Words and photo: Cort Percer
I’m guessing this has happened to you, too: You set out on a trail you’ve ridden hundreds of times, intent on stealing some KOMs or at least climbing the leaderboard. Then you snap back to reality. Suddenly you’re cruising slowly along noticing things you’ve never seen before.
That’s how I found blackberries. In this case, I pulled off to the side of the trail and picked one that was a deep purple and glistening in the sun. I held it up and studied the bumpy cluster of fruitlets. There I was, squeezing berries between my fingers and smelling the juice residue like some kind of prehistoric gatherer on the verge of discovering a new food source.
I was so unknowledgeable of wild plants that I actually thought to myself, “There are no dead animals around here so it must be safe to eat.” So I ate one. “Eureka! I have discovered wild blackberries!”
That changed my perspective on food supply and eating seasonally. That also changed my perspective on riding bicycles. I started riding my favorite trails more slowly, looking at the bushes and trees to see what fruits they were bearing.
I found fallingfruit.org, an online mapping resource for edible wild fruits and I started riding new trails and streets to find them. A bike is the perfect tool for foraging. For a blackberry bramble that’s three miles into a trail, you obviously can’t drive your car and it’s time-consuming to walk. You can get to the spot quickly, then take your time looking around. A lot of the fruits I’ve found have been growing alongside greenlines and rails-to-trails so you can use any bike to go foraging.
Rules of Foraging
DON’T EAT IT UNLESS YOU CAN IDENTIFY IT.
Use a field guide to help you with this because looking stuff up on the Internet is like looking stuff up on the Internet: you might not get the whole story.
Some states allow foraging in parks for personal use but not commercial use, while other states do not allow foraging in parks at all. Similarly, some property owners might be counting on their fruit trees, or whatever the squirrels don’t get.
DON’T TAKE MORE THAN YOU NEED.
Sharing is caring.
HELPFUL TIPS BERRIES LIKE SUNLIGHT.
You’re more apt to find fruit in a trail clearing or alongside a multi-use path that gets plenty of sunlight.
LEARN THE LEAVES.
Fruits grow on trees, bushes and vines. It’s easier to spot the leaves and then look for the fruit.
THE DARKER THE BERRY, THE SWEETER THE JUICE.