Urban foragers

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45 Responses to “Urban foragers”

  1. skeletoncityrepeater says:

    I think it seems unethical to SELL foraged food from public places, but for personal use, it seems reasonable. In my area (LA) I find that rosemary, dandelions, and hearts of palm are so plentiful it seems a shame not to pick at them. The latter two are weeds anyway, and rosemary grows like crazy. I worry about plants near sidewalks, as there is a great chance that a dog has pissed on it recently or that someone hosed their yard off and all the lawn chemicals reside under the plant.. I’ve been eyeing bamboo shoots in the yard lately, I wonder how hard it is to get them edible.

    A note to my Echo Park neighbors: Foraging does not include taking all the lemons off the tree in the front yard!

  2. redesigned says:

    i just picked over 4lbs of rosehips, and two cloth grocery bags full of apples. going to have homemade pie and tea! yummy!

    going for walnuts later this afternoon, should be able to get several boxes from alongside a road in our neighborhood.

    • redesigned says:

      this thread has really inspired me to get my butt out there the last few days and collect a bunch of food. i had been slacking a little this month. thank you boing boing!

      in addition to my other finds earlier today i also scored a huge bag of acorns to make Dotori Muk Muchim, YUM!

      http://mykoreankitchen.com/2007/02/08/seasoned-acorn-jelly-dotori-muk-muchim/

      and a bunch of burdock root for eating in stew and chicory root for making my favorite non-coffee coffee-like drink.

      anyone know any good forums they’d recommend on this topic?
      i’m looking to connect with others to stay inspired, thanks!

  3. squeeziecat says:

    I have foraged my entire life, including in Toronto 25 years ago. back then I was the only young native-born Canadian doing it – all the others were Italian men in their 50′s and 60′s who spoke no English. they would smile and nod and direct me towards better chicory, dandelion and lambsquarter plants. we would jump the fence on to dis-used railway lands to get to where human and animal traffic was minimal. I would wash everything in 3 waters anyway.

    #28 – Xeni posted this a while back: http://tv.boingboing.net/2008/05/20/cooking-young-bamboo.html

  4. redesigned says:

    It wasn’t that long ago that foraging was standard practice for most families to supplement what they could grow or buy, and it is still extremely common in many places in the world.

    It is an interesting and sad sign of the times that foraging for some of your own food could be considered controversial by some or that people are worrying about blanket contamination of areas where they might gather food.

    Most of the urban forages I know are also porch/windowsill gardeners and plant gardens in empty lots, sometimes referred to as gorilla gardening. While there may be risk of some soil contamination, those health risks are somewhat offset by eating a ton of fresh produce and alternative plants that are very healthy, in contrast to the highly processed diets of most city dwellers.
    I’ve never heard of any of them testing the soil, but it might not be a bad idea.

    “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.

    Are you kidding me? 15 people could make stir fries from the day lilies in my front yard and they wouldn’t hurt my modest patch! As most gardeners will tell you, picking day lilies makes the plants produce more, not less. The park service actually pays someone to “dead head” the day lilies several times a week so that they produce more flowers and look nice. Just ask the guy next time you see him. I understand they had to retract the statement about foraging in the park, but they didn’t have to disseminate incorrect information to do that.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If someone was hungry and didn’t have food for their children; that is one thing, but in general I wouldn’t condone it in the city unless they are taking weeds, in which case I see little harm.

    Suggestion to city planner put “These plants have been sprayed with pesticide” signs up near parks, so only those who really need it will consider it an option.

    I do wonder about foraging in small towns and in the country though. We used to have people ask if they could take our fiddleheads off our property all the time in the small town we grew up in, but it was such a small population it seemed there was little damage to be done.

  6. arbitraryaardvark says:

    In the past month I’ve had purslane and made juice from foraged apples. Most of my diet comes from dumpster diving supermarkets,
    which i learned by applying my wilderness survival skills to an urban environment. Coulda had a grasshopper today while I was deadheading my marigolds, but i still have that american squeamishness. haven’t psyched myself for roadkill yet.
    marigold petals are a cheap substitute for saffron. I have my eye on a newly vacant lot for some gorilla gardening (captain ron.)
    i’ve been foraging flower seeds and wondering where i can borrow a rototiller next spring. i already foraged a few hundred bricks from the house they tore down there.

