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Posts Tagged ‘forage’

Photo: Simon Schneider/ Romantischer Rhein Tourismus GmbH via DW.
Residents and visitors alike are encouraged to pick whatever food they like from a public garden in Andernach, Germany.

An idea whose time has come may be growing food on public land and making it free for the picking. I wrote a 2011 post on scavenging, here, and a 2020 post on a homeless teen whose foraging helped her learn to cook, here. In those cases, the taking of food was done on the sly. But what if municipalities actively encouraged people to forage, as landscape director Paul did at my last job did?

Cathy Free writes at the Washington Post, “The city of Andernach, Germany, planted 101 varieties of tomatoes in the town center and told everyone to pluck and take whatever they wanted.

“It was such a hit, the following year the city did the same with beans. The next year, it was onions. After that, the city planted fruit trees, lettuce, zucchini, berries and herbs. All were free to anyone who lived or happened to be in the town of 30,000 people. …

“It’s one of a growing number of places across the globe known as edible cities. In the United States, there are public lands from Seattle to North Carolina where people are welcome to pick and take from fruiting trees and bushes.

“Organizers interviewed for this article said there has never been a problem with people taking more than they need, whether they grab a single pear or a bag full of potatoes and artichokes.

Every year, there is more than enough produce to go around.

“ ‘Many here are very proud when you talk to them about our edible city,’ said Bettina Schneider, 29, city team coordinator for the Edible Cities Network in Andernach.

“When word got out that Andernach’s public gardens and orchards — which started in 2010 — were free for the picking, other cities in Germany and throughout the European Union joined in, she said. Now the Edible Cities Network is funded by the European Commission, the executive body of the E.U.

“The areas that were converted into fruiting gardens and orchards in Andernach were previously overgrown and unkempt, so the gardens were well received, Schneider said, noting that a medieval moat is now covered with peach, almond and pear trees, and vacant spaces near schools have been transformed into community vegetable patches. …

“ ‘Every partner organization in the project receives funding from the E.U. budget to carry out their work,’ [Marisa Pettit, a coordinator for Edible Cities] said. Pettit said that several cities also receive funding for what Edible Cities calls ‘living labs’ — green spaces where residents can hold community events and develop their own plans to help their urban gardens to thrive and produce bountiful harvests.

“Edible Cities is now supporting a community garden in Cuba, while cities in China, Tunisia, Togo and Uruguay are also developing plans for urban food forests, said Ina Säumel, a principal investigator for the Edible Cities Network. …

“Many U.S. cities have similar projects. Detroit has an urban farming movement, Philadelphia has food forests, and there are edible community projects in Atlanta and Los Angeles. All rely on volunteers to do the weeding, pruning and planting.

“Smaller cities such as Bloomington, Ind., and Hyattsville, Md., also have fruit trees and vegetable gardens that can be accessed by anyone.

“At the Dr. George Washington Carver Edible Park in Asheville, N.C., founded more than 20 years ago, residents can harvest whatever they like from 40 varieties of fruit and nut trees, said Lynx Bergdahl, a community organizer at Bountiful Cities, the nonprofit that helps manage the food forest.

“ ‘Anyone can get whatever they want, when they want it,’ said Bergdahl, 33. ‘This is about taking away as many barriers as possible to create public food access, whether somebody wants a single apple or an entire basket.’

“In Seattle, the neighborhood of Beacon Hill turned a steep and empty slope next to a public park into a vibrant edible landscape in 2012 through a partnership with the city. The Beacon Food Forest recently celebrated its 10th anniversary as a diverse community garden that is open to anyone walking by, said Elise Evans, one of the project’s volunteers. …

“ ‘To create something from a blank hillside was a big deal,’ she said. ‘Our harvest truly offers something for everyone and it’s based on trust. People take what they need and are fed for free, and that’s an empowering feeling.’ “

Do you ever nibble from gardens around your town? Please let me know.

More at the Post, here.

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Douglas Fir needles. If you know what you’re looking for, you can use fir needles in Fettuccine Alfredo.

Did you ever picture yourself running away from home as a kid? I did. I liked the book The Boxcar Children because it suggested that kids could manage on their own. Even as a young adult, I was still puzzling about it in my imagination but was never able to invent a scenario that didn’t involve some helpful adult.

When I read today’s story, I was reminded of that conundrum because the author, Sabra Boyd, notes the impossibility of getting any landlord to rent to a 14-girl-old with two younger siblings. Her article at the Washington Post also discusses how foraging for food influenced her cooking style.

“Desperate times call for comfort food,” Boyd writes. “And whenever I have time, making fresh pasta helps me embrace being home. … Rolling out fettuccine noodles is the only kind of meditation I have patience for these days. I press my hands firmly into the dough, feeling grateful to have a kitchen. I coat the rolling pin in extra flour and think about how, as a homeless teenager 20 years ago, I cooked using only a backpacking stove. Surviving teen homelessness prepared me for a pandemic in ways I never could have imagined.

