Wild fruits are shrubs and shrubs whose fruits we can eat. This also includes the archetypes of our apples, pears or cherries. Collecting and planting wild fruit is in vogue - with good reason: The wild fruits contain plenty of vitamins, minerals and vital substances; they usually taste more intense than cultivars and some have a high value as ornamental plants. Wild fruit trees offer the best insect pastures and are first-class nutrient and nesting plants for endangered birds. The most important facts in brief:
- Wild fruits are the wild forms of our cultivated fruit types as well as fruits that have not been cultivated.
- Most wild fruits are ripe in autumn and can then be harvested.
- Wild fruit has many vitamins, minerals, tannins and other vital substances.
- Wild fruit is easy to plant, requires little maintenance and is an excellent source of food for endangered insects and birds.
Wild fruits in naturopathy
Wild fruit bushes and shrubs play an important role in naturopathy - not only the fruit, but also the bark, the leaves, flowers and resin. Sloe, for example, contains iron, potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium as well as plenty of vitamin C; Elderberry works against muscle pain and calf cramps; Cornelian cherry offers mucus and tannins, and the rose hips of dog rose relieve bladder and kidney problems. Wild fruit has been part of the natural pharmacy for thousands of years, and wild fruit extracts can now be found in countless medicines.
Wild fruits include: mountain ash, hazelnut, elderberry, rock pear, cornelian cherry, bird cherry, oat plum, corn berry, mulberries, hawthorn, wild roses, sloe, sea buckthorn, barberry, honeysuckle, medlar, wild pear, crab apple (wild apple), in a broader sense also wild berries such as wild strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. By the way, wild fruit also includes nuts such as hazelnuts and walnuts.
We can eat many wild fruits raw, for example rock pear, service tree, flour and mulberry, apple berry, may, blackberry, raspberry, blue, cranberry, moss, rush or wild strawberry. Others such as the fruits of mountain ash, cornelian cherry, sea buckthorn, elderberry, wild apple and wild pear can only be eaten cooked, and we process them into jam, juice or liqueur.
“Superfoods” from the Andes, China or Africa are fashionable. However, many do not know that at least as valuable food is just waiting to be harvested on the doorstep. Sea buckthorn, barberry and rosehip far exceed citrus fruits with their vitamin C content. In addition, there are pectin, flavonoids and anthocyanins, which work against infections, clean the blood and calm the cardiovascular system. Wild fruits also taste very intense, due to sugar, fruit acids, minerals and flavors.
Wild fruits - a selection
The spectrum of wild fruits is extremely broad. Here are just a few selected examples.
The common rock pear is a grateful care for the natural garden and even the balcony. It works well for hedges because it grows bushy. The dark fruits taste sweet, contain many vitamins and tannins; They can be eaten raw, but can also be processed into jam, juice or wine.
The common barberry
The name Sauerdorn already shows: The fruits of Berberis vulgaris taste sour. Barberries have finger-length thorns, and in the hedge they provide good protection against unwanted intruders and a “fortress” for birds to raise their young. The fruits are ripe in October, they taste slightly sour and are suitable for juices, but also as an ingredient in rice dishes and sauces. They are full of vitamins.
In addition to vitamin C, barberry contains potassium, citric and malic acid. The fruit acids clean the stomach; the berries drive sweat, loosen mucus and fight bacteria. Barberry prevents infections, helps against toothache and mucous airways and relieves stomach problems.
The dried fruits are vitamins in winter, but they can also be boiled in tea. If you have a toothache, you can place the sliced berries on the inflamed area.
Cornelian cherry is one of the early bloomers, is therefore an important insect pasture, loves sun and lime in the soil. The "cherries" ripen in September and are the basis for jams, desserts and alcoholic beverages. The content of vitamin C is three times that of lemons.
Most people know this wild rose in the form of rose hip tea. Dog roses are undemanding, have no problems with frost. The bright flowers appear until June, then in September the orange-red rose hips form. We peel the pulp from the seeds, dry it and brew tea from it. Rose hips provided our ancestors with vitamins in winter. They contain rough amounts of vitamins A, B1, B2, K and vitamin C.
