The Foraging Thread - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 10:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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(Spinoff from the food costs thread.)

What wild food(s) have you had success foraging in your area? Tell about your foraging experiences! Also - say where you're located. I'm in mid-northern New England.

Here are a few of mine:

My boys pick wood sorrel and sheep sorrel in the yard all summer to munch. It grows wild among the grass. We eat them in salads when the kids have the patience to pick enough for me. LOL. Early dandelion greens and plantain (when it's small and tender) are also good for munching or in salads. And my kids love picking and eating violets. We have tons of those in the yard.

Our property borders a big downhill slope that is overgrown with brambles, etc. I pulled some of the black raspberry vines up to the top of the hill and staked them so they'd root where I could reach them. We have a nice black raspberry patch now!

We also have sumac, which apparently can be used to make a nice pink-lemonadey-drink, but I haven't tried it.

Hmm...what else...lots of people around here tap their maple trees for syrup, but we only have one tree and haven't tried it. Also I've heard cattails are good eating. And milkweed, but you have to know exactly when to get it or there is something about it (toxic?). I need to read more on milkweed - anyone know?

Has anyone dried rose hips for tea? We have wild roses here. Oh, and mint grows wild in our neighborhood also.

And there are grapevines everywhere, but some don't seem to grow grapes ever, and the ones that do are usually out of reach. There are a few old apple trees in the neighborhood where I've had permission to pick apples for applesauce - ugly apples, yummy applesauce. I want one of those pole-picker thingies for the high-up apples and grapes.

Hmm. We also have daylilies, and I understand the flowers are really delicious fried or stuffed. I *think* you can also eat the tubers, but don't quote me on that.

I would love to find a local unclaimed patch of ramps (wild leeks), but haven't had success with that yet.

I haven't used wild grape leaves in cooking - anyone know if this is possible?

Also I keep hearing about lamb's quarters being just like spinach, and I think they grow around here, but I haven't tried identifying or harvesting them. Purslane I've identified but haven't tried cooking. And chickweed; I haven't identified it but friends say it's all over the place here.

Supposedly you can fry dandelion flowers in pancakes and they are yummy. I tried this once and my kids didn't like it.

I would LOVE to hear more ideas of what you've foraged and used for your family!!!!! There are so many edible foods out there, waiting to be identified and appreciated.

Amanda, mom to Everest (12), Alden (10-1/2), Ellery (7-1/2), & Avery (6)
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#2 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 10:14 AM
 
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I am in CT and would love a rec'd for a good book on this, with good pics...

As for the wild grape leaves- yes they are yummy! I make rolled grape leaves- it is a middle eastern thing... but if you look at the backs, some have green backs and some have white backs- you only want the ones with the green backs...

We have gotten wild grapes near here and made low sugar jam with them last fall but I think we could do a LOT more...
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#3 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 11:52 AM
 
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I actually planted some ramps in my yard last year. They came back strong this year. I am hoping they spread and maybe I can transplant some into the woods and start new patches... Chickweed is very tasty but I don't have a good local source. I love dandilions, leaf and flower but I haven't eaten the root. We have wild raspberries (the berries are delicious, but you can also use the leaves dry or fresh for teas and infusions). Don't forget stinging nettle which is a delicious pot herb or cooked green (don't eat raw!!). Recently I was with a group and we found morel mushrooms. Mushrooms are of course tricky because edible look-alikes can be poisonous... I have eaten the leaves of barberry, they are very good and high in vit. c. You can make an infusion out of black birch twigs. I have heard that young maple leaves are good in a salad - haven't tried it, though. Garlic mustard can be used in soups and stews, etc, and makes a good pesto. Oh, and the roots of burdock are good. Well, I have been tasting lots of wild foods in a herb class I am taking. Now it is hard to go for a walk in the woods without wanted to taste things. Many nut trees grow around here, but the squirrels tend to get them long before I could... You can buy young plants and/or seeds for many wild greens like nettles, chickweed, ramps, dandelions, plantain, lambs quarters, purslane. If you have trouble growing things, maybe you could grow these tasty, nutritious weeds!
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#4 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 12:05 PM
 
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I'm in northern Illinois and was lucky to meet a foraging older woman in the neighborhood. She's shown me some great patches of hazelnuts, elderberries, sumac, black walnuts, etc. There's even a chestnut hidden nearby -- don't know how that survived.

