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How To Find Fresh Food In The Big City: Urban Foraging

How To Find Fresh Food In The Big City: Urban Foraging

Do you have a friend who’s recently gone “Freegan” or seen a blog headline about dumpster diving and wondered what all the hype is about? Both of these terms describe a type of lifestyle where individuals rummage, scour and explore for food, clothing and other useful articles that other people have discarded as trash.

If the idea of ransacking dumpsters and trashcans isn’t you’re idea of a pleasant way to spend your Saturday afternoon, there are alternatives that still allow you to embark on your own adventure to find food in unconventional places.

Urban foraging
is an emerging trend that teaches people how to find edibles in parks, yards and city squares.

In the spring and summer months the foliage is out and parks and lawns turn many shades of green. What many people don’t realize, however, is that many leaves, weeds, flowers and other plants can be collected and eaten for free. In addition, some city parks and yards are home to fruit tree that bear unharvested edibles year after year.

Instead of lamenting the high price of fresh local food, while edibles go to waste all over the city, urban foragers mobilze to eat off of the fat of the land.

Resources for learning how to be a successful urban forager are popping up all over the internet, like Urban Edibles, a community database of wild food sources in Portland, Oregon. Workshops that provide a hands-on urban foraging experience have sprung up as well, like those led by Leda Meredith, an urban homesteader who lives in New York City.

Of course, you can’t go picking tomatoes and dandelions just anywhere you find them, and urban foragers must follow a considerate code of ethics any time they venture out.

Among Urban Edibles’ ethical guidelines:

1. Don’t take more than you need. “A tree full of ripe black cherries can be really exciting but how many will you use before they go bad?”

2. Ask permission before you pick. “We do not condone unsanctioned harvesting practices or trespassing.”

3. Pick in a balanced and selective manner. “The last thing we want is to damage the sources from which we harvest!”

4. Watch out for pesticides and other contaminants. “Paint chips, pesticides, motor oil spills and even car wash runoff can affect the quality of the sources you pick from.”

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Image Credit: treehugger.com

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16 comments

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3:53PM PST on Jan 13, 2013

Fascinating.

2:14AM PST on Jan 11, 2013

dandelions and nettles can be used-tried and tested by my partner and i. we've got a foragers guide to the uk so been using that to find our secret stashes of wild strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, cherries, apples, pears and the like!

2:17PM PDT on Aug 19, 2011

I am a wild crafter--in mountains on the outskirts of town. I always have found it ironic that hungry people hold up signs that say, "Please Feed Me!" while they stand in a knee high patch of weeds that contains many nutritious edible plants that have 100% more vitamins and minerals than the Big Mac they'll get with the money they make from begging.

Can we get wildcrafting classes in homeless shelters? that would be awesome! Great gradutae thesis project!! Or project for a school to adopt. Boy Scouts? Unicef?

7:12PM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

Urban foraging looks exciting and interesting. Maybe if we harvest, we should replant what we took. This way, it will be sustainable and provide for more people in more years.

2:03PM PDT on Oct 18, 2009

Great Blog entry!

Vancouver, BC, has an awesome non-profit group called Vancouver Fruit Tree Project ( http://www.vcn.bc.ca/fruit/ )
that works to get unused fruit to various homeless shelters.

8:55PM PDT on Oct 15, 2009

There may be less cases of public urination (though just as much pollution because everyone drives) in the burbs than in the cities, but you have to deal with all sorts of laws in terms of trespassing and acceptable behaviors. I live in the heart of suburbia where you can get fined if your lawn grows too long or if you put a clothesline in your yard (God forbid you try to save gas and electricity from a dryer), so you do need to be careful before you start picking berries that overflow from someone's tree.

9:07PM PDT on Oct 11, 2009

It's easy to pass judgement from the comfort of our own homes. The first time I saw this I remember thinking it was gross, too. But really it's just sad. More & more people are losing not just their jobs, but their homes as well. No one (except that very tiny percentage of very wealthy) is truly immune from having trouble feeding their children or even becoming homeless. And no, not everyone who is homeless became so through drug &/or drink.

1:04PM PDT on Oct 11, 2009

PLEASE, PLEASE if you forage for wild edibles, invest in a fieldguide or research your area. There are some really good websites out there also. eattheweeds(dot)com is good. There is another great website but it escapes me right now. We need to remember alot of "weeds" are not only food, they are medicine. People who use "weed and feed" kill me. The green grass yard is nothing more than keeping up with the joneses and grass virtually has no nutrient value to humans.

10:08AM PDT on Oct 11, 2009

It's strictly something to sample or play around with. Although you can't guarantee the dirt quality of produce found in your local grocery store's produce aisles, you can gaurantee in a urban setting the 'edibles' have pollutants on their surfaces and absorbed in their system.

9:37AM PDT on Oct 11, 2009

In principle I agree with this concept. I have practiced it myself at times (it's called "Wildcrafting") depending on where I happen to find myself...and that's the key! My main concern is contaminants in the soil, in the air, on and in the plants. I have to agree fully with Chad M., Ms Cooper, Koo J, and Laura B....They have good reason for concern.
Public parks regulary spray all their foliage with very dangerous toxic chemicals to prevent insect infestation and damage. This can be washed away but what falls on the ground enters the soil and then gets drawn into the plantd by their root system. Pollutants from automobiles and nearby industry adds to this. It's true, however, that unless you are buying organically raised fruits and vegetables you may face a similar problem (to a slightly lesser extent) at the supermarket. Something you won't face - urine. All it takes is someone urinating who has a UTI for instance. E. coli, Staph aureus, even Tuberculosis, and many other pathogens, and they just went systemic into the plant.
My wish is to see public parks planting fruit trees, vegetables and herbs almost exclusively,using organic means (not too difficult to do). No one would need to go hungry again.Food for thought.
Jack at "Jack's Magic" Holistic Remedies,
www.jmholisticremedies.com

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