Elderberry has the dye sambucyanin, which prevents cardiovascular diseases. Elderberries need nutrients and a lot of water, but are otherwise undemanding and hardy. Even more: once planted, elder grows and you can harvest, cook, and process the fruits and flowers into juice, wine or jelly every year.
The sea buckthorn, also called hawthorn or pheasant berry, shines with vitamins, essential oils, tannic acid and flavones, which are contained in the berries. It needs sun and sandy soil, has no problems with drought and frost - the flowers tolerate up to minus 12 degrees Celsius.
Rowan trees, also known as rowan berries, feature a delicate trunk and a loose oval crown. The slim shape and the glowing orange-red fruits when ripe make the trees an ornament in the garden. They are suitable in smaller gardens as solitary trees, which are less "overwhelming" than oak, beech or apple trees. In large gardens they fit into tall game hedges. They do not need a cut and grow easily, but do need a lot of moisture in the air and soil.
Popularly thought the fruit was poisonous. They are not, they only taste a little bit bitter due to the parasorbic acid contained and cannot be enjoyed raw. However, the bitter taste disappears when cooking. So they taste in jam, jelly and compote and give a unique note in wine, liqueur and juice. Rowan berries contain a lot of vitamin C and tannins. They serve as laxatives, strengthen the cardiovascular system and prevent colds.
Hawthorn is not a culinary delight, but what the berries lack in fruit acidity, they balance out in vital substances. They strengthen the heart and regulate blood pressure like heart rhythm. The red fruits can be dried and brewed as tea - an old home remedy for insomnia and stress.
In contrast to cultivated pears, the wild forms of the pear can only be enjoyed overripe. There are about ten species in Europe. They grow in mixed deciduous forests, in hedges, on southern slopes and between dry shrubbery. They do not tolerate full shade and are rare because their preferred habitat - dry oak forests - is becoming less and less.
Wild pear grows slowly, but can live up to 200 years and reach heights of up to 20 m. Wild pears develop shrub-like or tree-like, depending on the type and competition from "stronger" trees. In autumn the wild pears develop brown-yellow fruits that are only six cm in size. The branches are covered with thorns. We can only consume the pears when they have ripened, i.e. become doughy - usually after the first frost. They served primarily as dried fruit or as baked fruit.
When is collecting time?
The time for wild fruit is autumn. It is best to look for the typical flowers of hawthorn, sloe or cornelian cherry in spring and summer so that you know where to look. From September you will then find the orange-red rose hips, red cornelian cherries, yellow-orange sea buckthorn berries or brown-yellow pears as solitary on meadows, in wild hedges and on embankments and preferably at the edge of the forest.
A good idea: take a basket with you when hiking in nature or on a bike tour. Otherwise you stand z. B. suddenly in front of a magnificent Mirabelle with full hands and do not know how to store the fruits.
Collect berries in nature
Wild berries are the easiest to collect. They grow on the edge of the forest and in the city park, in clearings like on river banks, on abandoned factory premises like on the railway embankment. Blueberries need an acidic soil and can therefore be found particularly in bog, heather, birch and pine forests; Wild blackberries, on the other hand, are very dominant and soon overgrown abandoned gardens.
For children, collecting berries is a little adventure, which unfortunately many of them no longer get to know: it goes through scrub and thorns and the little ones get to know thrushes, starlings, mice, hedgehogs and insects, who also love the berries. Collecting berries is good for the body because we hike, bend and stretch to get the delicacies.
Please pay attention to the following: Collecting berries is outdoor trekking. So put on sturdy clothes and walking shoes that keep thorns out and get dirty. The thorns of the brambles hurt just like nettles. Wear long trousers and put them in your socks - where berries grow, ticks frolic. Wear long shirts made of sturdy material and use an insect repellent - where there are berries, mosquitoes and gnats also thrive. Depending on the weather, rub yourself with sun protection or take a rain jacket with you.
You should have gloves with you. You can use it to push the thorny raspberry or blackberry shoots aside - but it's better to pick the berries yourself by hand to avoid crushing the tiny things. Gloves are counterproductive when collecting wild strawberries.
