Finding Our Food Again
A Radical, Urban PoC Guide to Survival
Welcome to Finding Our Food Again pt. I: Urban Foraging Edition!!! This guide includes a useful basic guide on urban foraging, as well as a sampling of plants native, naturalized, or widespread across the US, and some fascinating, witty commentary on the environment! I hope it’s a helpful starting place! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to shoot me an email at: Dominique@cofed.org!
And feel free to follow my facebook page for more plant info and food justice events!
And don’t forget to check by in about parts II and III; we’re gonna dumpster dive, y’all! It’s gonna be fun! https://www.facebook.com/reclaimingourfoodandfreedom/
Urban Foraging 101 On the Environment Flora Resources & Acknowledgements
101 *Note: While this is meant to be a helpful guide, it certainly should not be your only source of plant knowledge!! Check the Resources and Acknowledgements page for links to various places hwere you can find more plant info, including more detailed characteristics, harvesting times and uses!
is an act of love. It is an act of manifesting nourishment, both for yourself and your community. It is a way for us to care for the Earth and bring the web of life back into balance.” -Liana MacNeill
There is nothing more loving than feeding someone, in my opinion. This entire zine is predicated on that fact. To nourish someone, truly nourish them, is to provide them with an edible version of all of the things they need to feel at peace in this moment, and to do so with love in your heart. Who better to do that than the Earth that gave us those hearts to be nourished in the first place? But there is also such joy and ease in the practice of nature. To work in concert with the world around is much easier, and provides more than we are ever told about. To forage is to grow in community with the world. It is to gather knowledge, about what nature has to offer, as well as what we have to offer in return. Foraging reminds us that
we are but one small part of a much larger picture, and asks us to look to all of the even smaller
parts we overlook. The dandelions growing in cracks in the side-
tall grass that grows in your neighbor’s yard, the tennis ball-looking fruit you pick up and throw at your walk; the
friends in the summer.
All of these are beings, who have their own names and lives and wants and needs, and respecting that opens a door into a world where community is all around you. Just about every thing we have ever come into contact with originates in a natural form.
From Citronella as bug spray, to opium in poppies, to dandelion green salad and fried squash blossoms, the Earth is willing to give us just about anything weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like, and in forms better than we could ever imagine. The amount of vitamins, nutrients and minerals that are packed into our neighborhood plant friends is often higher than we can find in even
the nicest of Whole Foods.
Mother nature can always provide for us, Â as long as we respect Her sacrifice. And that is the key to foraging. Understand that we are not taking things from the land; we are exchanging. This exchange requires we acknowledge and respect the plants that are providing us with nourishment, and receive that nourishment in a way that ultimately helps the plant and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s community continue to propagate and thrive. We want the plants to keep giving to us, so we must continue to give to them, and never take more than is our share.
To this end, some tips!
What Should I Bring?
-Gloves, to protect you from thorns, poison ivy and anything else we shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be touching
-Sharp scissors or knife, to make the harvesting process as least traumatic as possible for both us and the plants -Bag/jar/container for clippings -A snack maybe? Foraging can take a while. -Water. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Nuff said.
-Something to thank/bless the plants with (this can be water, some of your hair, a song, or simply a space in your mind dedicated to holding thanks for their resources
-Friends!!!! Urban foraging is the ultimate act of community; tap into all of your resources, including your friends and family!
Learning about the world never has to be a solo endeavor.
How Do I Harvest?
-First of all, Know What You’re Harvesting! If you’re
not sure of which plant is which, then don’t harvest from the plant! Each plant has hundreds of properties that could be harmful to us if we don’t know what we’re doing. Nature likes to form relationships; getting to know the plants in your region and neighborhood will ensure that you can both help and be helped by the plants you’re harvesting!
-Always ask the plants’ permission! We are literally
-Never harvest whole entire plants! Unless you are
taking away pieces of their body for our own use; this requires consent. Ask, in whatever way feels good, and they will always answer you. planning on repotting them, never take more than a third of any one plant. Otherwise, you may remove any chance of that plant growing and thriving, when you could have gotten just as many leaves by removing a couple from each plant in your vicinity! There’s almost always more than one of the same plant in an area; make sure you look around!
-Try to cut/harvest in the middle of the stem. When
cutting limbs, leaves or flowers, make sure that you cut halfway between parts of the plant, to encourage growth.
-Always say thank you. Whatever that looks like for you,
our friends deserve to be honored and thanked for the help they give us. We are not exempt from common decency just because the plants speak a different language. We are being given a gift.
don’t be rude.