“My mother first kicked me out when I was 14. … I didn’t know anyone to crash with, so I trudged uphill to the dark high school because I could not think of anywhere better to go other than the place I needed to be in the morning. I climbed the roof of the auditorium and took a clumsy parkour leap from the eave of my English classroom’s window. Tracing constellations with my finger, I pulled my hoodie tight against the cold. The glare of a neon crucifix, perched on a hill above the school, flooded the football field with light. I closed my eyes and tried to fall asleep.

“The following night, I sneaked into my mom’s house through a window and packed my camping gear. I set up my new home in a cave above the Elwha River. Sometimes I slept in an abandoned house in Eden Valley. When it grew too cold, I stayed at a hippie commune, in the goat stable, but I left when the commune became too dangerous. I returned periodically to check on my younger siblings, but Mom would fly into an alcoholic rage, so I spent most of high school homeless. …

“I kept my favorite nonperishables in a bear canister: instant noodles, dehydrated miso soup, granola bars and halvah. In the spring, I sauteed fiddleheads and horsetails in olive oil with my compact camp stove. In summer, I gorged on blackberries, delicately picked bright red thimbleberries and, when their pink blossoms fell, hunted for the electric hue of salmonberries. In the fall I gathered apples from wild orchards and scanned the sepia leaves on the forest floor, training my eye for a pop of yellow chanterelle.

“In winter I relied more on eating lunch at school and at work, or restocking my canister with trips to the co-op near my many after-school jobs. I worked as a barista, landscaper, maid, caregiver, caterer and pastry chef. I also volunteered for Olympic National Park’s revegetation crew and as a tour guide at the local aquarium. Volunteering and working all the time distracted me from everything going wrong in my life — plus, I hoped it would help me get into a good college far away. Volunteering also meant I could spend a few extra hours indoors if it was raining or cold outside.

Despite working seven days a week, I could never save enough money to persuade a landlord to rent an apartment to a 14-year-old girl and her two siblings.

“Striving to make fewer trips to the grocery store during the coronavirus pandemic has pushed me to become more creative and less precious about my culinary endeavors. … I am making Douglas-fir fettuccine Alfredo, or fettuccine al burro, named for its rich butter sauce, because the weather has turned cold and there is not much else to forage. The bright citrus tang of Doug fir is welcome when the days turn dreary, and I use it as a wild alternative to rosemary. …

“The leaves are most tender in the spring when they are neon, but they can be harvested year round, making this literally an evergreen recipe. The first rule of foraging is to be certain that you know what you are eating, because otherwise it can be dangerous.”

Get both the recipe and the rest of the story at the Washington Post, here.

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urban-foraging

Photo: Pop-Up City
Urban foragers don’t like to see the food in parks go to waste.

Do you pick berries along the side of the road? I am drawn to blackberries. Suzanne loves mulberries. When we graze opportunistically like that, I guess we are foragers.

I have written before about both gleaning (usually picking up edible food after the farmer has finished harvesting) and foraging (usually in urban or suburban areas). This story suggests the practice is gaining adherents, in part because city dwellers feel too divorced from nature.

Jenny Cunningham writes at the Guardian, “According to Langdon Cook, there’s one golden rule of foraging: if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it. Cook is a leading figure in America’s growing urban foraging movement – in fact he’s written the book on it. As we make our way along a trail through one of his favourite hunting grounds, Seattle’s Seward Park, he mentions some of the poisonous plants out there, such as hemlock. The famous feller of Socrates looks a lot like carrot tops or flat leaf parsley to the uninitiated.

“There’s still plenty of good eating in the city’s parks and green spaces – researchers once identified 450 edible plants in Seattle. Cook enthusiastically points out some ripe thimbleberry. ‘It has a shelf life of about a nanosecond, so you’ll never see it in a farmers market,’ he says. The soft berry slumps off the plant and into the mouth like it’s already been made into a sweet, tannic jam. So yummy, so organic … and so illegal.

“Despite the popularity of foraging in Seattle and cities far beyond the Pacific north-west, municipal parks are generally off limits to foragers in the US. For city authorities, the risk of destruction to plants and wildlife is too great: what if everyone decided they wanted a piece of the park for lunch? Then there’s the potential for overzealous amateurs to make themselves very unwell. …

“While foraging is an ancient art that has taken place in US cities for as long as they’ve existed, the practice has exploded in popularity in recent years.

“There are some who forage because they struggle to afford food, but that is a small percentage, according to a Johns Hopkins study. Mostly, it seems that urban dwellers – starved of light and spending much of their time in virtual environments – crave a stronger connection to nature. Worried parents want their children to have some life experiences unmediated by glowing screens.

