Wild Foods of the Front Range


apple harvest in Colorado Springs

Round 2 of our apple harvest!

There are a couple of locations around town, one on the far north end, and one on the far west side, where I like to pick apples. They’re allllmost ready. They’re still a little green, but ready to pick before the birds, bears, and deer get to them.

If you find a good tree, you can just shake one of the main branches and the ready apples will fall off the stems.

Speaking of apples, you can also use the abundance of crabapples that are all over town. There are some on common areas which we’ve picked and no one has ever prevented us. The best kind are the large, purple ones. We still have several gallon-sized Ziploc bags full of them from last year’s harvest. They make great jam!

On our trip yesterday, we harvested about 40 pounds of apples in less than an hour. I was in the tree shaking branches while Beth and Havi were collecting. Jonathan had climbed up his own tree and was picking and eating! I’m sure more apples went into him than into our bucket.

 

Wild plums and elderberries

Wild plums and elderberries

The season is almost over, but there remains a few survivors out there. As many of you know, I am a portrait photographer by trade, and last Saturday I was photographing a family in a local park. After the session, my son, Josiah, and I went searching for some wild things to eat. Here’s what we found! These are blue elderberries and wild plums. We came away with about a dozen of the plums and hands-full of the elderberries, which we enjoyed on the drive home and in our oatmeal the next morning!

So, there are still some things out there, but probably only for a few more days (or until I get to them! 🙂

-Tracy

Josiah (my 12 year old) and I hiked Barr Trail yesterday and found many wild edibles. On the list were:

  • Gooseberries
  • Chokecherries
  • Yucca
  • Juniper
  • Kinnikinnik
  • Mullein
  • Scrub Oak
  • Thimbleberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Prickly Pear
  • and an escaped apricot tree

Of course none of these things were in an edible state yet, but there’s a lot on the face of Pikes Peak for you to harvest (ethically of course).

Enjoy!

-Tracy
The Front-Range grazing photographer

Lambs quarter even loves dry soil and grows just about anywhere

Lambs quarter even loves dry soil and grows just about anywhere

Yes, we’re excited about the huge snow we’re supposed to get because it will give a boost to the dozens of edible plants in Rock Ledge Ranch. Without some moisture, there will be a shortage of things we’ll find.

The bad thing about all this cold, snowy weather is that it will probably kill off the blossoms on the fruit trees. I have seen very many trees already in full blossom. There is a monster pear tree in RLR that we have harvested from before, and we have found some “feral” apple trees in another area in the city, but it may be doubtful that we’ll get anything this year.

What you see in the photo is a very common weed that many of you may find in your gardens. It’s called lamb’s quarter. This is definitely one plant that we hope to find on our hikes this year. In cold-winter years, it comes out later in the Spring, but we should find an abundance of it this year I hope. This is, by far, my favorite salad green plant. We even plant a cultivar species of it in our garden.

But, to learn more about it, you’ll have to come to the class, though you can get prepared ahead of time by getting the books we’ll use in the class.

See all of you at Rock Ledge Ranch. Bring your wild appetites!

-Tracy
The wild-food-foraging photographer

Wild raisins?

Wild raisins?

This photo was  taken at the end of February on the trail that goes to St. Mary’s Falls off Gold Camp Road above Colorado Springs. The berries you see are perfectly edible still, though they tend to be a little dry this time of year. But, the nutritional value and flavor is still intact. In fact, you can collect as many of these as you can find and you can make a wonderful and very healthy tea with them.

What are they? Wild rose hips. They’re full of vitamin C, and even when they’re in this stage you can make a trail snack out of them. These are not one of my favorite wild foods to eat on the trail, but we have used them to make teas, especially if a cold settles in one of us.

Head out there and find some of these wild raisins!

-Tracy
The Colorado Springs Photographer

Golden Currant blossoms in late April. My personal favorite wild food of this region.

Golden Currant blossoms in late April. My personal favorite wild food of this region.

Summer is a great time for harvesting the best of the best of wild foods. My personal favorite are the berries, but I know people who can’t wait to head into the foothills and mountains and start gathering mushrooms.

What are your favorite wild foods? We want to know!

We’ve just enabled a poll which you can see on the sidebar on the right side of the main blog page, so cast your vote!

-Tracy

Some early watercress

Some early watercress

Actually, you can begin to look for wild edibles later this month!

In this photo, you can see some watercress peeking up out of the water and muck in a creek in the Air Force Academy. This photo was from April 2, however, there are places where the weather stays temperate and the water doesn’t freeze that you can find watercress all year round. I have enjoyed this wild edible throughout the winter.

You must, however, know your source!! This is something we will cover in the class, so you need to be sure to attend so you don’t get terribly sick from harvesting in an unsafe area.

What is an unsafe area to harvest watercress? If you ever find any in Monument Creek, or in that same creek after it becomes Fountain Creek in town, definitely don’t eat it! Yuck! Never eat anything that you find in or around that sewage stream. There are some other places we’ll warn you

Early mustard in Homestead Park

Early mustard in Homestead Park

about in the class.

Also, if we keep getting warm weather like this, we will begin to see mustard sticking up through the ground. This is great to pick and put on salads. You can use watercress the same way, as it’s a mustard variety also.

So, in the next few weeks, depending on the weather, you should be able to begin Grazing the Front Range along with some of the rest of us. 🙂

Thanks for reading.

Tracy
The Colorado Springs Photographer