Where Should I Harvest? Here are just a few ideas:
-Community Gardens and Urban Farms: many times just volunteering, or asking permission to forage is really easy! -Parks: Make sure that you know the parks you forage in, and whether or not they get sprayed with pesticides. Try foraging deeper into the heart of the park, away from fences, sidewalks or polluted rivers or waterways. -Alleys: Try to pick alleys that are small and overgrown; those usually don’t get driven through very often, and so are freer from pollutants and gross things. -School fields and Church grounds are usually places that the public is allowed without issue, so you shouldn’t run into a problem. But always be careful, and asking permission is never a bad idea.
Wherever you forage, make sure that you either have permission to be there, or are familiar with the area and feel safe. Please don’t get thrown in jail over some dandelion greens.
What Should I Look Out For?
-Security: If you are foraging somewhere, it’s always nice to have permission. But if you don’t, make sure to get familiar with the spot. How often do people visit? How crowded does it get? Is there a security presence? How strong? Get to know the neigborhoods you like to forage in, and build a knowledge base accordingly.
-Human Pollution: Try not to forage less than 100ft
from a busy roadway, and avoid alleys and lots where vehicles frequent; their pollution will leave a bad taste in your mouth (and your stomach) -Soil: soil health is a big deal. Knowing the history of the places you forage, as well as some good observational skills, can help determine whether there is a large chance of soil contamination. If plants in an area are unhealthy, or there used to be a nuclear power plant in that spot, then maybe don’t harvest there. If you do, know that the top third of the plant is usually found to contain the least contaminants, and you should never harvest the root of a plant you believe has been in contaminated soil.
However, don’t let this freak you out too much! Nature is strong, and can bounce back from many things, so trust your own judgement and
go with your educated gut feelings!
theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll let you know what you need to do. Just
Plants communicate if you listen closely, and
pay close attention and do your own research; and always
be sure of the plants youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re meeting!
On the Environment
There is no mother more loving than the one we stand on. She sacrifices Herself to provide us with everything we could ever need, and we repay Her in soil degradation, deforestation, pollution and climate change. Time and time again, capitalism places efficiency over respect; places
people, places, things and ideas. The Earth is a living, breathing, symbiotic system that must be worked in tandem with, not taken Â advantage of. Â Because, as we can plainly see reflected in the huge wave of natural disasters hitting our shores, She does not take things lying down. There is no humanity without the Earth. And there is no exploitation without far-reaching consequences.
Acknowledging the Earth as sacred and alive means that she, and all her parts, are here with us on this journey, and we are all mutually invested in our collective survival. This investment is integral to the struggle, for land, for water, for justice, and for revolution. This investment also gives us access to an entire world of natural resources to sustain us and assist us; which is why our ancestors have spent so many centuries feeling the way they do about our land, our water, and the ways
we do or do not
We must buy out of capitalist subjugation of the Earth in order to lessen the damage on Her, and ultimately all of us. The forces that destroy her come for us as well. Whether that be razing our ancestral re-
gions, running pipelines through our waterways and sacred spaces, acidifying our soil through awful tobacco farming practices, or any other of the myriad of struggles our people are fighting. We are fighting them together, and we cannot lose sight of that. When we
lose sight of each other, we lose sight of our revolution. And we simply cannot afford to do so;
not now, not ever.
This is a list of some plant friends that are pretty
ubiquitous in and around parts of Baltimore, where I am. But while many of them are quite common now, especially in the continental US, they may not be the same plants that grow near you! If you want a more personalized list, check out some of the resources in the resource folder, especially FallingFruit! They have a great database of foraging and diving spots around the US and the world, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a great place to start your personal search!
Purslane (verdolagos, pigweed)- This plant is often seen as a weed here in the United States, but many other peoples have been eating it for centuries.
Sometimes also referred to as â&#x20AC;&#x153;Mexican Parsleyâ&#x20AC;?, due to the fact that many Latin American countries use it as a staple green, purslane is also popular in parts of Japan, where it is often pickled. The insides of the leaves are a little slimy, but it has a really nice crunch that more than makes up for it. They grow pretty much anywhere, in large webby patches. Look for them in large potted plants, and on sidewalks amongst other plants. Parts used: Leaves, mostly. Purslane should be harvested anywhere from early summer to the end of fall, before the plant starts to seed. Try to get them while the stems are still green; they turn red and fibrous later in the season. Cooking suggestions: Purslane is good raw in salads, but can also be pickled, blanched, sauteed, or stewed, which brings out a lot of sweetness. It is often paired with pork, chiles, tomatillos, ginger, garlic, or vinegar.
