Favorite Wild Fruits
Wild Fruit Recipes and Facts
Ever since we were children, we have loved the fruit of native plants. Now, with the Green movement and the increased use of native plants in landscaping and sustainable gardens, those delicious fruits are available to more people.
Here we provide useful information and easy recipes for using some of our favorite wild fruits including blueberries, blackberries, crabapples, mayhaws, grapes and mulberries in jam, jelly, cobbler and more. If you don't have access to wild fruits or don't grow your own, then domesticated fruit can be substituted in most of the recipes.
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"Famous fruits imported from the East or South and sold in our markets ... do not concern me so much as many an unnoticed wild berry whose beauty annually lends a new charm to some wild walk or which I have found to be palatable to an outdoor taste."
Thoreau, Wild Fruits
Lessons Learned in the Blackberry Patch
Some of my fondest childhood memories involved heading out to the blackberry patch with Mom and my sister and brother to pick until our buckets were full or until my little brother's face and shirt were purple, whichever came first.
After the fruit was picked, we girls learned how to preserve the fruit as we helped Mom in the kitchen. We also learned how to use the fruit that we picked in a variety of delicious ways. And yes, before you think it, I was raised in the country. I lived most of my adult life in the city, but always yearned to move back where the air is fresh and there's room to spread out, and luckily that dream has come true.
With the Green movement and recent "back to natives" and sustainable gardening trends in full swing, I thought that some of the knowledge I learned at my mother's knee might be appreciated, so I have put together some information and recipes about some of my most favorite native fruits.
I hope this will be the first of a series about identifying and using edible native plants. And now, on to our Favorite Wild Fruits.
Wild Jams and Jellies
Blueberry, Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.)
My most favorite wild fruit (and probably the one that has the most beneficial properties) is the Wild Blueberry (Vaccinium species). We think that they are tastier than the cultivated varieties, especially the one they call, Elliot's Blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii).
There are about 20 or more species of wild blueberries on the North American continent. The wild blueberries bloom and bear fruit much earlier than the domesticated ones. We usually are picking berries in March. Down here in the south, we use the name "Huckleberry" and wild blueberry interchangeably, but whatever you call them they make excellent eating and can be used for pies, jellies, jams, tarts or to just pop into your mouth.
- Parts used: fruits
- Uses: fresh, cooked or dried fruit, jelly. Edibility: outstanding taste and texture, not abundant.
Wild Blueberry Flowers Print
Preserving the Fruits of the Earth
Wild Blueberry Fruit Print
Blueberry / Huckleberry Sauce
4 cups fresh blueberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
dash of almond extract
Blend 1/2 cup sugar and the cornstarch in medium saucepan. Stir in blueberries and lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Add a dash (1/8 teaspoon) of almond extract. This sauce can be poured into sterilized jars and kept in the refrigerator to be used like jam on toast, biscuits, ice cream, etc. You can also pour the hot mixture into a cassarole dish, add biscuit dough and make a cobbler or use the blueberry sauce / filling in the easy cobbler recipe below.
Easy Fruit Cobbler
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar (we use raw sugar)
2/3 cup milk (any %)
1 cup flour (we use unbleached)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
Sprinkle with spice (we like cinammon)
Make the batter and pour it into a greased baking dish. Pour the blueberry sauce or canned fruit pie filling over the batter. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35-45 minutes or until the crust is light brown. The crust will magically rise up to cover the filling.
Edible and Useful Plants of Texas
Mrs. Dawson's Blueberry/Huckleberry Muffins
½ cup margarine or butter
1 ¼ cups sugar (we use raw sugar)
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons sugar to sprinkle on top
2 cups flour (we use unbleached flour)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups blueberries
2 teaspoons baking powder
At low speed, cream margarine, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, mix until well blended. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with milk. Sprinkle blueberries with flour before adding to batter. Add Â½ cup blueberries, stir by hand. Add rest of blueberries. Grease muffin pan and grease top of pan or use paper cupcake liners. Pour mixture into pan and fill 2/3 full. Sprinkle rest of sugar on top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until done. Cool in pan at least 30 minutes before removing carefully. Makes 18-20 muffins.
Mulberry (Morus spp.)
Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) is native to the United States, but the Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) has naturalized over much of the Southeastern United States since it was imported in an attempt to start a silk trade here. Both have delicious berries and other parts of the plants are edible, too.
Mulberry trees are bird magnets, so if you like to have a variety of birds in your yard, then this is a great tree to have. One draw back is that the purple juice of the fruit will stain things, so the tree should not be located near a house, driveway, etc. Pick the fruit when it is ripe (usually early April in the south). One good method is to lay a piece of plastic on the ground under the tree and shake the limbs. The ripe berries fall off easily. The ripe berries can be used for sauces, jellies, jams, tarts, pies or just eaten raw.
- Parts used: fruit, young new shoots & leaves .
- A tree with 3-6" fine toothed, often 2-3 lobed leaves. Twigs hairless, sap of twigs & leaf stalks is milky. Fruit is like blackberries, red then purple when ripe. Found in rich soil, open woods, & fence rows.