Asparagus grows wild all over the Midwest. This is a good time of year to look for the tall fronds and make a note of where to look next year. We love wild raspberries but our favorite patch was decimated in some "brush-clearing" recently. : Later in the summer we make jelly with things like wild grapes and plums. I have a lot of books that list edible wild greens but most of them are too bitter for the kids. Sometimes I can disguise them in pasta or something. I found some morels a few years ago but they've never returned.
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#5 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 12:19 PM
 
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We live in N. Texas and my teen is a great forager! She has a book called Edible and Useful Plants of Texas, or something like that. We have Lamb's Quarters, Wood and Sheep Sorrel, chickweed, Indian Breadfruit (root that can be used like potatoes), and Purslane, and Dandelion. The inner bark of most trees is edible. We have Slippery Elm.

We need to get Jerusalem Artichokes growing, 'cause you can't stop 'em once they start, lol.

We go to my mom's each summer and get razzleberries (like blackberries), and Oklahoma sand plums for jam. We have a patch of grapes nearby, and I usually only get enough to add to some of the plums and make wild "grum" jam, lol. This year we started asparagus, raspberries, and grapes in hopes of having tons in years to come.

Oh, we also like prickly pears for jam! And after you get the pricklies off, they are great to sit outside on the step and eat and spit seeds.

I would LOVE to find elderberries!!

What a fun thread!!!

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#6 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 12:19 PM
 
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You can use wild grape leaves. The owner of my local Middle Eastern store said they worked well to make stuffed grape leaves! (Not briny like the jarred kind, but free!) Sumac is also a spice used in Middle Eastern cooking but I don't know if it's the same kind as the wild stuff.

Wild mushrooms are awesome if you know exactly what to look for.

Maple syrup is very labor intensive. My dad still makes it every year. It takes lots of sap to make even a little syrup.

ETA: You can use rose hips to make jelly as well!
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#7 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 12:37 PM
 
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I love foraging. I'm in Northern BC. I grew up mushroom picking and berry picking with my mom. I also pick a variety of wild greens.

I'm planning on going cattail picking this weekend. I pick the young shoots when they are about 2' tall then I cut off the bottom 6" and peel off the tough outer leaves. The tender inner leaves are delicious steamed with butter and garlic or added to soups or sturfries. I'll also blanch some for the freezer for soups in the winter. You can also eat the roots. They are starchy but have tough stringy veins running through them. I'll usually tie them in cheese cloth and cook then in water until the starch dissolves. I'll then remove the strings in the cheesecloth and use the starchy water as a base for a creamy soup. You can also eat the flower head (the hot dog on a stick) when it first appears when it is still tight and firm. Steam it and eat it more or less the way you would corn on the cob. It doesn't taste at all like corn though. The pollen can also be collected and used as flour. Put a bag over the flower head when the pollen starts to appear and shake the pollen into the bag. You can sub up to a 1/3 of the flour in a recipe for the pollen. It adds an interesting flavor and is a good source of protein.

Oh and if you're really stuck, the outer leaves are strong enough to twist into a rope that can snare a deer.

Can you tell I love the cattail plant!
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#8 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 01:01 PM
 
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We forage for wild black berries in the late summer. They grow everywhere here and are actually considered a weed/nuisance. We love them!

Me:
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#9 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 01:05 PM
 
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Right now we're foraging for Morell mushrooms, we have a bunch of them growing in our back woods. We also plan to forage for wild berries while hiking at state parks this summer.