    • redesigned says:

      awesome. purslane is one of my favorites, loaded with efa’s and so succulent, i forage it and grow it in several of my window garden containers.

      question: i’ve been interested in learning more about people who dumpster dive grocery stores and their experiences. any tips or suggestions?

      here the grocery stores use locked dumpsters that are only open to the inside of the store, and i’ve heard that the police are know to harass people who dumpster dive in this area. i even heard that one guy was threatened with being charged with stealing…it’s garbage that was thrown out for christ sake. thoughts?

      ever gotten sick?

      what’s the best score you’ve ever made?

  7. mzed says:

    I went to a foraged dinner in San Francisco a month or so ago and it was excellent. Wild Fennel is everywhere in California (yellow flowers near the highway — forage it someplace else, though), and stonefruits were in season. They somehow “foraged” a wild boar, although I expect Mr. Boar objected. Good eating.

    Check out the Temescal Amity Works: http://fieldfaring.org/temescal-amity-works . They redistribute excess fruit from local trees. I could post more links, but I don’t want to look like forage(d) spam.

  8. cjp says:

    To address critics of foraging, I started doing this because of the horrible waste I was seeing around my city. People with hundred year old apple trees that let every single one fall to the ground with nary a nibble. As for ‘over-harvesting’ issues: Others walk by public cherry trees and ask me ‘What are you picking?’ When I tell them ‘cherries’ they can’t believe that’s what they look like in a tree. Some are afraid to even try one.

    Wild grapes that grow over fences onto sidewalks or flowers from a linden tree that can be made into tea are fair game if they are on public property. The province of Ontario has also banned pesticides, so foragers have a lot more assurance here that what they are eating is relatively safe. In fact, pesticides are NOT banned for agricultural land here, so I would much rather eat a street apple than one from the grocery store. You would do yourself a lot more harm by playing a round of golf on a pesticide-laden course.

    What you call selfish, I call practicing good eco-citizenship. Every time I don’t have to import a piece of fruit from Chile, I’m reducing my carbon footprint.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just don’t forget that some ferns are carcinogenic. Wikipedia mentiones Bracken as bad and Ostrich Fern as ok. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to tell them apart. “Plants for a Future” might help, although they have been adventurous at times (yes you can eat yew fruits without the seed but why?)

    Regards

  10. Anonymous says:

    This seems like self-centered entitlement to me.
    Those plants in public spaces belong to everyone.
    To hunt an animal you need a license.
    The reasons for this are obvious.
    There would be nothing left if the entire population took what they wanted.
    This is why agriculture is more successful than hunter/gatherer behavior.

    • rhamantus says:

      There would be nothing left if the entire population took what they wanted.
      This is why agriculture is more successful than hunter/gatherer behavior.

      No, this is not true. As others have pointed out, foragers tend to be pretty decent stewards of the land (though, like all humans, they leave an impact). This makes sense: if your livelihood depends on being able to eat whatever you can find, wouldn’t you do your best to take only what’s necessary? If you come across an edible plant, and all you needed was the leaves, you wouldn’t pull it out by the roots; and if you needed the roots, you wouldn’t take all of a patch.
      As for why agriculture was more successful than foraging, there are several reasons for this, and the most important of them have little to do with land use. Agriculture was able to thrive because agriculturalists produced more children, at shorter intervals (i.e., they weaned faster and got pregnant again sooner). Agriculture also led to the foundation of permanent settlements, which were made up of larger groups of people (foraging bands are incredibly small, usually around 10-30 people). And because agriculturalists grew their own food, they had a greater investment in the land and in staying in one spot; and because a group of agriculturalists is larger than a group of foragers, they were able to push foragers to the fringe, to lands where crops don’t grow so well, and even foragers have a hard time (which probably decreased foraging groups’ fecundity even more). Add to the fact that all state-level societies grew out of agriculture, and states are able to muster up a lot of force to control resources, and foragers didn’t have a chance.
      (Lesson: Human history/evolution is a lot more complicated and less linear than you imagine it to be.)

      • Brainspore says:

        …if your livelihood depends on being able to eat whatever you can find, wouldn’t you do your best to take only what’s necessary?

        Sometimes the amount of something necessary for survival exceeds that which nature can spare. If your tribe depends on mammoth meat you’re probably going to kill as many as it takes to get through the winter even if it means contributing to their extinction in the long term.

        Agriculture was able to thrive because agriculturalists produced more children, at shorter intervals (i.e., they weaned faster and got pregnant again sooner).

        Or because they starved to death less frequently.