” ‘We are drawn to do what our grandparents did,’ says Cook. ‘It’s that “do it yourself” mentality we see in the renaissance of fermenting, pickling, brewing. Foraging fires up all our synapses.’

“Fired up synapses have collided with strict city codes across the US. … But there is fresh hope for foodies as some cities attempt to embrace their foraging communities. After doing away with its ‘molesting vegetation’ rule last autumn, Minneapolis now allows people to pick certain wild nuts, fruits and berries in most city parks. Cities from Boston to Austin encourage the public to harvest in existing park orchards.”

Read more at the Guardian, here. Do you forage?

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Photo: Photobucket at Psychology Today
Hadza grandmother in Northern Tanzania. Hazda grandmothers’ labor and care is correlated with better nutritional status and survival rates in Hadza children. Anthropologist Kristen Hawkes studies the Hazda for a window on ancient worlds.

As a grandmother myself, I am naturally drawn to well researched articles on grandmothers throughout history. Their role has fluctuated, of course. In some periods, they have been useful — essential even. At other times, they have been pretty useless. Here’s a report from John Poole about very early grandmothers. I heard it at Rhode Island Public Radio.

Kristen Hawkes is an anthropologist at the University of Utah. She tries to figure out our past by studying modern hunter-gatherers like the Hadza, who likely have lived in the area that is now northern Tanzania for thousands of years. Groups like this are about as close as we can get to seeing how our early human ancestors might have lived.

“Over many extended field visits, Hawkes and her colleagues kept track of how much food a wide sample of Hadza community members were bringing home. She says that when they tracked the success rates of individual men, ‘they almost always failed to get a big animal.’ … In this society at least, the [old] hunting hypothesis seemed way off the mark. If people here were depending on wild meat to survive, they would starve.

“So if dad wasn’t bringing home the bacon, who was? After spending a lot of time with the women on their daily foraging trips, the researchers were surprised to discover that the women, both young and old, were providing the majority of calories to their families and group-mates.

“Mostly, they were digging tubers, which are deeply buried and hard to extract. The success of a mother at gathering these tubers correlated with the growth of her child.

But something else surprising happened once mom had a second baby:

“That original relationship went away and a new correlation emerged with the amount of food their grandmother was gathering. …

“In this foraging society, it turns out, grandmothers were more important to child survival than fathers.”

Other researchers have come up with other likely benefits of prehistoric grandmothers.

Michael Tomasello is a developmental psychologist at Duke University and the Max Planck Institute. … Tomasello originally assumed that the pro-social traits in human babies [described by researchers such as U.C. Davis primatologist Sarah Hrdy] were preparing kids for skills they’d need as adults, in line with the Man the Hunter hypothesis. Now he thinks that Hrdy’s proposal – that human babies are so socially oriented as a result of shared child care and feeding – is a more compelling theory. The traits appear so early in a human’s life that it makes better sense that they were adapted to early childhood situations rather than adult hunting behaviors.

“It’s this ability to ‘put our heads together,’ as Tomasello puts it, that may have allowed humans to survive, thrive and spread across the globe. While the men were out hunting, grandmothers and babies were building the foundation of our species’ success – sharing food, cooperating on more and more complex levels and developing new social relationships.”

More.

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Good news for scavengers who collect fruit they see going to waste in cities.

A new study reveals that, unlike urban root vegetables or leafy vegetables that grow close to the ground, fruit is not in danger of contamination by lead and, mysteriously, contains more nutrients than most grocery-store fruit.

Bella English writes at the Boston Globe that Amy Jarvis, of Boston’s League of Urban Canners [LUrC], was concerned about fellow forager Matthew Schreiner, who had tested positive for high levels of lead. She “went online and found [Wellesley College geoscience professor Dan] Brabander, who since 2003 has been working with the nonprofit Food Project, monitoring lead in urban soil.

“In the past year, LUrC members have given Brabander and his students 197 foraged food samples to analyze, including berries, cherries, apples, plum, peaches, and pears. Both groups believe it is the only such ‘citizen-scientist’ collaboration in the country.

“ ‘It’s an example of a successful approach to doing applied science that matters,’ says Brabander. So far, he and his students, including Wellesley juniors Ciaran Gallagher and Hannah Oettgen, have analyzed 40 samples for trace elements, both toxins and nutritents.

“Their results startled many, including themselves. Urban fruit not only doesn’t absorb high levels of lead, it has more than twice the amount of calcium concentrations as commercially grown fruit. The results were the same for washed and peeled fruit as they were for unwashed and unpeeled samples.

“The primary source of lead in an urban environment is the soil, and leafy vegetables and root vegetables, which grow close to the ground, take up lead in more significant amounts than fruit. ‘If most of the fruit is high up [on trees], that minimizes the likelihood that re-suspended soil, or soil with lead in it, will reach up there,’ Brabander says.” More here.

Photo: Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Wellesley College student Ciaran Gallagher checks the lead content in an apple tree in Cambridge.

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