Photo credits: Octave Zangs
Last week, a woman who was driving by my house stopped and asked whether she could get some leaves of a plant that grows between my neighbors' and my yard.
I told her that "of course" and asked what the plant was and what she was going to use its leaves for. She replied that it was mullein and that she was going to make tea with them to relieve her daughter's cough.
I had no idea I had a medicine cabinet in my front yard. This encounter made me realize how poor my botanical knowledge is.
When I was a kid, I enjoyed going mushroom hunting and berry picking with my grandpa and I do remember jonquil harvesting in meadows with my mom and her girlfriends. But I cannot recall any more foraging experiences in my adult life, except for fruit picking on farms and foraging for "home decor" (see below).
I miss having a guide to teach me about the local flora and sharpen my senses.
Two years ago, I attended a class with Rewild Portland
where I learned how to make tea, pesto and other interesting recipes with urban foraged dandelions.
That same summer, I also read Eating Wildly, a memoir about foraging for food in New York City and tried to keep my eyes peeled as I was walking the streets of Portland.
But then again, I could not identify anything without outside help.
Since my word for this year is LEARN, I'm determined to find ways to educate myself about the local ecosystem and look for opportunities to forage in my area.
Here's what I found so far:
- Rewild Portland has a "free skills" series (donation or sliding-scale based)
(I borrow mine from the library)
Eating Wildy by Ava Chen, a memoir about foraging for food in New York City.
Dandelion Hunter, Becky Lerner's quest to find her inner hunter-gatherer in the city of Portland.
All That the Rain Promises and More by David Arora, "A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms".
Falling Fruit, an interactive map of free foraging resources, which aims to facilitate intimate connections between people, food, and the natural organisms growing in our neighborhoods.
Portland Fruit Tree Project, whose mission is to increase equitable access to healthful food and strengthen communities by empowering neighbors to share in the harvest and care of city-grown produce.
Foraging Tips & Rules
- Educate yourself about the local flora
- Bring your foraging guide with you for reference
- Be responsible - check what the law says about foraging in your area, look for foraging related signage, always ask before picking something from someone's yard and do not trespass
- Be safe - watch out for parks where the city services spray chemicals
- Be mindful - leave something for others to enjoy, do not dig the roots so plants can regrow
I hope I'll get to share my bounty with you soon over here, with recipes, remedies and other lessons I learned along the way.
Are you a forager? Do you have resources (books, websites, organizations) to recommend?
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