If you are trying to Eat Local, why not try to eat uber local! Foraging for wild foods is perhaps the most local anyone can eat. Need a little foraging guidance? Unless you regularly inspect every nook and cranny in your town, odds are you have not discovered all of the wild food sources potentially available to you. In a maneuver to make wild foods more accessible, San Francisco duo Caleb Phillips and Ethan Welty have opened our world and our stomachs by launching an online wild food finder. Known as Falling Fruit, the finder merges the locating prowess of google maps and the public accessibility of wikipedia, all for the benefit of promoting urban foraging. The map is interactive, and can be augmented by anyone that has knowledge of a potential, publicly accessible food source. It can help you locate nearly anything edible, such as sugar maples, wild berries, cattails, herbs, veggies, public springs, and even certain invasive, abundant species, like gray squirrels. The site is still in its initial stages, so the team would greatly appreciate your feedback: feedback[at]falling fruit.org.
No listings in your area? Pioneer a local movement and add the first! Foraging for nature’s goodies is not only affordable, healthy, and a terrific way to get outdoors, but also tons of fun! When else do you allow yourself to hunt for foods with a wild and primal drive, rather than just monotonously driving to the market? The practice of foraging reenforces a nearly forgotten concept–food does not necessarily come from a store. Instead of buying greens at the market, go out on the streets and see what you can find. Maybe you’ll end up enjoying a fresh dandelion green salad or some roasted burdock root! Just be sure to practice responsible foraging methods. This means KNOWING WHAT YOU ARE EATING and not over-harvesting any single area. I foraged for wild ramps a couple of weeks ago with my boyfriend. After getting caked in dirt and sweat, we were rewarded with 1-2 lbs. of ramps for cooking and pickling. When we forage, we practice moderation by only picking 3-4 bunches of ramps in any particularly dense area before moving on. As some wild foods are extremely fragile, they can take a long time to rebound (ramps can take 7 years to replenish themselves after being over-harvested). If you harvest all of the goodies this year, there will be nothing left for you or anyone else in the future. That, indeed, would be a shame.
Looking for more information on wild foods? There are tons of books out there, from Whole Larder Love to Nature’s Garden: Edible Wild Plants. I also highly recommend the books and series of Ray Mears. As a man who can truly live with nature, he has shown himself to be one of the great masters of bushcraft– being both extremely knowledgeable and sincerely kindhearted–and is someone I very much look up to. Check out his Wild Foods series or any of his books for invaluable knowledge on wilds foods and bushcraft.
In the past, I have dined on foraged foods such as wild berries, burdock root, mint, wintergreen, maple sap, birch sap, chestnuts, ramps, dandelions, fiddleheads, among other foods. What wild foods have you enjoyed?