- Uses: fresh fruit, jelly, cold drink & cooked vegetable. Edibility: good quality, neither widely distributed nor abundant.
Red Mulberries, Nearly Ripe
These red mulberries will turn black when ripe.
2 lbs. ripe mulberries
1-2 cups granulated sugar
3 ounces liquid pectin
Wash thoroughly 2 pounds of fully ripened mulberries. Add to a deep saucepan, add a little cooking water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, keeping the pot covered. Remove from the heat and strain the juicy pulp through a food mill. This will remove the seeds and skins.
Recover and measure the juicy pulp, add 1-2 cups of granulated sugar to each cup of sauce, depending on your sweet tooth. Mix thoroughly, bring to a boil for 1 minute. Add 3 ounces of liquid pectin, mix thoroughly, and boil for 1 full minute. Skim off the foam, pour into hot, sterile jelly jars and seal. (by Joe Freitus, Wild Preserves)
You can also use the Blueberry Sauce and the Easy Fruit Cobbler recipes and substitute Mulberries for the Blueberries.
Grapes (Vitis spp.)
The United States has many different species of grapes. In the Southeast, where we live, the Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) and the Summer Grape (Vitis aestivalis) are the most popular.
The Muscadine is the most prized because of its large size and flavor. The Summer Grape is a smaller grape and occurs in large clusters. Muscadines and Summer Grapes ripen from mid to late summer down here in the South. They should be picked when they are fully ripe, although some partially ripe ones are good if you are making jelly. The leaves of the grapevine can be used in Mediterranean dishes, like stuffed grape leaves. Muscadines are grown in gardens all over the South. The trick is in the pruning because grapes need new growth on which to flower and bear.
Wild Muscadine Grapes
- Parts used: tendrils, leaves, fruits
- Vines that climb with tendrils, simple, deciduous leaves with palmate veins. Found in thickets, edges of woods.
- Uses: fresh fruit, jelly, cold drink, cooked green. Edibility: good quality, abundant.
Green Summer Grapes
Wild Grape Jelly
5 lbs. of wild grapes
1/2 cup of water
8 cups of sugar
2 ounces of pectin
Stem and wash 5 pounds of wild grapes. Use a ration of 3 pounds partially ripened grapes and 2 pounds of fully ripened grapes. Place into a deep saucepan and crush with a potato masher. Add 1/2 cup of water and bring the mixture to a bol. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Strain the cooked fruit through a food mill, then through a jelly bag. Save the pulp for grape butter. Place the juice in a saucepan, add 8 cups of granulated sugar and bring to a boil. Add 2 ounces of liquid pectin and again boil for 1 full minute. Skim off the delightful foam, pour into jelly jars and seal. (by Joe Freitus, Wild Preserves)
Blackberry (Rubus spp.)
Blackberries and Dew Berries are an integral part of growing up in the South. Every child knew where the sweetest patch was located and visited it frequently during summer vacation.
When picking blackberries for jelly or jam, Mom always told us to pick a few of the half ripe ones. They have more of the natural pectins, so will make your batch of jelly or jam "jell" better. When doing serious picking, you should dress for it, with long pants and long sleeved light weight shirts, and also wear socks because the thorns can be vicious. We also used to carry a large stick to help push the canes aside and to probe the inside of the mass of vines to chase the snakes away. (Snakes don't eat berries, but like to lie in wait for the birds and rodents that do.)
But the delicious fruits are worth the trouble, since they can be eaten raw or made into pies, jellies, preserves or even syrup. The stem tips can be steeped in boiling water for a wonderful tea.
- Parts used: fruit, stem tips
- Dew berries root at the tips of canes and have single flowers. Blackberry canes don't root at the tips and have many flowered clusters. Found in alluvial soils.
- Uses: fruit, jelly, cold drink, tea salad. Edibility: outstanding quality, abundant.
Blackberries in the Wild
Add fresh blackberries to a blender and crush until a fine soup is produced. Keep adding fruit until 2 quarts of juice is obtained. Pour the juice through a few layers of cheesecloth, just to remove the pulp and seeds.
Next add 2 cups of lemon juice and you have an excellent summer beverage. Serve chilled for best flavor. It can also be frozen and used during the winter months. (by Joe Freitus, Wild Preserves)
2 1/2 quarts of blackberries
Juice of 2 lemons
5 cups of granulated sugar
3 ounces of pectin
Clean and wash the 2 1/2 quarts of fully ripened fruit. Place in a container and crush completely with a potato masher or use a food mill. Heat the mixture until the juice approaches boiling. Now allow the juice to simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into a jelly bag or cheesecloth. Recover 3 cups of the juice and place it in a deep saucepan. Add the juice of 2 lemons or 1/4 cup of reconsitiuted lemon juice. Stir well. Add 5 cups of granulated sugar and mix well. Place the mixture over a high heat and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. Add 3 ounces of liquid pectin and bring mixture to a boil (one that you can't stir down) for 1 full minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat, skim off the delicious foam and pour the juice into hot, sterile jelly glasses. (by Joe Freitus, Wild Preserves)
Use the recipes for Blueberry Sauce and Easy Fruit Cobbler and substitute the Blackberries for the Blueberries.
