Urban foragers across the US are picking fiddlehead ferns, plums from public trees, and even edible flowers sprouting from sidewalk cracks. Researchers from the Institute for Culture and Ecology studied the old but growing practice, focusing on several dozen Seattle foragers. From National Geographic:
This tiny group of foragers--just a small percentage of the people in Seattle who gather wild plants--together picks a whopping 250 different species of plants, year-round. Some have been gathering in Seattle for over 60 years. Most act as caretakers for their favorite spots, which they return to year after year.
"Urban Foragers Cropping Up in U.S."
Foraging can be a risky business: in some municipalities, it's not allowed in public parks. Earlier this year, the New York Times' urban foraging columnist suggested that would-be gatherers pick day lily shoots from Central Park; the Times had to quickly post a clarification that picking plants from city parks was against the law.
"If 15 people decide to go harvest day lilies to stir-fry that night, you could wipe out the entire population of day lilies around the Central Park reservoir," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told the Times.
There's another risk: chemicals. "Most of the foragers we have talked to are expressing concerns about toxicity," Poe said. Public park managers aren't necessarily interested in preserving the edibility of the wild things that grow there--don't even start on whatever might grow in a median or alley. Park managers and city planners could make it easier for foragers, Poe suggested, by minimizing the chemicals sprayed or, at the very least, putting up signs to alert would-be foragers when pesticides are at their most potent.
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