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3 Foods to Forage For in the City

Updated on December 1, 2011

Foraging for Edible Foods in the City

Foraging for free food in New York City is not as weird as it sounds. There are often 'edible' tours through parks (where most of our green is located) - with a guide pointing out the endless amount of plants we can eat. These include mushrooms, wild spinach, nuts, wild cherries, blueberries, wild ginger and much more. Invariably the guide will eat the foraged plant with most people on the tour afraid to touch anything at all - or gagging!

Included were dandelions which, as children, we loved finding in our little city parks and then when the head was white - we'd blow it all off and make a wish. We didn't know we could eat the leaves, and eat the yellow flowers before they turned white - or even that they can be used to make wine.

Like so much wild food, we have been taught dandelions are weeds and must be destroyed!!! And with toxic pesticides.

Pollution is always an issue, as well as the possible use of pesticides in some areas. But I suspect the wild foods cannot possibly be worse than the heavily sprayed, even GM (genetically modified) foods on the supermarket shelf that we pay top dollar for.

While many wild foods on the tours I do not recognize, 3 are quite common and quite good for you, and best of all - they are FREE!

Wait! What is meant by foraging? Foraging simply means looking for foods and provisions. In this case it means locating wild foods in the city, mainly in parks, as this is where most edibles grow untouched. Foraged food in this case is to be eaten fresh when you pick it.

Following is a list of 3 known edibles with their benefits:


1- Dandelions - These I can find right outside my front door here in the city. The greens are filled with vitamins A, C, E, and B complex, as well as trace minerals, antioxidants, iron and protein. In fact I have had dandelion greens when they were cooked. The petals are also edible. If you take home your freshly foraged dandelions - they will go great in a salad. (See link below on how to build a better salad).

2 - Cattails - It's important to know what a cattail looks like (see photo). If you do, then you will find them near a pond. (I saw some near a major airport here). These are best picked in early spring and eaten raw. If you take home the spikes - above the seed head - you can boil them for about 10 minutes and then eat them like corn. Cattails are very high in potassium. They also provide calcium, manganese, phosphorous and vitamins A and K. Unfortunately, cattails are so often considered a nuisance because they grow so rapidly and are often destroyed - even though they benefit aquatic life. Perhaps if they were included in the diet, the abundance could be better controlled by foraging and not simply sprayed with pesticides.

3 - Pine Cone Seeds - Another food I can forage for right outside my front door. The seeds inside the pine cones are nutritious. You have to break off the scales to find the seeds underneath, which can then be eaten raw or toasted. We tend to be more familiar with the term 'pine nuts' often sold for top dollar in the supermarket. Pine cone seeds are high in protein, magnesium, potassium, other minerals and antioxidants. They help digestion, vision, the liver and help lower cholesterol.

Outside of the city there is so much wild food for the taking. We just don't recognize it. As a child, when we left NYC to visit my grandmother's farm in NC, I remember my mother going out early in the morning to pick wild blueberries. That was 50 years ago and my cousin in NC tells me he still does it. I've read about people picking wild onions, even wild asparagus and all sorts of herbs. I figure if the birds and squirrels can live off it it - I can try it, in moderation, and not keel over.

Also, we do have many gingko trees here in the city - and when the nuts fall there are many people who will pick them up (while so many of us will run from the smell) but once the shell is removed the smell is gone. Then the high protein nuts are used often in soups, stews and a variety of dishes - and are even quite tasty when eaten raw.

Many parks throughout the U.S. offer these tours - often in the spring - to teach about wild edibles. You may want to check the individual park websites. I can find the tours here in New York City (Manhattan) at Central Park and in Brooklyn, in Prospect Park.

Happy foraging!

Looking for more free and cheap ideas and how to build a better salad? See the 4 links below:


edible dandelion flowers and leaves
edible dandelion flowers and leaves
the dandelion for making a wish come true
the dandelion for making a wish come true

Pine Cone


Foraging For Food

Would you forage for these 3 wild foods?

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    • profile image

      _Joan_ 6 years ago

      Oh my goodness gracious me! I did not know that pine nuts were inside pine cones! I don't recall seeing any pines in my own neighborhood where I forage for salad almost daily, but there are plenty of pine cones at a park we visit. I can hardly wait for our next park day!

      Lovely hub. USEFUL and AWESOME!

    • TheVacationLady profile image

      TheVacationLady 7 years ago from Everywhere this what I am suppose to do with my dandelions? What an educational, yet enjoyable hub! Love these ideas!

    • GreenThumbLady profile image

      GreenThumbLady 7 years ago from The Beautiful Earth

      I love love the comment above me! So true...people will eat fast food, frozen dinner and total garbage but then are worried about pesticides. of course pesticides are disgusting and a concern but so are the ingredients in processed foods. EXCELLENT hub! I am going to have to try these!

    • LivingFood profile image

      LivingFood 7 years ago

      I like how you say that wild foods can't be any worse than GM foods! It's very true, but people don't know it...I know some people who are afraid to eat strawberries because of the pesticides...yet they have no problem eating pizza or chocolate cake. :)

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 7 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      You have some great ideas. It is sad that many do not know the wealth of edible plants available to them for the picking.

      Thanks for the enlightenment.


    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 7 years ago from Georgia

      What a great idea! I knew about dandelions, but I had know idea that pine cone seeds were edible. With all the pine cones laying around our home, we should be set! Geat hub. Rated it up and voted! There are cattails and dandelions galore around here as well.... who knew? I have a feast right outside my door.

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 7 years ago from Holly, MI

      OH my gosh!!! I LOVE THIS HUB! I'm sure I can make a few meals out of the dandelions in my yard in the spring! lol And I used to love picking cattails! I haven't seen one in awhile but I will be on the look out for them now when I am out walking! This is such a fabulous hub!!! Rated up for sure!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Well, this is just brilliant - and I always have pine cones on my front lawn. Of which I have made some pretty bad Christmas decorations. And dandelions - my neighbor's little girl can't wait for the white heads so she can blow them and make a wish - so cute. But I am so ready to eat them and definitely, the pine seeds. And even those gingko seeds.

      And right - it can't be worse than all that old, GM or heavily sprayed stuff in the supermarket. At least we can vary our poisons.

      Rated up. I'll do the tours then here in NYC. Thanks!