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#10 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 03:27 PM
 
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We used to forage for pecans and walnuts. People would just let them rot on the ground.

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#11 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 03:50 PM
 
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FIddle heads are about the only food I've foraged for in the city. They're only available in early spring not long after the snow melts. I'm sure they're in New England too. While camping/canoeing, wild berries and labrador tea were delicious.
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#12 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 03:54 PM
 
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I come from a looooong line of morel mushroom hunters, and we have a lot of spring mushroom fries. Last year, I perfected freezing them, so we'd have them available the rest of the year--we had fried morels for Christmas dinner!

I also pick gallons of wild black raspberries, blackberries, and gooseberries each year.
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#13 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 03:56 PM
 
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In my yard and the immediate surrounding area, I found:

chickweed
blackberries (wild growing, not like someone planted them before me or something)
ginseng
lavender
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#14 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 04:52 PM
 
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I love this book http://www.foragersharvest.com/ I've gotten it from the library and I think I'm going to actually buy it. It's a wonderful book.
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#15 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 05:07 PM
 
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I love this book http://www.foragersharvest.com/ I've gotten it from the library and I think I'm going to actually buy it. It's a wonderful book.
: Sam Thayer and my husband are best friends (my dh is the "Josh" that the book is dedicated to), so I have seen the kind of real-life experience he has about wild foods. A lot of wild foods "field guides" are full of misinformation about harvesting and using wild plants. Sam lives with wild foods every day, and relies on his own first-hand experience when writing about them. It makes a big difference to have someone who has BTDT, versus a book with many plants featured but hardly any real information about how to gather, store and use them. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in wild plants.

Our favorite wild foods are:
acorns
cattails (Rhiannon-- we love that plant, too!)
wild leeks
hickory nuts
beech nuts
thimbleberries
wild rice

and of course morel mushrooms but I am terrible at finding them. Last year at a wild foods conference we ate stuffed grape leaves that were completely 100% foraged--wild rice and greens and herbs, yum. The only nonforaged part was salt--even the oil was harvested wild. Our 100% wild breakfast favorite is wild rice with beech nuts and maple syrup. yum!!

Foraging is the perfect marriage of : and :
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#16 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 06:33 PM
 
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I feel something so primal when I go out and pick wild food. It's like I can feel the generations of women who have done it before me. Of corse the last several generations have been falling away from wild food but for most of human existance on this planet women have been going out to the forest to pick food.

I also feel that there is something about food that grew exactly where nature intended it to. It's like it has better energy or something.

Does anyone know what I mean?

I'm going to have to check out that book.

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#17 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 06:39 PM
 
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Originally Posted by aprons_and_acorns View Post
: Sam Thayer and my husband are best friends (my dh is the "Josh" that the book is dedicated to), so I have seen the kind of real-life experience he has about wild foods. A lot of wild foods "field guides" are full of misinformation about harvesting and using wild plants. Sam lives with wild foods every day, and relies on his own first-hand experience when writing about them. It makes a big difference to have someone who has BTDT, versus a book with many plants featured but hardly any real information about how to gather, store and use them. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in wild plants.

Our favorite wild foods are:
acorns
cattails (Rhiannon-- we love that plant, too!)
wild leeks
hickory nuts
beech nuts
thimbleberries
wild rice

and of course morel mushrooms but I am terrible at finding them. Last year at a wild foods conference we ate stuffed grape leaves that were completely 100% foraged--wild rice and greens and herbs, yum. The only nonforaged part was salt--even the oil was harvested wild. Our 100% wild breakfast favorite is wild rice with beech nuts and maple syrup. yum!!

Foraging is the perfect marriage of : and :
Acorns? How do you prepare them?
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#18 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 06:46 PM
 
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The only thing I've ever foraged (and am foraging right now-- thanks 90 degree heat) is blackberries.

