Today, a large majority of the food we consume comes from stores, produced on a massive farm halfway across the world. If you prefer to source some of your food a little closer to home, you might be surprised to find out that no matter where you live, there is an abundance of edible greenery free for the picking. Here are five easy ways to start urban foraging in your neighborhood today.
#1. Know Your Local Bylaws
Before you start foraging from any plants or trees you see, double-check your local bylaws. Some municipalities don’t allow foraging on city property like parks or ravines. If you have permission, find out whether your city sprays any pesticides or other chemicals. This will give you a better understanding of areas to avoid or whether a simple rinsing will get rid of any pesticides. Either way, remember to always wash your harvest before you eat.
#2. Know What You're Gathering
Make sure you always know what you are foraging. Numerous plants, mushrooms and fruits can make you very sick, so always be absolutely sure what you’re picking is edible, safe, and in season. It's also a good idea to have a plan of how you will harvest, store, and use your foraged edibles.
Related: Wildcrafting With Kids
While out foraging, carry an identification book for your local plants and trees to double-check what you plan to harvest. If you don’t want to carry a book with you, just take a small sample of an unidentified plant home with you and do some research so you know for next time.
#3. Know Where to Look
In any urban area, you will find a wide variety of edible greenery. However, knowing how to forage won’t do you much good if you don’t know where to look.
A great resource at Falling Fruit allows users to map the exact location of edible finds in urban areas for others to find. If you want to discover some on your own, ravines and wooded areas or parks will definitely have some hidden gems. If you’re on the hunt for mushrooms, check near the base of certain trees, or in areas that have a lot of dead trees on the forest floor.
#4. Join a Local Urban Foraging Group
In recent years, urban foraging has gained quite a following in many of the metropolitan areas of North America. Cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Portland and Seattle all have organizations that teach beginners ways to start urban foraging with a safe and sustainable technique.
Do some quick research and find out if there is a local foraging group in your city to join. The Meetup website has foraging groups from dozens of cities, and over 53,000 foragers for you join. These groups will allow you to ask more experienced foragers questions regarding ripeness, edibility, bylaws and possibly some secret spots!
#5. Be a Conscientious Urban Forager
While you can find a vast supply of edible plants in any urban area, be certain to responsibly harvest them. For example, only take about one-third of anything you find so that other foragers have a chance to harvest that plant, as well as giving it a chance to regrow.
Overharvesting can ruin great foraging spots and even affect food resources for some wildlife. When exploring your city for foraging options, remember to always ask permission before harvesting something from private property. If they haven’t already been harvested, most people will let you pick a few berries or leaves from their plants, since it keeps rotting fruit off their lawns and little critters out of their yards.
As a new urban forager, remember to always be able to identify what you want to harvest. Joining a local foraging group will give you an opportunity to learn from more experienced foragers, as well as finding good areas in your city to explore for edibles.