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How To Become An Urban Food Forager

Updated on February 16, 2014

Food Foraging

If you are unable to grow your own food, or can only grow a little of what you need to feed yourself or your family, do not despair there is a way to obtain some of the food you need and I do not mean buying it from the farmer’s market.

Actually, this method will not cost you a cent, now before you say that this sounds too good to be true, I am not talking about a steak dinner with all the trimmings, well, maybe the mushrooms, some salad and desert but no steak.

Okay, not to keep you in suspense any longer, what I am talking about is urban food foraging. Urban food foraging is similar to wild crafting where you go out and find the delicacies that Nature provides, such as herbs and mushrooms but is distinctly different from dumpster diving which involves getting to know which sources toss out their food on what day.

There is nothing wrong with dumpster diving and if you can bring yourself to wade through the garbage bin of your local supermarket you may get a few great deals and supplement your food supply.

Urban food foraging, involves identifying foods within your municipality, most often fruits and berries, which are edible and free for the picking.

When I was living in Thunder Bay, there were several spots around town where raspberries grew wild. We would go out with a bucket or pail and come back with enough to bake a pie or two or have fresh raspberries for our oatmeal or by themselves.

This food gathering has another bonus you get some exercise while you are out shopping. You also get to know yoru neighbourhood.

Now these berries were growing on city land and we never bothered to ask anyone if we could pick them, observation showed us that only the birds were reaping the harvest and we always left enough for them.

Do not pick a source dry.

Serviceberries or Saskatoons which may be used just like blueberries were also plentiful, we were fortunate that there were several Saskatoon berry bushes on the way to the community garden and could pick enough for a snack while heading to the garden to do whatever tasks needed doing.

We also picked more on the way home. Wash the food before eating and wash your hands, good hygiene is a food essential.

Another food collection method we used was to find fruit trees in the neighbourhood that were going unpicked. These were for the most part apple trees were we lived at the time. When we found one, we would knock on the door and ask the people living there if we could pick the apples.

Most people were happy to have someone pick them otherwise they simply fell on the ground and looking messy until they returned to the earth. We had two friends who gave us access to their apple trees.

Apple pies, apple sauce and apple crisp along with fresh apples were enjoyed at very little cost.

There were a few back lanes were the apple trees had branches loaded with ripe fruit hanging over the fence, we always considered these to be public apples and picked a few when out for a walk. No need to pack a snack, simply pick one.

Urban food foraging can be formalized and this is often done when a school or community organization undertakes a project to have people identify fruit trees within the municipality where the fruit may eb freely gathered.

A map is produced indicating where the food is and a team will go out and harvest. Sometimes the food, that is collected, is donated to the local food bank or other food program.

Apples and berries are not the only foods that grow within urban environment, there are a number of plants that are usually called weeds that can be freely gathered and added to your food supply. These foods require the gatherer to be able to identify what is being collected so that a potentially fatal mistake is not made.

Dandelions are perhaps the best known wild urban food. There are many others. To learn what is edible and wild where you live consult a edible food guide, check with yoru local public library or if there is a Naturalists club ask them.

Mushrooms for example should not be picked and eaten unless you are certain about what you are gathering.

Humans started out as hunters and gatherers and now is a good time for those who live in our cities and towns to return to those roots, well the gathering part anyway. Take a walk and see what is growing where you live. You may be pleasantly surprised by the abundance that is growing not far from yoru front door and just waiting for someone to come along and pick it.

Wild Food

courtesy flickr/rightee
courtesy flickr/rightee

foraging

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  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks, there may come a time when people will wish they had this skill.

  • That Grrl profile image

    Laura Brown 5 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

    Great topic to post about. Voted up and sent out on my Twitter account.

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick

    I always pick up change on the sidewalk, a penny saved and so on. Thanks for the comment.

  • sweetoneangel profile image

    sweetoneangel 6 years ago from New Jersey

    Great hub, if I went dumpster diving my family would think I have lost it. My kids already laugh at me cause I will pick up change on the sidewalk.

