Actually, I think the term harvest only applies if I've grown it myself. Otherwise I think it's foraging. Free spoils. Like finding a great chair on the curbside with a 'free' sign on it.
There's been a good show of fungi. We found a much-coveted prize: the giant puffball.
I think puffballs are coveted because of their size and ephemeral nature, and not their amazing flavor. It was palatable, although the texture is somehwere between a marshmallow and a nerf ball. I managed a few slices fried in butter and garlic on toast, but composted the rest. Next time I see one in a field, I might pretend that I didn't.
The pony paddock is awash in field mushrooms, which I pick as button size. They're your workaday mushrooms, nothing fancy like a shiitake or oyster, but they sure can bulk out a curry or an omelette. We've been eating those on an almost daily basis, while stocks last as they say.
All my harvests get collected in a horse feed bucket - is that in any way hygienic?
I guess the nature of foraging is the gamble. After you're sure it's not poisonous, then it's all personal preference. Having a good repertoire of cooking skills and appropriate recipes probably stacks the deck in your favor. A puffball in the hands of a decent chef who knows how to work with its nerfball-like qualities might have made all the difference. Where even a amateur like me can muster up a passable chicken and field mushroom casserole.
I caught the crabapple crop just right this year. Crabapple jelly is a staple in our pantry and I have a bucketful of fruit to process. My favorite variety is Malus 'Dartmouth' and the one tree I know of is some 20 miles away in a public garden. Foraging for these apples verges on stealing, though I only pick up the windfalls. I tell myself that I'm simply clearing them up for the gardening staff. That will also be my defense in court.
Still life with crabapples and puffball in horse bucket
In England, foraging for windfall apples has a particular name: scrumping. Many young children have had a slap 'round the ear, or incurred the wrath of an angry gardener for scrumping apples. Even the windfalls are used in cidermaking. Bruising, clods of mud, and the odd worm count as 'natural flavorings' in a bottle of cider.
I thought I would collect a few hazelnuts this year too, as I enjoyed the foraged sweet chestnuts last year. I envision rich chocolate hazelnut puddings (wearing sweaters means I can eat as many as I want). I thought I would do double duty: take the horses for a ride and pick nuts as I went. On horseback I could reach the higher branches. I put some panniers on Alan and expected to come back from our ride with both sides full. I was congratulating myself on my efficiency and genius.
I didn't know horses like hazelnuts too, or that they're quicker than me at finding them.
One for me...six for you...
When I stopped at a tree to pick the nuts, Alan and Kitty joined in. For every one I found and picked, they ate a branch with several clusters on it. I only managed a few meagre handfuls in total. They ate their fill. Equine ingrates.
The hazelnuts will be around for a bit longer so my dreams of puddings and muffin tops aren't wholly lost. To improve my chances, I won't be taking the horses with me next time. But I'll still have to do battle with the squirrels and my money's on them. I'll accept my fate. As long as I don't have to live on puffballs.