Foraging for Food -- In the City

Adriana Velez

Pursulane growing in my hens and chicks
Excuse me, but can I have those weeds for my salad?
Did you know you can actually eat those dandelion leaves? And that succulent you keep yanking out of your flower beds -- that could be another edible green called pursulane.

The latest in the locavore movement takes a step beyond shopping at your farmer's market. Foragers are combing parks and woods for wild edible plants. Brooklynite and author of The Locavore Handbook Leda Meredith actually leads wild foraging tours in city parks. I asked her a few questions about how foraging works -- and how she avoids eating poisonous mushrooms.

Where do you go foraging on your own and with your tours?

Usually in the city parks, and Brooklyn's Prospect Park is a frequent foraging destination. I also forage in my own backyard -- a.k.a. "weeding." Many of those so-called weeds are delicious edibles, so I cook with them rather than composting them.

What foods do you usually find, and what do you do with them?

It really depends on the season. Spring is mainly greens (dandelion, garlic mustard, etc.) and shoots (Japanese knotweed, pokeweed, milkweed). Summer is fruits, especially berries, plus more greens. Fall is nuts, root veggies, again greens, the most bountiful season of wild edible mushrooms, and some late fruits. Some I eat fresh, others I cook, and still others I freeze or dry.

What did you have to learn before getting started?

How to identify plants and mushrooms. Rule #1 for foraging is "If in doubt, throw it out." Correct identification is critical -- but very easy to learn.

Ever take kids foraging with you?

Yes, absolutely. Kids make great foragers. They love the treasure hunt aspect, and see and remember identification details such as leaf shape sometimes better than adults. I started foraging when I was a toddler, guided by my great-grandmother, and some of what I learned then is still a more useful way to teach people to identify plants than anything I learned from books or in classes.

Image via Adriana Velez

Read More