Photo by Tim MacWelch
Urban foraging has grown in popularity over the past few years, from a few folks offering plant walks in city parks, to a career path for urban outdoors people. There’s good reason for it too. There is an amazing array of wild edibles in the city limits of every city I’ve ever visited. Tough weeds spring up through the cracks in the sidewalk and in green spaces throughout the modern metropolis. Be cautious about pollution and plant identification, and you might surprise yourself with a fancy meal of city weeds.
Find A Green Space
The idea of picking edibles at the park may not get your mouth watering, especially when you think about the reasons that dog owners take their companions to the park. But get off the manicured grass, and out to the edges, and you’ll find wild edibles in abundance. Honestly, I never visit a park without seeing good-looking edibles. If you’re worried about the pet leavings, or potential spraying in the park, then wash your harvest as soon as you get home. For even more insurance from pollution – and leavings – wash the plants and then cook them. I guarantee that there are fewer pesticides and chemicals on your foraged greens than the conventionally grown greens at the grocery store.
Look For These Urbanites
These are only a few of the wild treats that you can discover in your city’s greener spots. Make certain you have positive identification, and collect from areas that look undisturbed and unpolluted. Enjoy!
PLANTAIN (Plantago major) Not related to the banana, this is a plantain only in name. The oval leaves have 3-5 parallel veins and a rubbery feel. Not only are these leaves good to eat raw or cooked, they can also be mashed and applied to bee stings for rapid relief.
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DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale) This bitter herb is the King of the urban jungle. It can be found growing happily anywhere in the city. It has many redeeming qualities, including its use as a tonic and a roasted root coffee.
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GARLIC MUSTARD (Alliaria petiolata) With the look of a mustard and the spicy scent of garlic, this nutritious non-native plant can create thick patches of flavorful greens in city parks and open spaces. It can be growing in sun and shade alike, so look for it almost anywhere.
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WILD GARLIC (Allium spp.) This can be the best condiment for your foraging feast. Look for this one in sunny parks, people’s yards, and any other open ground. The leaves and bulbs are good raw or cooked.
LAMBS QUARTERS (Chenopodium album) This native American weed seems to enjoy disturbed soil and busy areas. It can grow tall (2 meters) in good soil, and it provides the best spinach substitute available throughout its growing season. The small black seeds can be shaken into a bowl, and ground into flour.
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