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#19 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 07:41 PM
 
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: Sam Thayer and my husband are best friends (my dh is the "Josh" that the book is dedicated to), so I have seen the kind of real-life experience he has about wild foods. A lot of wild foods "field guides" are full of misinformation about harvesting and using wild plants. Sam lives with wild foods every day, and relies on his own first-hand experience when writing about them. It makes a big difference to have someone who has BTDT, versus a book with many plants featured but hardly any real information about how to gather, store and use them. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in wild plants.
Oh that is sooo cool! I knew that an mdc momma had posted about the book before, but I didn't remember that it was you. One thing that I could tell when I read the book was that he actually lived it, he wasn't just collecting info and sticking it together in a book.
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#20 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 08:20 PM
 
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Acorns? How do you prepare them?
Harvesting and preparing acorns is easy and can be really fun, too. Even if you just experiment with them for the novelty value, it's really nice to know that there is a staple food right in many of our backyards. Oaks have sustained humanity for thousands of years--pretty amazing when you start to learn about it.

As for how to do it, here is a web page that explains the harvesting and processing pretty well. It's from the website of a woman named Rose Barlow who I've met several times. She certainly knows her "stuff". Actually she's the one who made those wonderful grape leaves we had at the wild foods gathering I posted about. Her method of processing acorns is a bit different from the one we usually use, but the basic steps are the same:

1. Harvest--just pick them up off the ground. Only collect acorns that have fallen WITHOUT their "caps". The capped acorns almost always have worms.

2. Dry them in the oven at a low temperature.

3. Crack them open and extract the nutmeats. (There are many, many ways to do this. Just experiment a little to find the best way for you. I like to crack them one at a time with pliers. My husband likes to pound them as Rose describes in her web page.)

4. Leech out the tannins. (Again there are many ways to do this. The simplest way is to boil them in several changes of water until the water is mostly clear, and the acorns don't taste bitter. You can also do this in changes of cold water, or even running water like in a stream. The acorns won't taste "good" after leaching, but mild. Sort of like how plain wheat flour isn't yummy on it's own.)

5. Grind the acorns into flour for baking if desired, or leave in it's current condition and use like you would beans. For baking, Rose once told me that acorn flour can be substituted exactly for recipes calling for cornmeal. Otherwise, we often mix 50/50 with wheat flour and use just like wheat flour. Last fall we had an awesome dinner of acorn chili (meat/spices/onions/acorns/tomatoes), acorn-cornbread, and acorn chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

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#21 of 83 Old 05-23-2008, 08:24 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Rhiannon Feimorgan View Post
I feel something so primal when I go out and pick wild food. It's like I can feel the generations of women who have done it before me. Of corse the last several generations have been falling away from wild food but for most of human existance on this planet women have been going out to the forest to pick food.

I also feel that there is something about food that grew exactly where nature intended it to. It's like it has better energy or something.

Does anyone know what I mean?

I'm going to have to check out that book.
I really hear you on this.

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#22 of 83 Old 05-24-2008, 12:31 AM
 
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Thanks for the information about the acorns Amanda. They don't realy grow here but there are lot's near my moms house. I think i may have to pick some when I visit next fall.


This isn't food, but I'm starting to get very excited about using wild mushrooms for dying fiber. I spin wool and I've been amazed at the range of colours I've seen people get from mushrooms and other fungi.

I have a batch of wool coming soon and I can't wait to start experimenting!

here's a site http://sonic.net/~dbeebee/

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#23 of 83 Old 05-24-2008, 12:37 AM
 
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I feel something so primal when I go out and pick wild food. It's like I can feel the generations of women who have done it before me. Of corse the last several generations have been falling away from wild food but for most of human existance on this planet women have been going out to the forest to pick food.

I also feel that there is something about food that grew exactly where nature intended it to. It's like it has better energy or something.

Does anyone know what I mean?

I'm going to have to check out that book.
Me too!