Wild Berry Book
Wild Plum, Sloe (Prunus Americana, P. umbellata, P. mexicana)
There are many species of Wild Plums in the United States and when ripe, most of them have flavor that is superior to the domesticated varieties. We have Mexican Plum (Prunus mexicana) and Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia) growing on our property.
For jelly or jam, you should pick 80 % of the fully ripe plums and 20 % of the red, partially ripened plums (late spring to summer in the south). Wild Plums are also a good tree for the wildlife.
Wild Mexican Plum Blooms Poster
- Parts used: fruits
- Large shrubs or small trees similar to wild cherries with small white flowers followed by large fruit (red, yellow, purplish or black) Found in thickets throughout Louisiana.
- Uses: Fruit & jelly. Edibility: outstanding taste, pleasant texture & healthful qualities, easy to gather, rarely abundant.
Mexican Plum Flowers
Green Wild Plum
Mexican Plum trees are one of the native species growing in Louisiana.
They have lovely flowers and delicious plums.
Wild Plum Jam
3 pints of plums
4 cups of sugar
Wash 3 pints of fully ripened plums, mixing in several partially ripened plums for added flavor. Place into a saucepan and crush with a potato masher. Bring the mashed plums to a boil; then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the hot plum sauce through a food mill. This will remove the skins and large seeds.
Place the hot juicy pulp into a saucepan, add 4 cups of granulated sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture is thick. You may wish to reduce the cooking time by adding 3 ounces of liquid pectin. Once cooking is complete, pour into hot, sterile jelly jars and seal. (by Joe Freitus, Wild Preserves)
Crab Apples (Malus spp.)
Our native Crabapple will grow in upland and low land conditions. Crabapple trees are beautiful small trees that bloom lovely pale pink blossoms in the spring. These blossoms are followed by fruit of varying color and size, depending on the type of crabapple.
Our Southern Crabapples (Malus angustifolia) are about the size of a small plum and are yellow when ripe. The fruit can be collected in late summer and fall, depending on what zone you live it. They make great jelly and preserves. The fruit is also eaten by a lot of different animals, so Crabapples are good trees to plant for the wildlife.
Southern Crabapple Fruit
- Parts used: fruits
- Large shrubs or small thorny trees with pinkish-white flowers followed by large greenish yellow or reddish apple-like fruit.
- Uses: fruit, jelly, preserves, cider
Southern Crabapple Flowers
Crab Apple Recipes
Crab Apple Jelly
5 lbs. partially rip fruit
5 cups of water
8 cups of granulated sugar
Select 5 pounds of partially ripened crab apples, discarding any soft or rotten fruit. Remove the blossom ends and stems. Cut the fruit into thin slices, leaving the peels and cores intact. Place the fruit into a deep saucepan, add 5 cups of water, cover and simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes. Use a hand masher and crush the fruit completely, producing a juicy sauce. Allow the mix to simmer for 5-10 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat, strain through a jelly bag, gently squeezing the pulp but do not force any of the pulp into the juice. Save the pulp and make jellied apple butter.
Recover the juice, place into saucepan, add 8 cups of granulated sugar and stir constantly over a moderate heat until sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Then bring to a boil for 1 full minute. Pour the jelly into hot, sterile jars and seal.
Recipes for Other Wild Fruits
Elder Blossom Fritters (Serves 8)
2 cups fine white cornmeal
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 cup water
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Â¼ cup corn oil for frying
16 elder blossom clusters, washed and dried
Prepare a light batter beating together the cornmeal, egg, water and maple syrup. Heat the oil on a griddle and drop the batter by large tablespoonfuls onto it. Immediately placing 1 blossom cluster in the center of each raw fritter and pressing lightly into the batter. Fry for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden. Flip and fry for 3 minutes on the other side. Drain on brown paper. Serve hot, sprinkled with additional loose blossoms and maple sugar.
Native Mayhaw Flowers
3 lb. mayhaws
4 cups water
¼ cup lemon juice
7 ½ cups sugar
½ bottle liquid pectin
Wash and crush fruit; add water; bring to a boil and simmer for 10 min. Extract juice. Measure out 4 cups. Add lemon juice and sugar. Follow standard procedure for making jelly with liquid pectin.
Things You'll Need to Make Jelly & Jam
"Many people think that survivalists and herbalists are not unlike a swarm of locusts swooping down on the landscape and devouring everything. This can't be further from the truth. A good survivalist and herbalist actually can do more good for any landscape than a person that does nothing at all."
Tom Brown, Jr.; Tom Brown's Field Guide Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants
Thoreau's Wild Fruits
Encylopedia of Edible Plants of North America
Crabapple Flowers Mug
Some Pretty Mugs for Tea and Jam
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© 2008 Yvonne L B