Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hunting and Gathering - in the Mall or in the Garden is Your Choice!

Fresh mulberry pie made with mulberries from a neighborhood tree and fresh milled wheat.  So sweet!

Hunting and gathering still happens, only now people "hunt" and "gather" in shopping malls rather than from the land.  Funny enough, there is actually research on the differences in the ways men and women shop and how they compare to our hunting and gathering natures.

Last week I highlighted a producer many people forget...their own hands.  Another forgotten source of local foods include plants in public areas.  Three mulberry trees grow on city property near our house.  Chris and I walked to them Sunday evening, armed with a sheet and a bucket.  The trees are providing...and in abundance.  We shook the branches of one tree, and watched the black berries fall onto our sheet (it now has major stains which were well worth it).  Our efforts produced a full bucket of fresh mulberries we used in our oatmeal, a pie (recipe here) and to freeze for a less abundant season when we have a mulberry pie craving.  I may even try drying some after our next "gather."  On a spring walk a few years ago I was ecstatic to find these trees, and we head for them every year around this time.

Other foods we found within a short walk from our house:

Apples:  Last summer, I noticed a neighbor three blocks from my house with two apple trees full of fruit falling to the ground and rotting.  Obviously she wasn't using them, or able to use them all, so I knocked on the door and asked if I could pick some.  She kindly said "yes" from behind a locked screen door, this is Wichita after all, and I took home a bag full of crisp, incredibly tasty apples.  Yes, it takes some guts to knock on a stranger's door, but as Chris always says, "it's free to ask."  For me, it was well worth the payoff.

Black Walnuts:  We picked up a sack full of black walnuts late last year from a tree on public property near us.  I cleaned the "fleshy" part of the nut off (which ranks as an experience in itself).  After putting major bends in our nutcracker, Chris realized the challenge of getting to the meat of a black walnut.  Instead, he took a hammer to one of them - IN my house - pieces flew everywhere.  Thus, unfortunately, the rest ended up on the compost heap in the back yard.  Maybe there was a better way to do that?  This year we plan to try a vice, which according to forums on the internet, works pretty well.

Dandelion Greens:  You've probably eaten dandelion greens in a spring salad mix at a cafeteria or restaurant without realizing it.  Hearing that this "weed" is edible suprises people.  All parts of the plant can be eaten or used.  I even remember my parents making dandelion wine.  To many individuals, dandelions are a nusance, so be careful about herbicide if you are harvesting them from somewhere other than your own yard.

This year be on the lookout for local food sources near your home, on public property, or from a neighbor that might share if you ask.  Now, who said eating fresh and local is expensive? 

Saturday's Farmers' Market Feature:  At 9 a.m. be sure to check out the Chef's Table at the Old Town Farmers' Market (1st Street and Mosley).  Chef David Wirebaugh, the executive chef at the Harvest Kitchen & Bar in Wichita, will be presenting.  His restaurant is focused on serving local/seasonal foods in the Downtown Hyatt. 


  1. I love mulberries. My neighbor has a couple of trees growing at the fence. I just stand below them and eat mulberries while my children watch me with curiosity. Funny, another neighbor went to war with the previous owner of my house over a mulberry tree that DARED send a branch over the fence! I dug out the tree because it was not worth the hassle.
    What kind of wheat mill do you own? I looked at hand cranked ones but everyone says that those will only crush the wheat not mill it to flour.

  2. There was a mulberry tree 3 inches from our property on our neighbor's property - unfortunately they cut it down this year.

    I use an electric mill, a whisper mill - which is now called a nutrimill. I have a website on "the list" I'm creating with a you tube video about it. I prefer electric, I'm lazy I guess, and it takes a long time to get enough flour from a hand cranked mill.