We brought home oodles of free food from our fair city this year.
I’ve wanted to try my hand at foraging for years, but never had the guts to go out and do it. I always just assumed I would mess it up and end up in the hospital from a terrible mistake. Some encouragement from a friend who knew what she was doing got me started this year and I’m totally hooked! Hooked on urban foraging!
In our own city backyard we harvested plants that popped up naturally in the grass. I believe some people refer to them as ‘weeds.’ I dug up dandelions and ate the greens in salads and cooked them into stir fries. The roots were roasted in the oven to make a bitter tea rich in vitamins.
It blew my mind when I went to the grocery store and saw ‘Dandelion Greens’ selling next to the lettuce for 4 dollars a pound. I heard someone wonder aloud what they were. I wanted to say: those are those weeds growing for free in your yard, that you pay someone $50 a month to come spray with pesticides so they’ll go away. Yes, those very same plants. You could walk out your back door and pick them yourself, saving you gas, time, and money. How silly these humans can be.
We also have bazillions of plantains growing in our crappy city soil. Plantains love clay based soils that are practically devoid of nutrients, perfect for our yard. We picked them while they were young and fried them up in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. They were definitely different than anything I’ve ever had. Maybe it’s an acquired taste?
Other delightful edible weeds that grow in our yard are purslane and lambsquarters.
In June we found Juneberries growing along the concrete pathways in our biggest city park. We harvested them by the bucketful, greedily shoving every other handful into our mouths. The taste was all its own, but could be compared to blueberries mixed with grapes. The Juneberries were mixed into smoothies and made delicious muffins.
We ventured over to the hospital a few blocks away and shook mulberries off a tree in the courtyard. Frightened onlookers wondered aloud if they should alert the authorities that hippies were stealing berries from their bushes. We snacked on them in the shade before heading home with berry-purple stained hands and faces.
In September we scoured the city parks for wild fox grapes. We picked them by the bushel, harvesting over 10 pounds in only an hour. People looked at us like we were nuts. We turned them into 15 gallons of practically-free wine. Who’s nuts now, strangers?! Probably still me, but whatever.
Throughout all of Autumn we harvested black walnuts falling from trees in our yard and pouring onto sidewalks all over the neighborhood. I bashed them between rocks in the backyard to remove the husks, much like my cave woman ancestors would have. Commence terrified and nosy neighbors staring through windows. The crazy lady is bashing nuts in her bathrobe again.
In a few months we’ll tap our Maple trees again to harvest the sap and boil it into syrup. Performing this task last year really opened my eyes to the reason behind high prices for real maple syrup. It’s nowhere near free to make our own, but certainly delicious enough to make it worthwhile!
Have you ever gone foraging for food? What grows wild in your area? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!