I often fantasize about giving up the city life with all its conveniences and moving to the country to live off the land. I will have a thriving organic garden and happy goats.
When I yearn for this idealized future, I watch a BBC show called River Cottage. The show chronicles Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's journey from a full-time city dweller to a countryside farmer. Through a series of episodes he demonstrates how interdependent the farmer (played by him) is to his neighbors, the community, the land, and the countryside. He paints an idyllic life in the picturesque English countryside- you know the one…think All Creatures Great and Small.
My city life enables me to practice the profession I love, draw inspiration from the cultures around me, and allows unparalleled convenience to whatever strikes my fancy. What was missing from my life was that the cityscape seemed like a vessel for things I want to consume. I felt disconnected from the land around me. Although I have a tiny garden of tomatoes, peppers and various herbs on our small patio above the street, it was learning about urban foraging that scratched that itch.
It all happened one night when I was watching the episode The Wild Larder. In this episode Hugh and his cronies scour the countryside, hills and rivers foraging for wild food. They hunt for mushrooms, wild greens (ramps, watercress, and such), fish and game. The bounty of a healthy environment spills beyond the confines you set for it. Hugh made me realize that I had been myopic. Bounty lays beyond your small holdings in your great surroundings - my perception just had to change. It was in that moment that I realized the similarities my current city life shared with my dream of a country farmer life. My patio garden could be my small holding and the urban fabric beyond could be my Wild Larder.
Urban food foraging involves identifying foods within your city- most often fruits and berries, which are edible and free for the picking. The resurgence of urban foraging is relatively new and goes hand-in-hand with the resurgence of urban farming.
There are numerous websites on the practice foraging, including foraging.com, but the one of the best is the Urban Edibles out of Portand. Urban Edibles helps foragers navigate the unfamiliar physical and ethical landscape.
Here are some guidelines they list:
- 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?
- Ask permission before you pick. We do not condone unsanctioned harvesting practices or trespassing.
- Pick in a balanced and selective manner. The last thing we want is to damage the sources from which we harvest!
- 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.