Thursday, December 16, 2010

Foraging in Suburbia and in Urban Locations

Foraged milk thistle and mallow
I'm big into foraging. If I can get something nutritious, local, pesticide free, and best of all, absolutely free, I'm in heaven. Me and foraging? We're bosom buddies. I've spoken before about foraging trips I've taken, and the amazing bounty with which I've stocked my fridge.
Many have reacted positively, but skeptically. You might have thought that foraging sounds great, but you just can't do it. After all, you live in the city and in areas without many fruit trees. It's nice, but "not relevant" to your life, because you don't live in the countryside like I do.

I wanted to clue you in a drop.
I don't live in the countryside. I live in a small apartment built on top of a 2 family house. Most houses here have a small yard, perhaps 100 square feet front and back. The layout is pretty similar to how I grew up in my big city suburb in the Midwest, only with smaller yards.

An empty lot across the street from my house. Nothing growing there...
Only a whole boatload of edible weeds, where I did my  latest foraging!
I don't have fields and meadows available, nor forests in which to forage. I don't have ultra special resources here that allow me to forage.
You can forage pretty much anywhere.

Foraging in the Non Country Side

Fruit Foraging
Trees are a great source for beginner foraging in the city or suburbia. Trees in public parks often have fruit that otherwise falls down on the ground and rots. Back in the US, I remember picking mulberries and raspberries in the park next to our swimming pool. Apple trees abounded in another park that we frequented. Locally, I found lemon trees, olive trees, pear trees, carob trees, fig trees, pears and another fruit which I don't know to identify (but had a taste that reminded me of guava and pears) all in public locations, where anyone could forage. Fruit falling to the ground and rotting is generally a sign that this fruit is not wanted, and you can help yourself.
 If you're unsure whether you're allowed to take, it always helps to check on the laws in your area. If you're in a park and there are park officials there, you can also ask them for permission to pick.

If there aren't trees in public areas, but you notice neighbors with fruit trees (especially if they're falling onto the ground), you can  knock on doors and ask them if they have excess fruit which they'd like to pass on. By doing this, I got myself tons of apples, tons of plums, tons of grapes, tons of feijoas, tons of passionfruit, tons of grapefruits, some pomegranates, some oranges and some quinces. No, this isn't about them doing you a favor, most of the time. For the most part, fruit trees are very prolific; fruit tree owners usually have such an abundance of fruit that it just falls onto the ground and rots. By taking some of their fruit, you're helping to eliminate some of that mess. So don't be embarassed of asking. The worst that can happen is they'll say "No".

Foraging Weeds
The main reason people often say that there is nothing to forage in their area is because they're a) not looking around enough b) not seeing fruit trees c) don't know how much of what they see is actually edible.
I discovered a really awesome site- Hunger and Thirst for Life.  This lady is a serious forager. Like insanely crazy- and I mean that in a good way. (She eats roadkill even!) One night, I was reading her site until 2 in the morning! There's a boatload of information there about different weeds that actually are edible! One of them, mallow, is one I definitely recalled seeing in my area.
Anyhow, one thing I saw there is a picture of one of her foraging spots. An abandoned bridge. Cement structure, totally not "foresty" or "feildy" or anything of that sort. But, according to her, she foraged a bunch of edible weeds right there!

This opened my eyes to where you can forage. Until now, my foraging was mainly limited to fruit and the occasional wild lavender or rosemary growing near me. Now, my sons and I set forth on an adventure, determined to find vegetables and greens to grace our table.
By reading foraging sites, like Hunger and Thirst for Life, or watching youtube videos from EatTheWeeds.com, or by borrowing a book on edible plants from the library, you can learn to identify which of the weeds in your vicinity are in fact nutritious to eat.
Lee and I discovered food in the most unlikely of  places.

Nothing to forage here, right? Wrong!
This traffic circle near my house was where we found a whole lot of mallow and some wintercress, as well as some other weeds that I'm sure are also edible, but I'm first doing my research to double check.

Mallow growing in the traffic circle.
But I didn't even need to go that far- in an empty lot not 100 feet from my front door, I found mallow, milk thistle, and also wintercress, all edible goodies.

Shrubbery next door to my house. Growing there is rosemary, lavender,
mallow, thistle, and a few other species I have yet to identify.

Sprouting  from between a crack in the sidewalk, next to fences, where ever there is any patch of grass or dirt, weeds often crop up. They're the bane of the gardener, but friend of the forager.

Best of all- these greens are usually so nutrient dense and many have medicinal purposes as well. Oh- and they're organic, local, and free. What an awesome combination!

Foraging- its not only for the country side dweller. You can forage no matter where you live, so long as you know what to look for. (And for that, again, see the sites listed above or consult an edible wildlife book.) You might even be able to see edible goodies from your window, as I can.

Have you foraged for wild edibles before? What have you foraged? Or are you still determined that "theres nothing to forage where you live"? 

Linking up with Frugal Friday, Pennywise Platter,  Vegetarian Foodie Friday and Fight Back Friday

1 comment:

  1. One time my husband, kids and I were picking blackberries in a county park and the park ranger yelled at us and made us stop. She said we were "ruining the natural habitat"!


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