        • rhamantus says:

          Or because they starved to death less frequently.

          Actually, foragers have a better chance than agriculturalists at avoiding starvation, for several reasons:

          1. Foragers are more mobile, meaning they can move to where the food situation is better. Agriculturalists, on the other hand, are forced to stay in one place, at least over a growing season, because their investment in that place is greater.

          2. Foragers’ diets are vastly more varied than agriculturalists, allowing them to shift to alternatives when certain foodstuffs become unavailable or diseased. On the other hand, agriculturalists are usually dependent on a few staples, and thus become more susceptible to food failure from drought, disease, or other disasters.

          Granted, this is based on pre-historic and historic conditions; the modern situation is much more complicated. The few foraging groups that are left are in greater peril of starvation, because farmers, miners, and others are encroaching on their territories, and (perhaps most damaging), the states in which they reside restrict their movement: they are not free to cross state borders, and most governments/settled peoples are highly mistrustful of nomadic/transient populations. Agriculture, at least within First World nations, is not as unstable because most people are not engaged in subsistence farming and can depend on food grown thousands of miles away; however, most modern subsistence farmers have the same problems their antecedents have had over the past several thousand years.
          On the other hand, agriculture on a large scale does have its costs, and while I understand that foraging is no longer a viable option for every person (there is not enough wild-growing food to sustain 7 billion people), foraging is not necessarily a “failure” as a way of getting food; it’s just that the cultural and behavioral patterns associated with it are no match for those associated with agriculture.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Foods that I’ve foraged in the greater Portland area (off the top of my head): Blackberries, Thimbleberries, Salmonberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Cherries, many kinds of Plums, Apples, Pears, Figs, Persimmons, Morels, Chantrelles, Filberts, Black Walnuts, Dandelion Greens, Nettle leaves, Burdock root… not to mention all the medicine, oregon grape, turkey tails etc etc

    I don’t even know that much about plant identification but there’s a lot of food growing around us if you take the time to look around.

  12. ciacontra says:

    I too forage in and around Seattle. It’s a great way to grab some seriously tasty food for free. I pick fiddleheads, berries, mushrooms, nettles and fruit, all within walking distance from my house. I go clamming, berry picking and mushroom hunting within a reasonable drive. I get dandelion greens from my (admittedly) poorly kept lawn. But it’s about more than just free food. It’s also about getting out and learning to see your city and your environment in a new way.

    If you’re in the area and want to start, I can suggest a few ways.

    Go to the U-District, Ballard, or West Seattle farmer’s market and check out Foraged and Found Edible’s stand. That’ll give you an idea of the variety of things out there that you can forage right now, if you know where and how of course. As I remember last week was Chanterelles, Lobster Mushrooms, King Boletes, and the last week for Wild Huckleberries, for example. It’s also a good chance to get some first-hand wild mushroom identification for all the most delicious and common species, and a way to try out strange new seasonal foods. Japanese Knotweed? Miner’s Lettuce? Sea-beans? Nettles? Wild huckleberries and Saskatoon berries?

    If you’re interested in mushroom hunting check out the Puget Sound Mycological Society (PSMS) and especially attend the annual Wild Mushroom Show, which is coming up on October 16-17 at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture. It is awe inspiring! Also, every Spring and Fall PSMS runs several foraging trips with experienced identifiers to help you sort the delicious from the disastrous.

    Finally there are some great local food/foraging bloggers. Check out Lang Cook’s blog Fat of the Land, for a great example.

  13. redesigned says:

    Been doing this for years. My daughter joins me in collecting food for our dinner. It is truly amazing how many edible plants grow in the PNW just about everywhere. We love cooking the food we collected ourselves and it feels good to eat food we gathered.

    Just be careful with the mushrooms folks….there are tons of amazing ones, but make sure you know or go with some who knows mushrooms, because some innocent looking ones will destroy your liver, like death caps and destroying angles, both of which are little white mushrooms that grow in the PNW.

  14. gotigermonk says:

    I was contemplating this the day before I read your article; and having worked on a farm, I know much of the chemicals sprayed on these plants. It has been shown that pets (dogs and cats) get cancer simply from walking around on the lawn. So, I really wouldn’t think it was safe to eat plants that are mostly treated as weeds by the landscape crews. I was really putting a lot of thought in to this because I have been struggling to pay the grocery bill lately. In Thailand it was not illegal to hunt in the city park in Bangkok and many Thais could be seen daily shooting the little birds in the hedges and gathering crabs from the gutters.

