Dropped by the Friends Packing House on Highway 33 last week, and they have one of those handy calendars that shows what is ripe for every month of they year. Here’s the California native version to get your fresh fruit January through December (more or less). I wouldn’t recommend eating too much of any of these unless you know what you are doing. The month range given doesn’t imply that the fruiting season is that long. Some are just a few weeks long while others can fruit almost any time of the year given the right conditions. Enjoy the cornucopia:
January to March – Chaparral currant will not fruit reliably without rain at the right times. They are small and sweet but kind of grainy. Once they turn purple they are gone in a matter of weeks and dormancy follows soon after.
March to… Elderberry can be found in fruit in a wide variety of months depending on sun exposure and extra water sources. Tiny and sweet, we humans can make jam and wine, while a dozen different species of birds will clear a tree in less than a month.
April to May – Nightshade is obviously poisonous to humans and should be avoided unless you like extensive retching.
May to July – Blackberry is fun to find but I rarely get a tasty one. Matilija Canyon is my favorite area to go picking.
June to July – Redberry was my inspiration for this post. They seem to be reliable every year regardless of drought. Needless to say, the birds had a feast this year.
June to August – Rose hips are an herbalist favorite but not that consistent a fruiter in these parts. Popular with a wide variety of fauna.
July to August – Holly leaf cherry is just entering peak season and they are having an OK year. Last few years have been thin, I did not find a single cherry on the Ventura River Preserve last year. Bears go to town on these; Chumash were more interested in the seeds than the flesh.
July to August – Fuchsia flower gooseberry are my favorites, aesthetically. The suspended black seeds in the sticky red goo covered in gnarly little spikes have a very artistic quality to them. Unreliable fruiting in drought.
July to September – Prickly pear is one I have yet to try, though I’ve had the “juice” in a cocktail. Meh.
August to October – Honeysuckle can be yellow, pink, red or anything in between. Had great success propagating this year after 2 months in the fridge.
August to September -Snowberry can be very spotty in terms of fruit. I also have been unable to find any birds that enjoy them. Guess someone’s gotta eat them no?
October to December -Oak is not a fruit in a traditional sense, but one of the few edibles for the end of the season.
November to January – Toyon closes out the year with a brilliant splash of red. “Christmasberry” as it is sometimes known in these parts is popular with the birds, to much work and little nutrition for humans as far as I know.