There is a reason why humans began to cultivate food. Cultivated food is within human reach. It comes at predictable times. And you know exactly where it will be—right where you planted it.
Foraging for food requires eyes constantly alert because you can never be sure when or where you will find an edible treasure. My husband, Forager Man, starts his search for wild grapes in the spring. He identifies a vine and watches it all season to see if and how much it will bear fruit.
There are grape vines all over the place. Most of them never yield grapes. But that does not keep Forager Man from looking.
“We’ve had them here before. There must be some around here somewhere.”
He says this a lot. About grapes. And watercress. And morels. And hen of the woods mushrooms.
And he’s probably right. There are all those things growing at Maywood. But Maywood is a large enough area that we are not going to search every square foot of it.
Well, I’m not. He can wander the woods all he likes. And report back.
Finding foraged food on the kitchen counter works for me (unless it requires me to drop everything else I was doing to process it).
If I’m going to eat it, I have to be able to find it.
Without getting maimed by thorns or attacked by insects and wild animals.
This year, he discovered a fruitful vine a short way behind the tool house. And it is loaded with big purple grapes.
I stand at the edge of the woods in an area mercifully cleared recently by the tractor. Forager Man physically hauls the ladder from the house to the foraging area only to realize that there is no way to safely stabilize the ladder.
He tries leaning the ladder directly against the vine. I try to figure out how to direct paramedics to this precise location on our property.
He decides, after some wifely input, to go back to the house for the truck and kitchen step ladder, which worked pretty well for gathering the wild black cherries. No guarantees that we won’t topple the stepladder off the truck this time, but our prior success emboldens us.
I wait. Sweat oozes from every pore because the humidity today is literally 100%. I am not even doing anything and I am standing in the shade.
There are a few grapes at ground level that short little me can reach. More can be found at truck-bed ladder height. But, of course, the best grapes are way up high—gorgeous clusters worthy of display in an organic market. God has reserved the best for the birds of the air. (At least until someone invents a grape picking drone.)
Fortunately, grapes are larger than wild black cherries, so it does not take too long to fill our bags with enough to make jelly. We don’t even fall off the ladder.
I make two batches of grape jelly and have some juice leftover for drinking. Forager Man like his fresh grape juice straight up. I prefer mine with seltzer and fresh lime. And, as a public service FYI, since wine-making takes time and I like instant gratification— gin really perks up a grape spritzer.
So now I have a pantry stocked with jam and jelly from the bounty of Maywood—much of which I will gift because we don’t actually eat much jelly! It would be easier to buy grape jelly at the store. But it wouldn’t be tastier.
And I wouldn’t have a story to tell.
P.S. In case you were looking for actual useful information here, I used the Sure-Jell grape jelly recipe. One batch was regular. The other was low-sugar. Definitely prefer the low-sugar.