One by One
My honey and I went for a quick bike ride, and came back loaded with wild cherries. We had already picked and preserved two jars, but we were feeling a little greedy, so we couldn't resist going for more! There was enough for 4 jars of jam, for the price of a bag of sugar. While I understand how foraging for food can be daunting at first, I also believe that more people should try their hand at it. Foraging is a truly rewarding hobby once you've got the know-how. Online resources are plentiful, but nothing beats a good, hard copy guide.
Besides getting access to lots of wonderful food for practically nothing -wild foods that can cost a pretty penny when purchased at the market or in shops- foraging for wild foods really does reconnect one with Nature. The hedgerow where we go picking is home to about six or eight cherry trees; a few wild roses; a blackberry shrub; a dozen elder bushes; and a crab apple. Now if that doesn't sound like the makings of great wild feast, I don't know what does!
The lovely thing about wild foods is that no two plant produces the same fruit. Take those cherries for example. All the trees appear to be of the same age, so their pips were likely thrown on the ground around the same time, most probably by someone eating a bag of cherries and spitting out the stones while enjoying a leisurely stroll. Some trees produced the blackest, juiciest-looking cherries, while others had yellow ones, and still others produced pale red cherries that look very much like sour cherries. One would think that the black cherries would be sweetest, but they weren't! They were not only sour, but bitter as well. Of course, all that really matters, is that, once cooked, a lovely jam was the result!
If you do venture out to pick some wild fruits, do keep in mind that they tend to be much less sweet than cultivated varieties. So it is doubly important when making jams with wild fruits to follow old-school proportions: for each kilo/pound of fruit add the same weight of sugar (and a packet of pectin, if using). It may sound excessive, but the sugar is necessary for flavour and preserving. Just don't go eating all the jam in one sitting!