August 27, 2009

Urban Foraging

foraging: tomatoes

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.

searanch: navarro- sheep!

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.

foraging: counter

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.

july12: bfast

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, 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.


Julia said...

i discovered urban foraging this season and it's made my life in the city so much more balanced. i made friends with a neighbor who had an apricot and a cherry tree that he wasn't harvesting. i got some fruit and met a new neighbor, and he felt better that the fruit wasn't going to waste (and i gave him a big jar of apricot butter!). i'm hoping to find more sources next year.

i'll have to check out the links you posted here- thanks!

f. pea said...

thanks for an inspiring post, grub! in our neighborhood there are lots of bountiful fig trees crying out for some foraging right now.

nicola said...

FABULOUS post! we don't have TV so i didn't know about these shows, but i will look for more info on them and the links you shared, online.
i am much like you describe....yearning to be a country farmer, but trying to do so within the urban limits of my current home. i am incredibly interested in foraging. i do so through building my bravery to knock on doors and asking to pick, but i want to know more about plants i might be able to collect off a trail or i might otherwise think are weeds. great post, thanks!

lisa s said...

i'd love a picture of you urban foraging :)

such a great idea. there's a persimmon tree around the corner. i might go knocking and see if they are willing to give some up. maybe trade for some tomatoes if we still got em?

jessica said...

we were just in mallorca, spain and walked in areas of farm. our friend told us that we can get fruit as long as we do not climb over a fence or reach over. anything hanging over or on the ground can be taken. we had a little feast of delicious.

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