Bees aren't the only ones who know how to find good things in nature! Today I have some tips on finding your own FREE!!!! bounty by the beach - just keep in mind to respect the land laws and mother nature where ever you are foraging. And I suppose it bears to be stated: if you're not sure of what you're picking, don't pick it.
Foraging Cape Cod
I'm starting with the mainland side of the Cape because that's where we stay and because that's where I've found pears. Yes! Pears!!
Near the entrance to Buzzard's Bay Park/Cape Cod Canal are pear trees lining the sidewalk- my guess is Bartlett variety. They are prolific with fruit by the time I arrive in late August, and the pears lay in bounty on the grass. A part of me always wants to collect up all that available fruit, but instead I leave some spoils for others and take only a handful for us to snack on as they ripen during our vacation. As an added bonus that's not quite foraging, cross the street to the Canal Creamery where you will find some seriously tasty ice cream! I had a mindblowing bourbon praline swirl when I was there AND came to find out that the owner's son has the same name as my youngest; rare find of creative names and creative, homemade ice cream.
Grapes were growing wild in this area too, but as they weren't quite ripe yet and thus a little on the sour side, I was the only one who found delight in eating them. While wandering around in any available wooded area should prove fruitful for foraging (ha! get it?), if you're more in the mood for a direct experience, try the Salt Pond area.
Bayberry is a newer discovery for me and frankly, I think it's my favorite thing to forage for on Cape Cod. It may even top shellfish in my book. If you are looking for it, you will easily find it everywhere, Cape-wide! It is a low growing, hearty shrub. I spotted boatloads of it growing along the Cape Cod Rail Trail as well as all along Nobska Rd where it seemed pleased to be breathing in the salty, ocean air. I harvest bayberry branches and hang them at home to air dry. I use the berries in floral arrangements and potpourri mixes and I'm looking in to adding them to the sugar scrubs I make. Culinary speaking, this plant is brilliant! I use the berries the way I would use juniper berries, the leaves the way I would use bay (laurel) leaves. Stews, chilis, chicken dishes... all taste better with a bayberry leaf tossed in (remember to remove leaves from the dish before serving).
Rose hips are a traditional forager's delight on Cape Cod. Again, I harvested mine in Falmouth, but they are found Cape-wide, as well as in other New England states. The hips are the fruit of the rose plant. This pink flowering plant grows heartily on the Cape as it thrives on salt water breezes.
Pick the rose hips to fill your sandcastle building bucket. Then fill another one! Haul your loot home. Remove any remaining stems, rinse the hips, and then try out this recipe for Rose Hip Jelly.
Rose Hip Jelly (recipe from Famous New England Recipes
edited by Dolores Riccio)
Put fruit in a pot. Add enough water to barely cover. Bring to a boil and cook until fruit is soft. Pour into a jelly bag and strain. For every 2 C of rose hip juice, add 2C apple juice, 5 C sugar, and 1 box pectin. Cook until jelly falls from a spoon in sheets, then turn off heat immediately. Food coloring can be added, if desired. Skim jelly, pour into sterile jars, and seal.
field notes: May be stored in fridge, but I can mine- rose hips contain large amounts of vitamin C so the jelly stores well and I find there is no need for a water bath as long as the jars are completely sterile. It is yummy on toast (what jelly isn't?!), and makes a lovely glaze for pork. I especially serve it to my family during cold season, so that the vitamin C can help keep us healthy.
Don't think foraging isn't for you! If you are faint of heart, worrying about contaminates or poisoning yourself, keep looking! Take your walks with a discerning eye. Even if you choose not to harvest what you see, feel more connected with the natural world of Cape Cod by recognizing and noticing the same food sources that the Wampanoag people first discovered so long ago.