to rise I continue to take advantage of the natural abundance that gets ignored and overlooked. Eventually people will wake up to the abundance in their yards but until then it’s just more for me.
Mid April is harvest time for delicious and abundant wild fruits in Florida: mulberries and loquats. If you know what to look for, mulberry trees become a popular part of the landscape. They grow all across the world in both temperate and subtropical climates. I recall feasting on backyard mulberries when I was 8 years old in Chicago and now I do the same thing in Florida. The red/black mulberry is easy to spot by looking for the dark fruits littering and staining the ground. They also fill the bellies of birds that feed upon the berries. When the birds are dropping purple windshield bombs you know it’s mulberry season. Black mulberries are another quality “purple food” that is loaded with the antioxidant anthocyanin . Mulberry trees are in the Moraceae family which also include fig and breadfruit trees. One of the cool things about harvesting mulberries is that all that is needed to collect the fruit is a gentle nudge from your fingertip. When the berries are ripe a gentle breeze or the shaking of the branch will drop them from the tree. Armed with a container in one hand and an extended finger, I nudge the darkest berries. The ones that are ripe just fall into the container and if they hold on to the tree they aren’t ready to harvest. Using this method has allowed me to harvest a couple pounds of berries in a half hour. Be aware, tiny little insects called thrips are often on many of the berries. They’re hardly noticeable unless you really look. If you have an aversion to eating bugs, be sure to submerge the berries for a half hour and then rinse and drain them before eating. Enjoy them on their own or in a fruit salad. Freeze extras to add to smoothies or to make sorbet/ice cream. Use fresh mulberries to give a basic salad dressing a purple twist like we did with this kale salad.
Loquat is the second Spring time treat down in Florida and in other states and countries with a similar climate. Loquat trees are a very common decorative tree in Florida, funny thing is is that few people make an effort to eat them. They are also called Japanese or Chinese plum. There are a lot of wild growing foods that we overlook and waste in the States. Mulberries, figs and loquat top the list. That same loquat that goes unpicked and gets devoured by birds in Florida I’ve seen for sale in markets in Taiwan, France and Italy. It’s such a traditional food in Italy that my Italian grandmother used to climb up on the patio furniture (in her 80’s) to harvest “nespola” from my aunt’s pool side tree in San Diego. She didn’t know what they were called in English but she knew you could eat them. So now I carry on the tradition and feast upon the loquats whenever they’re in season. Loquat are in the Rosaceae family and are not related to kumquats which is a citrus fruit. The Rosaceae family includes roses, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and all of the stone fruits. The seeds of apples, stone fruits and even loquat contain trace amounts of cyanogenic glycosides which break down into cyanide when digested. Don’t worry though, you would need to eat a ridiculous amount of the bitter tasting seeds to cause any ill effects. Some argue that this cyanide compound has anti-cancer properties but that’s something you’ll have to research yourself.
With my van packed and provisions harvested I plotted a course for Michigan but first I had a stop in Atlanta, GA for a durian night meetup with Raw Food Atlanta. A few days prior I connected with the group through through meetup.com online but I had also met some of the members at Raw Spirit Fest in Maryland back in 2009. Kent put me up in his guest room and hosted a durian night with the meetup group. I was also able to reconnect with Dr. Sam (Samuel A. Mielcarski, DPT) who is a regular speaker and mentor in the raw food world. He gave me a copy of his wellness handbook Revolutionary Rehab Manual and I hooked him up with a copy of my book Zen and the Art of Gadgeting. I’m getting ahead of myself though, before arriving at durian night I first had to procure a durian. Kent gave me the low down on where to get the best deals on durians and all my other bulk produce needs: Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Decatur, GA. This place is The Promised Land for raw foodies and fresh food lovers alike. It’s a Home Depot sized produce market, unbelievable. Unfortunately they don’t allow pictures to be taken inside, but that didn’t stop me from snapping a few picts outside. The place was unbelievable and so were the prices. I was able to get: 1 jackfruit(6.7lb), 1 durian(5.4lb), 10lb organic oranges, 10 mangoes, 4 avocados, 2 lbs organic dates, 1 lb cashews, 2 lbs of pecans for $60. In hindsight I should have loaded my van to the gills but that’s all I got. At Kent’s house there were more durians waiting… at least 8 in total for a meetup with that many people. Needless to say we didn’t finish all the durian but we had a good time trying.
The next morning I visited one of the local farmer’s markets with Kent and Dr. Sam. We visited fellow meetup member Brian selling coconut macaroons at the farmer’s market. He recently launched The Macaroon Company which provides delicious organic, gluten-free, dairy-free treats in a variety of flavors. He hooked me up with a bag of chocolate orange macaroons that made my big toe shoot out my boot… good stuff.
After the market I dropped by Dr. Sam’s home and backyard garden and fruit orchard. He gave me a tour, showing off all his fruit trees. He was especially proud of his almond trees that already had fruit on them. It was about noon when I got on the road, leaving the South. A check of the weather revealed that I made a wise decision to pack my cold weather gear. My final destination greeted me with 40 degree temperatures and wet conditions… looks like I get to do Spring all over again in Michigan. Check back for my next post on Wild Foraging. More tasty treats growing abundantly in the wild. Until next time… Keep it Live!