Backyard Foraging

Author Photo
By Renee-Lucie Benoit | May 31, 2016

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.” — Leviticus 23:22

The Bible instructed farmers to leave something behind when they harvested. Is this a practice that modern day people can follow? I make friends with my neighbors and we share leftover fruits and vegetables that we can’t use. In a way this is modern gleaning. No one is asking for payment. It’s a barter system or it’s just a gift. When we lived in Tracy the farmer who lived just across the road brought boxes of cucumbers and tomatoes to share. We could have as many as we wanted. Both city mouse and country mouse can benefit from sharing.

Here’s what I have on my property that could go into the cornucopia when the time comes.


Some store bought potatoes were sprouting, so rather than throw them away or put them in the compost I planted them in the dirt. I have no idea what variety they are. Some kind of baking potato no doubt and it will be fun to discover what surprises the earth might yield when the time comes to harvest.

Yucca, also known as Spanish Dagger

Our yucca is a slender-stemmed plant and 12 feet high with a stocky, branched trunk. It has whitish flowers at this time of year and later on there will be fruit. If the birds don’t get them first the fruit and the flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. I’m waiting to taste my first yucca fruit and I’m told it has a bittersweet and juicy flesh. I’ve also been told that the flowering stem can be peeled and boiled like asparagus.


Did you know that a nectarine is just a smooth-skinned peach? I always thought that a nectarine was a cross between a peach and a plum but a little research reveals that nectarines belong to the same species as peaches. It’s just a fuzzless peach! Our nectarines have been neglected but they still taste just as good. Remember what Joni Mitchell sang? “Hey farmer, farmer, put away the DDT now. Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees.” Our nectarine tree will benefit from pruning this winter and then next spring I hope to see larger, cleaner fruit.


We have what is known as a sweet or common orange tree. I love it in the spring when it’s in bloom because the flowers are very fragrant. I make juice from the fruit to drink and also marinate chicken for my own version of Pollo Loco (Crazy Chicken) and this year I think I might make marmalade for Christmas presents. I could also make orange essential oil and candied peel.

What plants are in your neighborhood that could be used for good things?

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