The first time most people hear the term “Urban Forager”, they imagine a grizzled homeless war vet who spouts platitudes such as:
“Be behind the brewery every Monday to get leftover yeast for your vitamins. The sports bar across from them dumps potato skins about an hour later so you can get a full meal.”
“Florists’ dumpsters are the best. Rose, violet, and chrysanthemum blossoms are edible even when wilted.”
“Take a branch, a broken bottle, and a wet shoelace. Bind the bottle to the stick as tightly as you can with the shoelace; that’s why its wet, it’ll shrink some when drying and give a firmer seal. This has good stopping power on tourists, they won’t be able to run more than a couple hundred yards on a solid hit. Your average American tourist has enough meat to feed you for a month. Tomorrow I’ll show you how to make an atlatl from a broken shovel and a soda can.”
The truth isn’t quite as cool, but it’s close. Urban foragers go through empty lots and alleys gathering edible plants, fruits, and tubers. Less scrupulous ones add people’s yard and garden products to the menu. Even *less* scrupulous ones add household pets to the menu, but we try not to talk about the Mole People on this blog.
Urban foraging is the perfect skill for people who want all the food self-sufficiency of owning a productive garden without actually having a garden. It’s difficult to subsist wholly on what you get from weeds, but for me it let me save a ton on produce, and allowed me to put all my cash towards meat, dairy, and snacks. Unfortunately, I had to give it up when I moved to Tucson for college and Riverside for work. The first is a hellish, blasted wasteland where nothing friendly to humanity grows. The second is like that except it has irrigation for gardens. In both cases having to do things like buy berries and greens (GREENS, PEOPLE. NO GOOSEFOOT OR AMARANTH FOR MILES AROUND. MADNESS!) was a distressing change of pace from my old joy of rustling up chow walking from school or a friend’s house. One of the things I’m looking forward to about moving to Seattle is that it’s another place where weeds don’t have to be spiny and poisonous to discourage eating, or at least with nettles and thistles, they can be handled relatively easily.
If any of this interests you, I found a couple links for major cities, posted below.