Urban Foraging, Week Ending 12/22/2019

Just a short post this week, since holidays and “visiting” takes away from both foraging and writing time.

Since I live in a semi-rural location, most of my foraging has been focused on countryside and forest ecosystems. That happens to be what is closest to me so what I see on a regular basis. (Including my own yard.) However, wild food can be found in urban settings as well, although maybe “wild” isn’t the right word for plants introduced for landscaping purposes that just happen to provide edibles as well. 

I have previously blogged about urban landscaping edibles, namely ginkgo, but recently I encountered several other foraging opportunities as well.

Roses (Rosa spp.)

AKA, “real” roses, not the invasive Rosa multiflora with its fruit so small its barely worth harvesting.

Rose hips in the winter
Rose hips in the winter

Somehow I failed to register all the cultivated roses in my regular city haunts. It might look awkward in the summer to swipe flower petals for recipes, but rose hips in the fall and winter are easier picking. Just mind the thorns! 

More urban rose hips
More urban rose hips

Juniper (Juniperus spp.)

While running errands I found variety of juniper used to plant parking lot islands. I crushed a few berries to confirm – you cannot mistake that smell! 

Juniper berries in a parking lot island
Juniper berries in a parking lot island

Mind you, I didn’t harvest any yet. I don’t have much experience with juniper, and knowing which berries are ripe… or what the consequences are if you harvest berries which are underripe.

Mystery Fruit

I found several different shopping centers with mystery berries still clinging to the branches in December.

Mystery fruit in a local shopping center
Mystery fruit in a local shopping center

I feel like I should know 100% sure what these are… but I don’t. My guess is an ornamental cherry that happens to produce fruit. The fruit were sad and squishy. Did I check the flavor? Heck no! We never eat something if we are less than 100% sure what it is. Right? I’ll check these trees again over the course of next year to look for other identifiers such as time of flowering, the appearance of the flowers, and the colors of the fruit before cold weather sets in.

Caveats

One  major problem with urban foraging is proximity to roadways or parking lots, and thus car exhaust or road runoff. In most of these photos, you can see pavement in the background; below, tractor trailers hurtle by behind the trees with the mystery fruit.

Vehicles hurtle by in the background
Vehicles hurtle by in the background

If you can find urban edibles in a location such as a park or residential area, that might offer less exposure to car emissions. 

The other concern with urban foraging is pesticides, particularly with roses. Pesticides are basically everywhere around us these days and even those trying to garden organically may be plagued with pesticides on the wind or in any soil amendments we apply. But landscaping plants (and roses in particular) are often treated aggressively to manage insect pests.

P.S., I have finished spinning and plying my little milkweed and merino sample, but haven’t done anything else with it yet. I’ll post more about it whenever it is finally finished. I will say, little broken milkweed bits continued to plague me all during the process. If they were brown, I might’ve looked like Pigpen from Charlie Brown! 

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