Gathering and growing edible fruits and nuts
Gathering wild foods from the woods and environment is a common practice in many cultures today. Minnesotans are showing an increased interest in harvesting wild food, along with growing their own food, and purchasing locally grown foods. This publication provides a list of wild fruits and nuts that can be gathered in the woodlands of Minnesota and/or purchased and planted in your yard to provide food and enjoyment.
Forest farming is one of five Agroforestry practices according to the USDA National Agroforestry Center. (Windbreaks, Alley Cropping, Riparian Forest Buffers, Silvopasture and Forest Farming).
Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is a term used to discuss edibles, medicinals, crafts and decoratives. These products can be used personally or can be used to generate income and form small businesses. Business examples include: wild ginseng, wild rice, wild crafting and evergreen boughs.
Permission to harvest: Individuals and families harvesting edibles and decoratives in a Minnesota State Forest or Park for home use do not need a state permit. However, harvesting edibles and decoratives which will be sold requires a state permit. Minnesota permit laws can be found here. Within a state park, collecting, harvesting, or taking a tangible object for resale or commercial use is prohibited, except by written permission of the commissioner. Harvesting wild rice on bodies of water totally enclosed within a state park boundary is prohibited except by written permission of the commissioner. Collecting or possessing naturally occurring plants in a fresh form at state parks is prohibited, with the exception of edible fruit and mushrooms, both of which may be harvested for personal, noncommercial use. Minnesota mushroom laws can be found here.
Permits can be obtained from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forestry offices, forestry offices of the Chippewa and Superior National Forests, DNR Division of Parks and Trails tribal headquarters on reservation lands, and county land management offices. (Not all sites allow gathering.)
An excellent wild gatherers resource is the Minnesota Harvester Handbook which addresses sustainable natural resource harvest and markets. This resource was developed by the University of Minnesota Extension and many contributors. It demonstrates the breadth and diversity of natural resources found in and around the state's woodlands. Copies can be purchased at the Minnesota Bookstore.
Growing fruits and nuts in home landscapes
There are many species of trees and shrubs that produce fruits and nuts that can be planted in home landscapes. Shrubs are smaller and preferred when space is limited.
The list of fruits and nuts in this fact sheet is not complete but gives resource information about plants that could be planted in home landscapes. Select cultivars with appropriate cold hardiness for the planting site. Additional fruits that are not listed include: raspberries, strawberries, apples, and grapes.
Edible fruits and nuts from trees and shrubs (for home landscape plantings)
|MN Native||Pollinator friendly||Comments||Zone||Height||Width|
|X||4-8||Needs 2 varieties for cross pollination||12-18'||10-15'|
|X||X||3-7||Needs pH 4.0-5.5; 2 varieties best||5'||3'|
|X||X||2-7||Needs 1 male to pollinate or more females||3-13'||5-8'|
|Cherries, Dwarf Sour
|X||2-5||Dwarf Sour Cherries for the Prairies PDF||6-7'||6-7'|
Castanea mollisima (Chinese)
|X||4-9||(Typically Chinese Chestnut) Requires slightly acidic and well-drained soil||40-60'||50'|
|X||X||3-7||Also known as Aronia Berry (domestic cultivars: A. mitschurinii)||5-7'||5-7'|
|X||X||3-8||(Most available varieties are American x European hybrids)||2-5'||3-5'|
|X||X||3-8||Select cultivars being tested in MN (may grow but not ripen in Zone 3) (Black is edible)||6-10'||6-12'|
|X||X||3-9||Bush-type, select cultivars being tested in MN||4-12'||3-8'|
Carya laciniosa,C. cordiformis,C. ovata
|X||X||4-8||Shellbark for uplands, Bitternut, Shagbark for lowlands||60-80'||50'|
|X||2-7||Needs 2 compatible varieties; birds and powdery mildew can be problems||3-5'||3-5'|
|X||X||2-5||(Serviceberry and Saskatoons) Shrub or tree forms||5-15'||10-40'|
|X||3-9||Needs 1 male to pollinate 1 or more females; May not fruit in zone 3||15-20'||20-25'|
|3-7||Pine nuts, resembles white pine||N/A||N/A|
|X||X||2-7||Needs pH 4-5.5||2-16'||1-3'|
|X||X||2-8||Prefers moist soil||10-15'||6-12'|
|X||5-8||Needs 2 varieties||15-20'||15-20'|
|X||3-9||Fireblight resistant; needs 2 varieties for best production||10-40'||15-20'|
|X||X||4-9||Hybrids need 2 compatible varieties; European plums are self-fertile||12-20'||8-15'|
|X||X||4-6||High quality nuts require selected cultivars||100-150'||60-120'|
University of Minnesota - Fruit
University of Saskatschewan-Saskatoon - Fruit
Cornell University - Minor fruits
University of Georgia - Minor fruits
University of Wisconsin - Minor fruits
DNR - Native Plant Encyclopedia
University of Minnesota - Agroforestry
University of Minnesota - My Minnesota Woods
National Agroforestry Center, USDA - Agroforestry
eXtension - Forest farming
Neith Little, Dakota County Extension