I started getting really interested in foraging a while back when I was visiting an IL's lake house (more of a pond house really), there was an open field and I was looking out into it and I had this intense urge to go and gather food.
So I have been slowly trying to learn, but it is rather hard when there is no one around to show me what plant is what. I have a fairly small backyard but a fairly amazing variety of plant species.

-I have a couple good sized mulberry trees that have berries ripening on them as we speak (the neighbor behind me tried to kill them by cutting them half way through with a chainsaw before we moved in...I guess he does not like all the mulberry bird poop, but they are alive and healthy haha!)
-an oak tree with plenty of acorns in the fall (great tip about not eating the ones with caps!!)
-roses. I tried to harvest rose hips last fall, but it was QUITE a process to get the seeds cleaned out. I did not have a very good tool. I just halved them and kept them in the fridge. I would try to eat a couple a day for a good dose of vitamin c....they didn't taste all that great, but that's not always the point I guess.
-dandelions galore!!!

I am looking forward to learning more and more about wild edible plants as the seasons continue to roll by. I will definitely check out that book as well.

Thanks ladies.
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#24 of 83 Old 05-24-2008, 11:37 PM
 
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We want to start foraging more. All we have done so far is dandelion greens, onion grass, & wild apples.

I recently bought a book that hasn't arrived. We will be more active this year.

Children deserve the respect of puzzling it out.
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#25 of 83 Old 05-25-2008, 04:01 AM
 
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There's a tree on our property that I think *might* be growing cherries, but I don't know for sure... it's at least some sort of red stone fruit.

How will I know when they're ripe?

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#26 of 83 Old 05-25-2008, 10:22 AM
 
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There's a tree on our property that I think *might* be growing cherries, but I don't know for sure... it's at least some sort of red stone fruit.

How will I know when they're ripe?
Well the first thing to do is find out what it is for sure. Posting a picture in "Digging in the Earth" might help.

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#27 of 83 Old 05-25-2008, 10:31 AM
 
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Me too!

-roses. I tried to harvest rose hips last fall, but it was QUITE a process to get the seeds cleaned out. I did not have a very good tool. I just halved them and kept them in the fridge. I would try to eat a couple a day for a good dose of vitamin c....they didn't taste all that great, but that's not always the point I guess.

Thanks ladies.
Rosehips have more flavor if they are harvested after a frost. Seeding them is a pain though. Worth it if you're going to make rose hip marmalade However I will usually not bother seeding and either make jelly, the seeds get strained out, or dehydrate them whole to use in tea. I like rose hip and ginger tea.

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#28 of 83 Old 05-25-2008, 02:00 PM
 
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Rosehips have more flavor if they are harvested after a frost. Seeding them is a pain though. Worth it if you're going to make rose hip marmalade However I will usually not bother seeding and either make jelly, the seeds get strained out, or dehydrate them whole to use in tea. I like rose hip and ginger tea.
About that...

I've always wanted to harvest our rosehips in the fall, but we never get frost here. Is there any other way to tell when it's harvest time?

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#29 of 83 Old 05-25-2008, 02:37 PM
 
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I feel something so primal when I go out and pick wild food. It's like I can feel the generations of women who have done it before me. Of corse the last several generations have been falling away from wild food but for most of human existance on this planet women have been going out to the forest to pick food.

I also feel that there is something about food that grew exactly where nature intended it to. It's like it has better energy or something.

Does anyone know what I mean?
I understand. And because I'm foraging on land my family has been on for 8 generations, I also feel a strong connection to my own ancestors when I'm doing it.
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#30 of 83 Old 05-25-2008, 05:57 PM
 
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About that...

I've always wanted to harvest our rosehips in the fall, but we never get frost here. Is there any other way to tell when it's harvest time?
Well when they are red, they are ripe. The frost just does something to the flavor and I've read that the plant will send more vitC to the hips when the cold hits. I guess that's the price you pay for living where there's no frost. Up here there's frost from September to April.

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