    It just really irks me when American cities decide to kill hundreds of birds which could be eaten. We should establish some kind of anti-policy so that the homeless can feed themselves with crows, starlings and geese. I’ve heard donations to foodbanks are down, so this is a realistic alternative. The Chinese pay extra money for “bushmeat.” We could also have better clean up of roadkill, especially deer. What a waste. Venison is a really good meat, and a doe would fill someone’s freezer for the winter.

    • redesigned says:

      It just really irks me when American cities decide to kill hundreds of birds which could be eaten. We should establish some kind of anti-policy so that the homeless can feed themselves with crows, starlings and geese. I’ve heard donations to foodbanks are down, so this is a realistic alternative.

      The city of Kelowna in BC Canada, where my friend lives, was getting overrun with bunnies, it was becoming a serious problem for the city. The city was at its wits end. They also have quite a few low income families that use the food banks and soup kitchens. Someone proposed that instead of just poisoning the bunnies the city trap, kill, and use the rabbit for feeding those with no food. It worked great for about 2 weeks until a group of animal activists protested killing the bunnies for food. the city had to stop the program, sent several hundred bunnies they had caught up to some farm several hours away, sterilized/neutered several hundred more, and then went back to poisoning the rest to control the populations.

      Never mind the human families with no food.
      Never mind poisoning the bunnies.
      …but oh the horror if hungry people should eat them!

      That is one side of animal rights activists I’ve never understood. They seldom seem to have compassion for humans.
      We are animals too!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Weren’t fiddleheads found to be highly carcinogenic in the 1980′s sometime?

    • mccrum says:

      Not highly. Bracken has been implicated in stomach cancer, but ostrich ferns (the most common in the Eastern US and Canada) get a pass.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddlehead_fern#Negative_health_effects

      • redesigned says:

        Bracken has been implicated in stomach cancer, but ostrich ferns (the most common in the Eastern US and Canada) get a pass.

        that’s fine by me.

        I never could get past the sharp “fake almond” taste of bracken anyways. I eat a lot of wild plants and even like the taste of plantain leaf raw, but bracken ferns always left a bad taste in my mouth! :-)

        one thing that BUGS ;-) me when discussing foraging, people usually discuss plants or mushrooms, occasionally i’ll hear mention of eggs or small animals and snare traps, but seldom will you hear a north american talk about the most abundant source of protein on the planet, insects. there are many edible insects, grubs, larvae, etc. and they are found in large numbers almost everywhere. many cultures and animals have depended on them as a food source.

        I used to work across from an apartment building in the international district of Seattle that had several old vietnamese couples living on the top floor. they would set traps for the pigeons. i thought is was just to get rid of them, but one day i saw one of the ladies plucking them. a few days later i saw her on the street and asked her about it and she said they ate them and that they were quite tasty. she said they also regularly catch and eat rats from behind the building. at the time i remember being both impressed by their resourcefulness and grossed out thinking about what the pigeons and rats in the city ate before becoming food themselves, mostly garbage and cigarette butts! while that may be the opposite of organic, they seemed very strong and healthy for their age, and they turned a common city problem into a solution for feeding themselves.

        I still have a lot of admiration for them and their resourcefulness to this day.

  16. cjp says:

    Thank you for this post!

    I’ve been making notes on all of the things we have eaten from in and around town since we moved to Kingston, Ontario. The streets are strangely delicious here!

    We’ve found least 9 separate species of apples, including sweet Snow apples, red-fleshed Genevas, rough looking Russets and some interesting tiny crab apples that couldn’t convince you they were sour if they tried. Today was a new one that I’m trying to look up: We were in the remnants of an old farm field and there was a tree laden with apples, all pale yellow with quick, short red stripes. They tasted like cotton candy and we chased them down with hickory nuts we’d gathered in the nearby woods.

    All month I’ve been greedily chowing down on grapes, both wild and surplus cultivated ones that hang into the streets. Yesterday we found grocery store-sized champagne grapes. (We may have to do a midnight raid there.) And someone thoughtfully planted tomatoes for me in giant concrete city-owned planters outside the hospital and then just let them go wild. They’re almost ready I see.

