Forest owners can harvest edible fruit and berries when they are ripe. Some of the at-home uses include flavoring meals, garnishing salads, or serving the fruits to birds. Some forest plants and trees contain high amounts of nutrients. Forest fruits and berries can be marketed only if they are clean and packaged attractively. To keep this project going for the long term, plant new trees and shrubs every year and only harvest a small amount, even when they are abundant. Among the problems people run into are foraging by birds and wildlife, drought reducing yield and changing the taste, and keeping the fruits stored.
Active forest owners can collect pinecones, acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, and hazelnuts from the forest floor. Although woodlot owners in the Southern Tier are likely to use them for attracting and feeding wildlife, you can also propagate new forest trees, use them for rustic decoration projects and grind into recipes calling for nuts. People considering edible uses must be sure of the identity of the tree or shrub. As an income-producing project, cones and seeds can be packaged into edible mixes for wildlife, baked into retail goods containing natural products, planted as trees for sale, or marketing to crafters. Supply is important, so you should replant species to continue production, and plan to manage your timber to favor nut- and cone-producing trees. Problems with this forest activity include over harvesting, insect larvae appearing in the nuts, and preserving nuts.
One of the classic “forest farming” practices, woodlot owners are growing mushrooms for their own consumption. Various species of mushrooms are inoculated on cut logs in forests. They are used as a food, a natural remedy to ailments and as a potent flavoring. It is possible to sell mushrooms directly to consumers, restaurants, and stored in a dried form. Use logs cut according to a forest management plan. Fungi can behave unpredictably, so you would need to adjust to unpredictable fruiting, careful storage, and proper sanitation to prevent contamination with other fungi. Visit the Northeast Forest Mushroom Growers Network for more information regarding mushroom cultivation.
Content for this page was written or compiled by CCE of Schuyler County.
Senior Resource Educator in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Regional Director for the CCE Master Forest Owner volunteer program, Forest Manager for Cornell’s Arnot Teaching and Research Forest
Last updated July 26, 2019