- Food and Cooking
3 Foods to Forage For in the City
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:
3 EDIBLES TO FORAGE FOR IN THE BIG CITY:
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.
Looking for more free and cheap ideas and how to build a better salad? See the 4 links below:
Foraging For Food
Would you forage for these 3 wild foods?
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