    This year, I’ve eaten everything from tempting chokecherry, (on a dare) crumbling bake-apple berries, (amazing) to blackberries at the side of the Trans Canada in BC, raspberries in a ditch while waiting for a long train in the Rockies and salmonberries with a homeless guy on our Sea Wall walk in Vancouver. One thing I’m mad about is that everyone talks about how great it is to eat fiddleheads from our lovely Ontario forests in the spring, but no one mentions to you how they taste, which is almost exactly like Brussel sprouts, and that’s just a cruel joke.

    Next year I’m going to try to harvest more hickory, beech and walnut and put up some apples in our cold cellar. Evidently, the outer, green husks of walnuts make a perfect sepia ink. I plan on making another batch of organic mulberry wine from an overflowing tree downtown, too.

    I’m lazy and I’ve decided with this much to forage, why should I lift a hoe?

  17. Hophead says:

    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.

    Bummer! Thanks to recent posts here on BoingBoing, I’ve discovered a surprising bounty of found food sources around my SoCal neighborhood. Most of the best sources are trees overhanging alleys – it would be interesting to know what contaminants might make their way into the fruit…or not, ignorance is bliss!

  18. Joe Funk says:

    I see a lot of miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) around my city, and it always pains me a little as I walk past it without picking it and eating it. It really is good stuff.

    The thing is, I’m just not okay with eating a plant that is growing right next to the street in an urban area. Even if nobody has purposefully sprayed pesticides or other nasties on it, it’s right next to the street, and I figure that there are too many questionable things going on in that dirt due to that fact alone.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Agreed with Anon #4 – maybe because I see such self-entitled “me me meeeee” actions on a daily basis in San Francisco I find urban foragers to be offensive. They even forage in the Botanical Garden – a direct violation of the law. Furthermore, it is a misdemeanor to pick any flower or plant along a state of California road right-of-way. Not sure about other states.

    Then there is the heavy metal issue. I see berry pickers picking next to incredibly busy arterials in SF and in Marin. It’s well-established that pollution (heavy metals) is absorbed by plants on the side of the road.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Years ago my mother would go to a park on the Northwest side of Chicago and pick Crab apples to make Jelly. It was awesome. We used to go to the forest preserves and find Puff Ball mushrooms along with Black Raspberries along the paths in the woods. There were never enough for preserves or jam. Still, they were yummy

  21. ebdus says:

    Chicago not only has a lot to forage, but has a great resource for such things, local treasure Nance Klehm. Check out her website: http://spontaneousvegetation.net
    Here’s a video from a few years back featuring her:
    http://chicago.metblogs.com/2009/01/06/foraging-in-chicago

  22. Ugly Canuck says:

    Now for something about a great forager from a previous generation:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euell_Gibbons

    …he was kind of a celebrity:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fvsmh9Im9e0

    …or so they say, anyway.

  23. EvilSpirit says:

    I challenge anybody to wipe out a population of day lilies by picking shoots. Those things have the most obstinate roots you can imagine.

  24. etho says:

    Is this a hobby of the same sort of people who would scoff at non-organic farmed foods? That would never eat a vegetable that had been grown with the aid of chemical fertilizers and pesticides? I’m genuinely kind of curious if the two groups overlap, because I have a sneaking suspicion that the non-organic chemicals in farmed food are nothing compared to what you’d find in something growing through a crack in the asphalt.

    I also must agree with the people saying this behavior seems kind of self-centered and offensive.

    • redesigned says:

      I also must agree with the people saying this behavior seems kind of self-centered and offensive.

      Their is a code of ethics among most serious foragers:

      1. don’t over harvest a spot so that it remains healthy and produces year after year.

      2. don’t harvest on private land or other restricted or questionable areas without permission from the owners or land managers.

      3. don’t harvest from contaminated or other problem areas.

      4. if you can, spread seeds or spores from the plant/mushroom in the same area you are removing the plant/mushroom from.

      5. if you are harvesting on private land with permission, share your harvest with the people that graciously let you harvest there.

      6. share your knowledge and food with others.

      Many foragers take such good care of their choice spots that they produce more and more each year. Some plants, like wild ginger, need special care when harvesting to not kill the plant and to keep it healthy.

      I know few people that actually make a living from foraging, and move up and down the coast with the seasons.

    • mausium says:

      “Is this a hobby of the same sort of people who would scoff at non-organic farmed foods?”
      Not only.

