The Wild Berry Hunt
In early September, I had the opportunity to join a film group on a wild berry picking tour in upstate New York, in the Hudson River Valley. It was my first time that far upstate, an extra motivation to sign up for a Saturday day trip starting at 7 A.M.
For we were on the hunt for wild, berries that is.
Coffee in tow, we piled into a big blue van and made our ascent out of the city. As much as I have enjoyed building the life I have in the Big Apple, I am still a Girl Scout at heart. It was exciting to have a reason to buy a backpack in order to be handsfree, find boots without heels. I love weekend getaways and opportunities to get on the road; to “tomcat around” as my Papa would say.
Within the span of a couple hours, we saw a decrescendo of urban decay into busy suburbs, to charming tourist towns to quaint small neighborhoods until we were in straight up wilderness. The leaves were just starting their transition, so the countryside comprised mainly of green with generous streaks of yellow and little flicker of various robust reds.
Minnewaska State Park is beautiful as it is vast. After a brutally hot August and awful rains earlier in the week, it was pure delight to be out in fresh, early autumn crisp air. They started us off quite high up into the preserve, where there were enormous rockscapes, allowing a perfect overlook to a glorious grand lake teeming with bio diversity such as snakes and salamanders. I found that out the hard way when taking a dip after lunch!
We hiked up a few miles, our guides stopping us here and there to point out interesting plant life or animal markings. Some trees have evolved to adapt to forest fires, where in fact they need the fire to spawn it seeds. Like breaking myofibrils chains in order to build muscle, just another aspect of the world that teach us not only resiliency, but to grow from life’s challenges.
The guides, while promising us “as many plump delicious berries as you can carry,” could not be responsible for acts of God nor nature. They took us out to their secret spot, but the area had already be combed over quite a bit by the birds and bears. Let them have the wild berries, I can always pick some up at the store!
We took a go at what we could find, and I admit that it was a great delight to try wild berries straight off the bush. I had never felt comfortable taking the risk until then.
The area sure was not Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory though, where everything was edible. One person in our group began picking another berry very different than the ones we were given the clear for, and they almost made themselves sick. In nature, when in doubt avoid anything bright red; it most likely is poisonous. This is why it’s important to never eat anything in the wild without a guide, and they way they deem it safe to. Wild harvested mushrooms for example, should always be fully cooked before consuming.
I managed to bring back enough to use as garnish for my favorite go-to post gym snack, coconut chia pudding. The natural tartness of the wild blueberry made for little burst of fruity caviar.
Recipe available here