As I was biking home from work a few weeks ago, I noticed the tell-tale purple-stained sidewalk up ahead. It instantly transported me to my childhood home, where I’d stand barefoot on the hot driveway under a massive mulberry tree. I’d get on tiptoe to stuff as many sweet, purple berries as I could into my mouth.
Rather than just pass by, enjoying the nostalgia in my head, I pulled over and grabbed a bag. (Thanks zero waste kit – I was prepared!) I began to pick what I could reach, filling up my bag with about a pound of super-ripe, sweet mulberries. I popped them (carefully) into my backpack and headed home, very pleased with myself.
Since then, I’ve turned those mulberries into jam, oatmeal toppings, and I’ve even frozen some for future use.
I’ve also become a bit obsessed with urban foraging now.
So far I’ve found more mulberry trees than anyone could ever deal with, raspberries, dandelions, and more. The site Falling Fruit is a great starting point to find foraging locations in your city but, naturally, is spotty depending on where you live.
If Falling Fruit isn’t helping too much, I’d suggest trying:
- larger green spaces in the city
- alongside walking paths
- near ponds, rivers, lakes
- abandoned lots
Urban foraging is not only a great way to force myself to get outside when I otherwise wouldn’t, I now have jams stored away for cooler months and a sense that I don’t necessarily have to purchase expensive berries this summer. Zero waste options are all around us!
tips for urban foraging
Be sure you know what you’re putting into your mouth. I don’t do as much foraging as I could, simply because I’m always a little scared to pop something poisonous in my mouth. I stick with the stuff I definitely know: mulberries, blackberries, raspberries, clover, dandelion, and a few others. If you’d like to have some kind of reference, try something like the Edible and Medicinal Plants app to help you out on-the-go. The book Backyard Foraging* is also a great resource with tons of photos!
But really: learn from the pros. I wouldn’t recommend going too wild with your foraging until you’ve learned from an expert. Find a friend who knows a lot or take a local class so you can forage with confidence. In Indy, it looks like White Pine Wilderness will occasionally offer classes.
Stay away from heavily-traveled areas or spots near the road. Kind of a no-brainer! While you are foraging in the city, no need to enjoy toxic chemicals lightly sprayed over your goodies! Instead, choose pocket parks, larger parks, abandoned properties, or a bit off walking trails.
Be cool, don’t trespass. If you even have a question as to whether you’re foraging on public or private property, better to steer clear. Fresh, foraged goodness will not be available in county jail.
Don’t take more than you need. While it’s tempting to strip a whole bush of berries for your personal use, please remember there may be other people (or animals) who’d also like a cut of nature’s bounty. Don’t be a jerk and don’t create food waste by taking more than you need.
Have you ever tried foraging? What goodies did you find? Any tips you have on successful foraging – please post them in the links below!