Found Food: Do You Forage for Food?

Found Food: Do You Forage for Food?

Emma Christensen
Jul 17, 2008

Never growing larger than the fingernail on our pinky finger and ranging in color for ruby red to purple, we're not completely sure if these are raspberries or unripe blackberries.

In either case, there are bushes and bushes of them along a quarter-mile stretch in a park near our house. About this time of year, we see kids and adults like huddle around them, covertly gathering handfuls as if someone might catch them.

We have to admit that we've never picked any ourselves. Why not? Read on...

Foraging for food isn't new of course. Folks have been picking greens in Central Park and gathering mushrooms outside San Francisco for years, after all!

But we've never felt comfortable doing this. It's not so much because of any social stigmas about rooting for produce in public places.

It's more about health concerns.

The raspberry (blackberry?!) bushes in our park share a border with a fairly busy roadway. Whenever we see people--especially kids--picking berries there, we can't help but imagine the noxious cloud of fumes from all those cars settling over the area, seeping into soil, roots, and eventually, the berries themselves.

The same concept goes for foraging things like dandelion greens and wild onions. Without definite information on what heavy minerals might be lurking in our urban soil, we just don't feel safe eating these things.

Of course, the argument can be made that we don't really know might be in the soil at big farms either--not to mention the pesticides and whatnot that get sprayed on a lot of our supermarket produce. And that's a big reason why we buy organic, locally-grown produce as much as possible.

What do you think: are we just being paranoid? Does anyone have experience with foraging?

P.S. For the sake of this post, we gathered our gumption and nibbled a few ripe berries ourselves. How were they? Sweet and tart, just like a berry should be. No ill-effects to report so far!

Related: How to Find a Pick-Your-Own Strawberry Farm

(Image: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)

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