How to Go Urban Foraging

You don't need a forest to forage for food; edible plants can be found in cities, too. Here's how to get started on your urban foraging adventure.

Instructions

  • TIP: Rinse everything thoroughly before eating.
  • Step 1: Be considerate. If you find something edible, don't take it all; leave some for other foragers and for the local animals that depend on it. If you find berries, seeds, or nuts, sprinkle some on the ground before you leave; it will help the plant reproduce.
  • FACT: Dandelions have higher amounts of iron and vitamin C than broccoli, and contain more beta-carotene than carrots.
  • Step 2: Take precautions. Don't forage within 4 feet of a house built before 1960 because of the possibility of lead-paint contamination; stay more than 30 feet away from a highway -- petroleum chemicals wear off tires and end up on nearby soil along with coolant, gas, and metals from car batteries; and never consume vegetation near railroad tracks, where the ground may be saturated with pesticides and herbicides.
  • Step 3: Bring along a book that identifies plants, a picking pole to pluck fruit from trees, a pocketknife, a pair of scissors, and containers for stashing your finds. Check the internet for foraging maps -- guides people post to lead fellow foragers to bountiful locations.
  • Step 4: Research native plants grow in your area and -- more importantly -- which are safe to eat. Few plants are deadly, but many can make you sick. Call your local extension service for information, find a book on the subject, or do a web search for seminars on how to go urban foraging in your city.
  • Step 5: Know what's legal to forage. Laws vary from state to state and sometimes even from neighborhood to neighborhood, but in many places picking plants from city parks is against the law. As for trees that are on private property, you're generally allowed to pick any fruit that hangs over a public space.
  • Step 6: Know what urban foraging is: finding edible plants that grow in a city's public spaces.

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