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.”

Image Credit: treehugger.com

18 comments

William C
William C4 days ago

Thanks.

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W. C
W. C5 days ago

Thank you.

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greenplanet e.
greenplanet e5 years ago

Fascinating.

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katarzyna phillips

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!

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Deborah L.
Deborah Lashever6 years ago

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?

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Jo Asprec
Jo Asprec6 years ago

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.

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Sir Walk F.
Sir Walk F8 years ago

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.

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Margarita Ruiz
Margarita Ruiz8 years ago

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.

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Cherie S.
Cherie S.8 years ago

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.

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Marcla C.
Marcla G8 years ago

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.

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