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks. I will check it out.

  • Storytellersrus profile image

    Barbara 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

    Excellent hub- I am linking to this in my latest hub, Bob. Thanks.

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick

    Sounds like a great place to be.

  • lain profile image

    lain 6 years ago from London

    We have plenty of community orchards here and streets lined with fruit trees.

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Tours are a good idea, thanks for dropping by

  • profile image

    wordscribe41 8 years ago

    Great hub. Urban foraging is big here in Portland, OR. I should say relatively big... I find it a fascinating idea, might try it outside of a bakery, but I'm not so bold as to go for any old bin. They have some great tours here to get you started.

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks Larry, I'll do that.

  • larrybass profile image

    larrybass 9 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    Howdy Bob,

    Another well put together Hub on Wildfoods! Go take a look where you found that Wild Asperagus, it should be in it's fall color now. You can now spot other ones you missed the first time you were there. Yes sir buddy, they will be a very beautiful and unique, Yellow color. SO easy to see now.

    Keep up the DDing and the wildfood lore stuff my man, and keep spreading them to others. It's all workin' ya know. :-)

    LarryB

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks, we were once gatherers and i think that is still within us.

  • dsletten profile image

    dsletten 9 years ago from United States

    When I lived in So. Calif. there were lots of oranges just asking to be picked but the owners wouldn't have appreciated it. My grandmother had plum trees and avocado trees in her yard that all the neighbors reaped the awards from. Now we live in the country and there are wild berries everywhere but we leave them for the bears, otherwise they get cranky and eat our garbage! I guess we are all scavengers of some sort. Great hub!!

  • Shirley Anderson profile image

    Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thx for the tip! That stuff's a treat.

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks Shirley, only one comment, I just found a small patch of wild asparagus about a block from here, too late in the season to pick but will keep an eye on it next year. and you are welcome.

  • Shirley Anderson profile image

    Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    I typed out a comment, pressed the backspace to make a correction, and the whole screen went back and the comment seems gone.  If you get two Bob, sorry.

    Loved this hub.  It reminded me of picking wild asparagus from the ditches on our back country road, which was only a mile from a major paved road.  It was so tender and tasty!  Also the wild raspberry patches once we moved to a bigger town and they grew in a tangled mess in the neighbour's yards, but you really had to watch for bugs with those.  I picked violets and young dandelion leaves out of the lawn for salad, didn't even have to visit a neighbour for that.

    Thx for the walk down memory lane, Bob.  I doubt that many people today have had the experience of harvesting their own food the way you've described.  They're missing out.

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Growing or gathering food in far too many urban centres is difficult, illegal or dangerous due to pollution and ridiculous bylaws. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks, Nature does provide and yes treating people with respect is the only way to pick.

  • Shadesbreath profile image

    Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

    This was actually very cool to read. My wife and a neighbor of ours go gathering blackberries all the time around here too when they are in season. They grow EVERYWHERE, and there's a golf course not far from us that has massive stretches of them growing throug their fence along the road. We get blackberry cobbler, pie and all the jam we can eat every year and doesn't cost hardly anything at all.

    And good call on the asking to pick. I grew up in a farming community and people used to always want to "pick the free food" when they drove by our neighbors pistachio or orange groves. I'm sure rural tree growers are less concerned with profits than are farmers, but I know people like to be treated with respect. Good hub, dude.

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks, then LL it may be that dumpster diving is in order.

  • lady luck profile image

    lady luck 9 years ago from Boston

    great article, except i havent seen anything growing in boston in the 2 years ive been here!!

  • Bob Ewing profile image
    Author

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks and I agree the need is very likely to grow.

  • Marian Swift profile image

    Marian Swift 9 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

    (Tried to send a comment a few hours ago, but my system hiccuped.)

    Excellent hub!

    I know I must walk past hundreds of edible weeds every day; often people are sleeping on the ground nearby. There are urban areas near me where few or no fresh vegetables are sold at any price. We all need this sort of info, and I fear the need will only increase.

    Many thanks!