5 Reasons Why Urban Foraging Can Be An Important Source of Food
Updated: Jul 14
With the state of food prices today, many people are at a loss on how to cover grocery bills. Choices between cheaper, more unhealthy food, and more expensive but healthier items are being made. Years before the current economic hardship fell on us, I had started researching and practising an urban foraging lifestyle. Why? I was raised by a mother who had to be frugal both due to our own family’s finances, but more importantly, she was raised by parents who lived as young adults through the Great Depression of the 1930s. Behaviours that were learnt as a necessity in that decade of history continued to be practised for the rest of the lives of my grandparents, and were a large part of my Mom’s upbringing. Being a practical person, she in turn shared this same spirit of making the most of what was around her with her own children.
Memories of picking wild saskatoon berries, gooseberries, and chokecherries with my Mom and sisters have spurred me on with more in-depth research, to first identify what is edible in my growing zone, 3, and what is readily available within my urban environment. Once my eyes were freed from the confines of words like `weeds' and “nuisance plants' I started to see wild edibles all around me. In the growing season, and even a few months out of it, the urban landscape can be dripping with interesting, and nutritious food choices.
Now on to why urban food foraging can be an important food source.
It is free to low cost to gather food from safe, pesticide/herbicide free, public green spaces. To check if the area you want to harvest from is not treated with chemicals, just contact your local municipal government and ask about their pest control policies. If you are wondering about spraying for weed control, see if the plant in question is growing freely and looking healthy. Robust growth very likely means that it is not being chemically treated. These underutilized food sources can supplement, expend or replace store bought foods, depending on how much energy you choose to put into foraging.
It is fun and educational to get to know your local parks at the individual plant level. Once you have started to identify individual species of plants, you start to get curious about their neighbours. Your view of the green spaces will both narrow, and expand at the same time.
By discovering new plants you also find new ways of cooking and preparation that may not have been part of your usual kitchen repertoire. While a simple boil can be good for some items, others may be deep fried, canned, pickled or dried.
The skill of finding creativity in an adverse situation can be invaluable in all areas of life. Instead of worrying and fretting about unchanging conditions, why not put that energy into an endeavour that can produce “fruitful” results, more grub on your plate.
Grow a closer connection to your natural surroundings. Learning to identify what is edible right under your feet. An eye for detail can be developed. Knowing by name what is around you while you explore your local green spaces also develops a feeling of appreciation of the life and energy that went into growing the plants you harvest.
Plants grow in set seasons. This becomes even more apparent when foraging. Following the plants that you want to forage for creates an appreciation of the seasonality of food. Within the growing season there are many, many smaller seasons, starting with the first dandelion, and ending in the last berry that needs 2-3 frosts to fully sweeten. Follow as I take you through the foraging adventures that I have undertaken and continue to expand on through the growing season in a zone 3 plant hardiness urban region. These series of blog posts will take you from early May to late October as I forage for what is available.
I am not a trained botanist, nutritionist, or chef. All that I talk about here in these blogs are things I have learned on my own, and through my own research. I am just an ordinary urban dweller who lives by her motto, “Make lemonade out of lemons” who wants to share creative ways to prepare and enjoy the wild foods around us. When you choose to start learning to identify plants, do the research and be 100% confident with your identification before you proceed.