I grew up in a semi-rural area where we played in open green fields, splashed in river water and sat around a large fire with the neighbours. I was a bit young to perform the tasks my older cousins did, like fetching wood and water. But had a special task that my grandmother and I did together, just the two of us. Every second Friday (the lower primary school let out just after lunch) we would take a long walk to the near forests and pick wild spinach for that night's supper and the next morning's breakfast.
From those trips I learnt the difference between most of the greens. I knew which were bitter, which were poisonous and which tasted the best. At the same time I began to learn how much great wild spinach it would take to balance off the bitterness of the blackjack spinach. Washing the greens, helping my gogo peel the onions, potatoes and any other vegetables we had, if any, gave me great pride.
Eating the wild vegetables and fruits that nature provides freely has slowly made its return. Now it's, however, moved from the impoverished villages like the one I grew up in. It's now become part of the urban landscape. According to this "urban foraging can be defined as foraging for free fruits, vegetables, and other “wild food” around the city."
A few of my friends and I have gone picking wild mushrooms and berries. One of them is quite experienced with wild greens, especially mushrooms. The space of urban foraging gets murky when people begin to dig through food that's been thrown out or food thought to be out of use. I don't and will not advocate that people search dustbins and dumps for food. It's dangerous, unhealthy and unhygienic.
Should you want to try looking for fruits and vegetables in your area, keep these etiquette rules from Urban Edibles:
1. Don't take more than you need. "A tree full of ripe black cherries can be really exciting but how many will you use before they go bad?"
2. Ask permission before you pick. "We do not condone unsanctioned harvesting practices or trespassing."
3. Pick in a balanced and selective manner. "The last thing we want is to damage the sources from which we harvest!"
4. Watch out for pesticides and other contaminants. "Paint chips, pesticides, motor oil spills and even car wash runoff can affect the quality of the sources you pick from."
Have you done any urban foraging before? What meal did you make with the food?