The other day I was walking in a local park, enjoying the great outdoors with my family, when I stumbled upon something I had only ever seen up north at my grandmother’s house in Pennsylvania. I had found a wild blackberry bush in Florida! My mother and I picked the two ripest berries off of the bush, and tasted them. They were a little sour because they were small, but still that familiar delicious, juicy taste. And this experience made me curious - I wondered, what else can I still find to eat just by walking around?
There are actually some great resources I found while investigating wild, free food in my area. One of them was Falling Fruit, a foraging map of the entire world. This map lists various locations where you can find a tree, a bush, or any free source of food available for the picking! There are some places that are more plentiful than others, however I certainly recommend you check it out and see what is nearby your hometown!
Another opportunity for foraging could actually be growing at your feet - Weeds! (Not to be confused with the drug). Weeds are often seen as unwanted plants we never intended to grow, and often they can take energy away from other plants growing in your garden. However, some weeds are starting to become household staples, such as arugula or lamb’s quarters.
An interesting assessment, according to Jo Robinson from New York Times, some weeds may actually have more phytonutrients than our modern farmed foods. If this is the case, then it may in fact be in your best health’s interest to start adding these wild edibles to your salads and dishes. It’s something to consider the next time you see a dandelion lying around your lawn or garden!
I also wanted to mention a certain food forest that has been in the media recently. Seattle is taking a lead role in sustainability by planting a food forest for surrounding communities to enjoy and pick from. It is designed based on the principles of permaculture, (which I will discuss more in our next post!)
Local food forests are a great idea, just as much as a community garden, and all states and cities in America could learn from this real dedication to community, and to a better and more equal distribution of our natural resources.
A question I pose to those considering creating a food forest, and for anyone interested in this kind of project is: How do you control people from picking the bounty and selling them for profit? This question has been troubling me lately, and I honestly don’t have an answer for it, other than maybe morality’s guilt. Therefore, dear readers, I would be open for some feedback if you have any thoughts on this!
Lastly, unbeknownst to most Americans, there are several invasive species currently growing in our fields, rivers, oceans, and forests and other natural areas that are destructive to our native wildlife. It is actually surprising how much we are spending a year ($137 billion!!!) on controlling these plants and animals, when we could actually be eating some of them instead!
The following is a list of edible invasive species:
- Wild boar
- Prickly Lettuce
- Asian Claims
- Garlic Mustard Plant
- Chinese Mitten Crabs
- Himalayan Blackberry (which is probably what I found in the park)
*Caution: Some invasive species other than those listed here are poisonous, and cannot be eaten.
I noticed Lionfish was on the list of the edible species. Such a beautiful fish, however my brother once told me he learned about them in the Caribbean and truth be told: they have known predator! Nothing is eating them, and therefore they are multiplying and dangerous to the ecosystem.
In order to address this problem, some chefs in the Caribbean islands have started to offer Lionfish on their menus. There are contests for Lionfish recipes, and it is helping reduce the population. This is something we need to be doing for all edible invasive species if possible - get creative with their destruction and eat our way back to a balanced environment. This solution can also help reduce hunger issues - and supports a lifestyle connected to nature and helping maintain the order of things, without going overboard. We don’t want to make these creatures extinct, we just want to reduce their power.
Do you have any experience with edible wild plants or foraging? Leave a comment below! Also, you can now follow me on Twitter @EdibleKnowledge to stay updated on sustainable food news and other tips for a better American food culture.