Pruning shears are practical: elderberries such as sea buckthorn fruits or currants are grouped together, and this is where the best way to cut off the fruit stands - but not the branches. For transport, use an airy basket, ideally woven from wood. Plastic bags are not suitable because the berries are crushed here. With wild strawberries, the harvest quantities are usually small - an open bowl is also sufficient here.
If you collect in nature, be considerate: only take as much as you consume. Do not cut larger branches, do not destroy plants. Make sure that you do not damage bird nests or animal hideouts. Share the berries with the animals and shrubs that multiply over these berries. Never collect within nature reserves.
Do not collect near busy roads or directly on conventionally cultivated areas - car exhaust or pesticides can be in the berries. As with mushrooms, only collect berries that you know are non-toxic - no experiments.
The fox tapeworm
Think of the fox tapeworm. Foxes love berry bushes, and the tapeworm's eggs can stick to the berries via the animal droppings. If people now consume them with the berries, they could theoretically become infected with vesicular echinococcosis, a disease that may cost their lives. In practice, however, the risk for people to become infected in this way is very low.
You can also observe the following safety measures: If the fruits allow, pick only from a height of about 60 cm, for example blackberries, sloes or hawthorn. This is above the shoulder or anus height of the fox. This is not possible with blueberries because they grow directly above the ground. Wild blueberries are therefore briefly heated to at least 60 degrees Celsius - this kills the parasites.
When and how?
The afternoon is ideal for picking berries, because then they contain a lot of fructose. Do not collect for the sake of collecting: if you only take fully ripe fruit with you and leave less ripe and overripe hanging, you relieve your taste buds and also ensure that small mammals, birds and invertebrates have a full stomach. Ripe berries are easy to peel off.
Place only a few layers of berries on top of each other in the basket so that the fruits do not crush each other - berries are delicate and damaged fruits quickly rot. Collect quickly and avoid sunbathing - protect the berries from the sun and take them home immediately in the dark fridge.
Fresh berries only keep in the fridge for a few days. But there are ways to preserve them - as vinegar, oil, jelly, jam, mush, chutney, pickled or dried, frozen, canned or candied. All wild berries can be boiled down, canned and frozen. The finer the consistency, the better the fruit is suitable for candying, the smaller the berries, the better they can be dried.
Tip: Lemon helps against berry stains on clothing, and it also cleans the skin, mouth and teeth from the fruit color. Soak clothes with dried berry stains in milk or yoghurt for several hours, then wash them at high temperatures.
Organize "mouth robbery"
Most people today do not know which wild fruit they can eat, where to find it and whether they can eat it. The initiative “Mundraub.org” wants to remedy the situation, clarifies where fruit ripens in public spaces and organizes, among other things, joint cherry harvests. In Hamburg, for example, 22 locations are marked where fruit trees grow where citizens can freely use themselves - from the unicampus to boat docks on the Elbe. Walnuts grow in Bahrenfeld, blackberries at Harburg train station, mirabelles at Eichbaumsee.
The term mouth robbery should not be taken literally. The initiators in no way call for theft, but want to open people's eyes to how much precious food grows right in front of their eyes. It is not just about street trees or blackberries on fallow land, but also about fruit trees in the gardens of senior citizens who can no longer harvest the fruit themselves.
Wild fruits - nature protection in your own garden
Growing, harvesting and eating wild fruit not only serves your own health and culinary enrichment - it also counteracts the catastrophic bird and insect death. Wild fruits are excellent nectar and pollen donors, the fruits provide food for fruit-eating birds such as thrushes or starlings as well as countless insects and caterpillars - these invertebrates in turn set the table for the insectivores among birds and mammals. This also helps species that are becoming increasingly rare because industrial agriculture deprives them of food.
Nutrient and nesting trees
Blackthorn and hawthorn, for example, are among the most valuable nutrient and nesting plants for birds and should not be missing in any natural garden. Pears, cornelian cherry, black elder, rowan berries, bird cherry and service tree are also first-rate bird plants. In autumn, they not only enjoy guaranteed non-toxic fruits full of vitamins, but also enjoy the song of the song thrush and watch the great tits picking caterpillars for their young. 62 species of bird eat black elder, bird cherry 48, red elder 47 and common juniper 43. The dry flowers of the popular forsythia, on the other hand, are completely useless for insects - as well as for birds. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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