      “I also must agree with the people saying this behavior seems kind of self-centered and offensive.”
      I don’t know, picking on casual foragers makes you seem like somewhat of a self-centered ass as well. There’s always going to be a tragedy of the commons, but in a small enough number of people trained and with the labor in mind doing this, it’s perfectly fine. You seem to have a snotty attitude about food not purchased in the store, I don’t see how foraged and hunted food is any less valid, as long as it’s respectfully taken.

  25. ErikO23 says:

    Read this earlier in the day and I had to come back and leave a comment.

    I just walked outside my office building to run a quick errand and found a huge patch of boletus (same family as porcini) mushrooms.

    Chances are high that I will be eating wild mushrooms tonight.

    And don’t worry, I grew up hunting porcini as a child, and as recently as this summer made a pasta sauce with wild chantarelles that i found. If these guys aren’t edible it will be because of taste, not poison.

  26. mdh says:

    Dear everyone, there are all sorts of things in the surface soils in urban environments that plants can bio-accumulate to toxic proportions. In many communities prior uses which might be toxic go back to when the land was agricultural and Lead Arsenate was still the best pesticide in town. That was 50 years before DDT (and the other persistent organic pollutants), which was used widely for 40 years, until 30 years ago.

    Risks: You’re taking big ones.

    So if you love your liver and kidneys, and you don’t know what’s been done with the soil where your food is growing, and you don’t know the biochemistry of the plants you’re eating, then you probably shouldn’t eat them.

    yes, I actually am an environmental toxicologist.

  27. pjcamp says:

    “New York Times urban foraging columnist?”

    Isn’t that kind of a tight niche?

  28. redesigned says:

    There would be nothing left if the entire population took what they wanted. This is why agriculture is more successful than hunter/gatherer behavior.

    feeding oneself from foraging has a much lower environmental impact than 99% of store bought food. no packaging, no shipping, no processing, no land converted to farmland, no chemicals, etc.

  29. Eric R says:

    I was unemployed and homeless in Seattle for a period of about four months after I completed grad school. I was unqualified for unemployement, and too proud to beg. So I couch surfed and foraged, and that sustained me until I was finally able to get a job that now pays enough to keep food and shelter in my life.

    Being a librarian, the first thing I grabbed with the last of my money was the Audubon society field guide to western trees and plants. That was the most useful thing I had to help me through that tough time, and kept me from misidentifying fruits. Thankfully I got a job before I had to use the trapping net I was weaving to catch geese by the Drumheller fountain.

  30. Beelzebuddy says:

    A good friend of mine spent his childhood in urban Shanghai. His first clear memory upon immigrating to the states was amazement that there were birds in San Francisco just flying around uneaten.

    I’m very pleased to see that there are a few people who recognize and care about using resources that exist right under our noses. But those resources will only exist while there are only a few people who use them. The tragedy of the commons is a funny thing. It seems so easily avoidable, right up until it isn’t.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I can see foraging for fiddleheads being a practice of the “entitled” as a couple of commenters have suggested, but mostly what people go after are “weeds” like nettles and purslane, or fruits, which are evolved to deal with birds and mammals (including humans) going for them.

    mdh (19) mentions the danger of lead arsenate. S/he is right that that once-popular pesticide can be picked up into plants. However, it’s worth noting that lead arsenate (and other lead and arsenic based pesticides) were particularly popular for *agricultural* use. I have no particular knowledge about urban contaminants, but I’d be most concerned about residues of old-style pesticides in rural areas and suburbs built on farmland. Anyone know what the lead and arsenic testing requirements are for fresh produce? I’m not aware of any, and I have some familiarity with the produce business.

  32. Brewtown says:

    The area where I go grouse hunting (not terribly far from the city) is full of wild concord grapes and watercress. There are at least a few weeks every fall where I am able to stock my pantry with homemade grape jam and syrup, my fridge with watercress for salads and get a few birds for the table. The same spot sometimes even produces a few morels around mid-may.

    I sometimes see edible mushrooms and other plants in the parks around my house (in a very urban area). The presence of pesticides, herbicides, street run-off and other contaminants would make me very wary to pick and eat anything though.

  33. PaulR says:

    If you’re cooking fiddleheads from ostrich ferns, don’t steam them, make sure you use lots of water. Some chemical (I vaguely recall oxalic acid) has to be leached out of the ferns.

    Around here, you know Spring has definitely arrived when the fiddleheads show up in the grocery stores. Yum!

  34. Stregone says:

    This seems like something that could be dangerous to advertise and advocate others doing. Especially in a densely populated area.

    Forage up some seeds and start your own garden!

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