Once upon a time my great-grandmother took me across the street to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to collect wild dandelion and mustard greens. She recognized them from her childhood in Greece. I don’t think she knew the word foraging. She just loved eating those wild greens.
I was three years old? Maybe four? Free food was waiting for me like a treasure hunt, and I got to spend hours outdoors in nature even though I was in the city – I still haven’t gotten tired of it.
It was because of my knowledge of wild edible plants that I got my first botanical teaching gig at The New York Botanical Garden (thank you, Gary Lincoff). My interest in gardening, mushroom hunting, food preservation, herbal medicine, and local, organically grown food and sustainable food systems is a sort of bread crumb trail that I’ve followed from that original interest in wild edibles.
I love it that the New York Times article on foraging last summer sparked a debate about foraging and sustainability. Their original question seemed to be, “If everyone in NYC started foraging, wouldn’t that decimate the plant populations?”
Well, first of all, everyone is not going ot start foraging. Heck, most people in NYC don’t even shop for groceries or cook.
Second of all, which plants are you talking about? Because there are some non-native species that are so invasive Parks tries to weed them out. Foragers collecting those plants are actually working in tandem with Parks.
But there are also slower growing native species such as ostrich fern that would be best harvested someplace they are more prolific. I give these a nod hello when I pass them in Prospect Park, but I don’t collect them there.
This is another thing I love about wildcrafting and foraging – your foraging choices and actions, done right, actually help the plants and the landscape thrive.
Ready to come foraging with me?
April 7th 9:45 – 12:30 p.m. Prospect Park for Green Edge NYC
April 15th 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. for The Farm on Adderley
April 20th for SideTour (time TBA super soon)