Food foraging

The past year I’ve come across so many emergent, and promising food movements, that I decided to publish a series.  This second post introduces you to the world of eating from the forest. Or local park. Or your neighbor’s lawn.

Although one would not expect the Dutch forests to contain edible food, many immigrants find their way to our forests – Moroccan mothers forage ground-elder, whereas the Polish look for mushrooms and the Chinese visit the Dutch coasts to fish.

In The Netherlands this group of foragers adheres to the adagio “harvest without sowing” (oogsten zonder zaaien). The members are well-organized in sharing what and what not to pick, as well as the locations of rich forests and green fields. The “Food Forage Compass” (Wildplukwijzer) is an online Google Map  that shows fruitful locations for food foraging in The Netherlands.

A food blogger who went food foraging in het Vliegenbos in the North of Amsterdam – calling himself a vinex-hunter, because of his urban environment – writes that people frowned upon him, but that his foraged wild chive and ramson made him “happy as a child.” Food foraging is time-intensive, and there is no sufficient food available to forage for a larger public than the current group of hobbyists, without harming forest ecosystems.  In New York, park authorities are already protesting against foraging, because “public lands are not a communal pantry.” But, you might be able to draw a close with that faraway uncle living on the countryside, or just lend some fertile land through Landshare.

Where do you think you’d find edibles in your neighborhood?

2 thoughts on “Food foraging

  1. Hi Barbara, I’ve just read your thought provoking post and the comment by Roger Melly. I feel compelled to comment a little myself. There certainly is a lot of nutrition to be gained by foraging in urban spaces. I could live quite happily from my local parks without much supermarket supplementaion but i don’t because it would be wrong on many levels. There is a lot of responsibility that goes along with foraging. I forage from the city of Amsterdam almost every day of the year and much prefer the rich taste of well identified, selected and thoughtfully prepared leaves, stems, flowers and berries to many of the neatly packaged, globally transported alternatives available in local shops. We place such trust in the usual providers of food and so distrust our own skills in being able to find (and use) locally growing healthy alternatives. I teach people how to harvest herbs ethically and safely because I want to empower people a little and to nourish the environment which we all share. I sometimes see the aftermarth of thoughtless foraging in my local area – bunches of wild garlic ripped up, scarce wild asparagus plucked before it can set seed or show it’s beauty to us all, etc. But mostly people are thoughtful and especially so when they have been taught a little. It is always possible to give something back to the areas that we forage from, whether the small gesture of removing litter or perhaps sowing seed of rare native plants, taking cuttings of our favourite berry trees to grow more of them in public spaces… I hope that the foragers who say that they harvest without sowing are saying it lightly. I am sure that most of them are, even if they don’t realise it. It is very difficult to be a forager without wanting to take care of your environment. Few would want to destroy a wonderfully rich foraging ground, most want to improve it, to make it safer, cleaner etc. Foraging makes me happy as a child each time I am with the plants, it also helps to make me healthy, physically and emotionally. I feel rooted in my foraging environment and I nurture it like a child. Another very interesting aspect of foraging, you touched on Barbara – people of different origins seek out the plants that make them feel at home. People who feel at home are generally happier, healthier and are more involved members of their communities. So as a forager, I certainly take, take, take but I also give, give, give, give, give… and I know that I am not alone 😉

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