I spent my summers slightly sunburned, running around outside in the fresh air, chasing fireflies, and picking perfectly ripened blackberries for my mom behind the watertower at the top of the mountain. We never heard the word foraging. We just did it. I lived in a neighborhood edged with forests and farms, so foraging for wild berries and wildly growing culinary treats just sort of happened.
When we moved to the south during my teen years, everything was different. We lived on a barrier island on the coast of South Carolina that looked more like a lush, tropical forest than the woodlands and farms I was used to. Everything looked exotic and exciting. And a little bit poisonous. And honestly, as a teen, I had better things to learn than what was yard berry was edible and what I should fear. So I stayed away from most things thinking I would suddenly die upon ingestion.
As the years passed, I found myself longing for those blackberry bushes I foraged in my youth. For some reason, they seemed like a treasure that nobody knew about for years but us...like our own secret garden right up the road. It was a treat saved for a few short weeks every year. And although I loved eating the plump berries right off the bush, my pudgy fingers stained purple from their juices, I was always excited to bring them home to my mom to see what magic she would make with them - cobbler, pie, preserves. It was the stuff dreams were made of.
Somehow this unfamiliar territory made foraged foods seem harder to come by in South Carolina. But as I learned more about the culinary south, I realized there was a whole slew of foods at my disposal right here in my own backyard. I moved into my current house about 11 years ago. On that day, I noticed a bush dripping with what looked like tiny apricots against a backdrop of fuchsia azalea blooms . Golden yellow in color, I had seen these bushes around the south for years. Little did I know I had a loquat tree right in my own back yard. The very start to my own little backyard farm.
This year is my first year harvesting these babies. They are tart and juicy and have a great texture - sort of peachy. So we will be experimenting with drinks, preserves, foods and maybe even a desert or 2 over the next few weeks before our quickly ripening bush goes to the hungry wildlife of the neighborhood.
I can hardly wait to see what goodness comes out of it all!