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Many people focus on food foraging on their trips into the wild. Others choose an easier way – urban foraging. Okay, it’s not the same – spending time in the wilderness is rewarding even without harvesting some tasteful fruits or mushrooms.
However, foraging in the city can be a satisfying and enriching experience. Not to mention, in the case of disaster, it may be the best and easiest way to get fresh food.
What Is Urban Foraging?
Our cities have always been full of edible plants. Green spaces aren’t very remarkable with all the concrete, glass, skyscrapers, and flashy corporate buildings. But nature almost always finds the way to creep in. Of course, there are city parks, private gardens, and backyards that provide a little bit of green. Lately, most cities are trying to expand green spaces and it only increases the possibilities to come across some edible fruits or veggies.
Urban foraging is the term that denotes an intentional search for edible fruits, veggies, and weeds throughout the city. Basically, people are looking for fresh, edible plants in the urban environment. Not surprisingly, it is becoming more popular in recent years. Urban foraging groups are emerging in most of the metropolitan areas across the USA. These organizations often provide help and guidelines on how to start foraging. Also, they advocate for sustainable techniques to allow the plants to regenerate and thrive.
Why You Should Forage In Your City – Top Concerns
I’ll start with a counter-question – why not? We are so detached from nature and it’s not just that we’re losing a piece of ourselves in the process. It is also not a good long-term strategy for human survival. Sooner or later, we will face the consequences of our irresponsible ways of destroying nature.
Anyway, harvesting some fruits of nature in your city may be the first step in reconnecting with nature. Furthermore, knowing where to find fresh plants in the city may be very useful in SHTF situations. Also, you will be more physically active. It’s not a serious workout, but it is a more active way of life. So, it’s healthy to walk and it’s healthy to eat pesticide and additive-free veggies or fruits.
Of course, you should avoid parts of the city with higher levels of pollution, but more on that later. So, put on a pair of sturdy shoes and start a new adventure.
Get Some Knowledge First
Plants can be tasteful, rich in vitamins and nutrients. But, they can also be bitter, poisonous, and dangerous. So, it’s important to be able to recognize and distinguish edible wild plants from inedible or even poisonous ones. You should get an identification book and carry it along while foraging. Another good idea is to connect with more experienced foragers.
Know Your Local Laws
Foraging is not allowed everywhere. Some parks and green spaces may be protected or regularly sprayed with pesticides. So, just like with any other activity, thorough preparation will help you avoid making mistakes or even breaking some local laws.
Explore Your City
As soon as you start foraging, your city will look so much different than before. You will discover that there are many more green spaces than you thought. With some experience, you will develop an eye not only to recognize plants but also to spot hidden or unremarkable locations.
You can also ask for help from local foraging groups. And you can even ask the internet! Falling Fruit is probably the most comprehensive map of edible plants in urban areas, worldwide.
Precautions and Rules
Foraging in the city comes with some safety issues. You won’t run into a bear or snake, but not all of the city locations are safe. Stay away from busy roads, train tracks, gas stations, or heavy-industry facilities. Plants in these areas will be either highly polluted or regularly treated with herbicides and pesticides. As a rule of thumb, the more pristine the area looks, the better the chance to find edible and safe plants. In any case, wash thoroughly anything you harvest, before you eat it.
It’s not all about you, though. You should also harvest these plants in a careful and responsible way.
- Don’t harvest all the plants you come across. The common rule is to pick up to one-third of the patch. You should always leave some of it for your fellow foragers. More importantly, responsible harvesting will allow the plant to regrow and keep the colony alive for seasons to come.
- Don’t harvest the whole plant if you only need specific parts, such as leaves. The point isn’t to kill the plant but to use the parts that are renewable.
- Don’t dig up the roots of endangered species. Again, this requires some education so you’d know how to recognize those.
- Always pick the plants you can positively identify. Otherwise, you may be in for food poisoning, which is unpleasant to say the least.
6 Most Common Edible Plants You Can Find in EVERY City
Lawn-owners hate the dandelion because it is invasive and very difficult to eradicate. Most of them don’t know that the whole plant is edible.
Furthermore, it is nutritious and it is used for centuries in traditional medicine. Dandelions are rich in vitamins A, C, and K. They also contain several minerals and polyphenols. The best thing about them is that you can find them almost anywhere. Young leaves are the most tasteful part and a perfect choice for salads or soups.
Have you ever noticed blackberry-like (I am not talking about smartphones!) fruit in city parks, on a large tree? It is mulberry and it is edible.
These trees can grow in wild or under cultivation in temperate zones all around the world. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C and iron. You can use it to make pies, tarts, wine, or tea. The fruit can be black, white, and red. Some varieties can be tart, but all of them are sweet and juicy.
Chestnut is a very common tree in city parks. It’s a huge and lovely tree, but it also provides our favorite nuts for Thanksgiving. They are easy to harvest as they fall off the tree as soon as they are ripe. Just make sure not to confuse it with the so-called horse chestnut. It has similar fruit, but it’s not related to chestnuts and it is mildly poisonous for humans.
It is another big tree that grows in parks and other green spaces in cities. All nuts are pretty calorie- and nutrient-dense. I could write the whole article about the benefits and nutritional value of walnuts. But, I’ll leave it for another occasion. If you have some walnuts in your area, don’t miss the harvest time from early September to early November.
Bitter and stinging plants use these strategies to ward off enemies. However, they may hide a treasure behind these defensive mechanisms. A stinging nettle tastes pretty much like spinach. And it’s very rich in nutrients. It contains vitamins A, B1, C, iron, manganese, calcium, potassium, and omega-3 acids. Just make sure you wear gloves when harvesting.
It is a gardener’s nightmare. While it seems to be indestructible in early spring, it needs a lot of rain, so it’s usually dry and gone by late summer. All parts of the plant are edible, stems, leaves, and flowers. The leaves are great for your salads, but it can be used as a cooling herbal remedy as well.
There are hidden treasures in every city. If you know where to find them, you will enjoy and appreciate them more. While foraging in the city may appear counter-intuitive, once you peek behind the curtains you’ll discover a whole new world of opportunities. It’s satisfying on many levels. You’ll get to know your city better, meet some new people, and acquire a useful urban survival skill.
Don’t get me wrong here. I still prefer spending time in the wilderness, harvesting organic products of nature. Nevertheless, not too many of us can afford to roam the woods very often. On the other hand, strolling around the city is available for everyone, so why not take a chance of this opportunity?