You are surrounded by thick brush, crawling with your belly in the dirt. Out in the elements with some bags and pliers, you traverse until you find sustenance.
Alas! A large bush, its branches weighed down by succulent berries. A good afternoon snack. You approach the bush while scanning the terrain for zombies…
Just kidding! Although the imminence of a zombie apocalypse is doubtful, sourcing food from nature, otherwise known as foraging, can be an enjoyable recreational activity as well as a way to sample local produce.
Wisconsin’s temperate climate and many ecosystems make it home to a variety of flora and fauna. Specifically in Dane County, foraging for wild produce for personal use is also legal.
According to the Dane County website, parks are an excellent site for finding seasonal fruits, mushrooms and nuts. Some plants that grow naturally in parks around Madison include apples, morel mushrooms, pears and hickory nuts. Some plants available in the months of August through October include apples, hickory nuts, pears and plums.
Apples — Apples are available for harvest during September through October Some locations within a 35 minute driving distance are Badger Prairie County Park, CamRock County Park and Donald County Park.
Hickory nuts — Hickory nuts are encased by a tough green shell, but once past the shell, the flavor can be compared to a pecan. They can be harvested through September and October and can be found in most parks. Be careful not to eat a buckeye, as those are poisonous. The two can be differentiated by opening their shell. The hickory nut will have multiple chambers in their inner nutshell, while buckeyes will not.
Pears — Pears can be harvested from August to September. Check out Babcock County Park, CamRock Park and Capital Springs Dog Park for them.
Plums — Plums are harvested from September to November. They can be found at Babcock County Park, Capital Springs Dog Park and also Mendota County Park.
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In addition, there are some guidelines, recommended by Dane County Parks, when it comes to foraging:
1. Make sure that you are confident of what you are picking. For example, hickory nuts can be mistaken for buckeyes, which are poisonous.
2. Do not forage near roads or traffic.
3. Avoid picking from small colonies, that way other people may enjoy the fruits in the future.
4. Do not cut or harm the plant when picking its fruit.
Armed with new knowledge, you can now live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasy, while enjoying some tasty treats in the process! (It may also come in handy in the case of world annihilation.)