Nettle Usually, all species of nettle
are referred to as stinging nettle, but not all of them sting. All of them are really nutritious, though. Many Indigenous peoples, including the Choctaw (who are my people), rely on nettle as a green, because itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quite high in iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C. Nettle should always be handled with gloves,and should only be eaten after being thoroughly soaked or cooked, to remove the sting. Nettle grows in dense clusters, in really moist soil, so try to look for them along the edges of clean waterways, or under lots of dense tree cover ( which blocks the sun from evaporating and keeps the soil more moist). Because they often do sting, nettle is not too often found in more cultivated areas, so look in more overgrown sections of your local parks, or undisturbed alleyways.
Parts used: Leaves
Nettle should be harvested in early spring, before they flower. Afterwards, they develop particles that can irritate your urinary tract.
Nettles are best after cooked pretty thoroughly, so stews and soups are good, but sauteed well in some butter and garlic also works.
Amaranth Amaranth is known as a pseudocereal (or “fake grain”); while it can be used interchangeably with things like barley, wheat, etc, it’s not actually a grain like the rest. Amaranth is an exceedingly important plant for many indigenous folks, especially in parts of Latin America. Amaranth has been used as a flour, a green, and a staple by folks in the Phillipines, Malaysia, East Africa, parts of India, and most especially by the ancient Aztec people of Latin America. It’s also really gorgeous when it matures; the tops often get red, like big paintbrushes! They can usually be found in alleyways, or parks, where they can get a good amount of sun.
Parts used: Leaves, seeds
Amaranth should be harvested in the summer.
Cooking suggestions: The seeds can be popped like popcorn, and the leaves make delicious greens (like spinach, but a little less aggressive) that taste good raw or cooked.
Lamb’s Quarters, or Bathua (in Hindi), is an extensively cultivated plant, especially in India. However, it’s range extends just about every where, including North America, South Africa and Oceania. Bathua leaves have a waxy
coating, with a white coating underneath, which makes them unwettable (which isn’t actually a word, but whatever). They usually grow no taller than 3 meters, and lean over when they flower, due to the weight. They produce lots of little flower clusters,... and hundreds of little black edible seeds. Bathua is related to Quinoa, actually, which is cultivated *specifically* for its seeds. It is a popular green in many places, including Punjab. Lamb’s quarters is quite a common weed, and can be found just chillin along sidewalks or in someone’s garden, often alongside plantain and dandelion. You could probably convince your neighbor to let you take them for free; they *are* considered a weed, after all.,
Parts used: Leaves, seeds
Lamb’s Quarters should be harvested in the early to late summer.
Cooking suggestions: The
seeds makes a really good substitute for rice or lentils, or can be mixed in to bulk up a dish. The leaves are delicious, and taste *extremely* similar to spinach, in my opinion.
Plantain Plantain is an awesome plant! And I’m not talking about the banana (I know, it’s confusing). Plantain is pretty much ubiquitous, and found all over the world, especially in the cracks of sidewalks and in little alleyways. There are over 200
species of this leafy plant, which is adorable and fantastic against bug bites. Just chew a little and put it on your arm; trust me.
Parts used: Leaves
Plantain leaves can be harvested at pretty much anytime, and they grow quite hardily and plentiful.
Cooking suggestions: The
leaves are both buttery and bitter, if that makes sense. Try them in a salad, or throw them into a pan of scrambled eggs.
Yellow dock is native to parts of Egypt, Jordan, and Western Asia, but has been pretty much naturalized all over the world. Similarly to amaranth, the seeds can be ground into flour and the leaves can be cooked as greens or left raw in salads (but only when they’re young; as they mature they get toxic). Yellow dock grows usually in bunches, in fields, or undisturbed lots. It is also found on the side of roadways, especially in those little patches of grass right in front of people’s homes (they’re called tree lawns, apparently).
Parts used: Leaves, seeds
Yellow dock should be harvested in early spring for the leaves, but late summer/early fall for the seeds, which are plentiful. Let them dry, put them in a pa-
per bag and shake it, to help remove the seed husks.
Cooking suggestions: Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a great recipe for yellow dock crackers in the upcoming pages. Check it out. ;)
Elderberries Elderberries are found throughout the Americas, as well as in parts of Northern Europe and in much of Asia (including Japan, Korea and Siberia). It is a wellrespected plant throughout the world, known for itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s effectiveness in assisting minor ailments such as colds and flu. Elderberry needs lots of light, so it is best looked for on the edges of dense parks or forests.
Parts used: Berries
Elderberries should be harvested in midsummer, at their peak of juiciness.
Cooking suggestions: Elderber-
ries should always be cooked at least slightly before being eaten; they make great pie filling! A tablespoon of elderberry syrup is also a popular dietary supplement, especially during the fall and winter, when sickness spreads.
are entirely indigenous to North America, and as such have been consumed by the Indigenous people of this land for centuries. It has also been an extremely important crop for soil revitalization; blueberries grow very well in acidic soil, and can help remove some of that acidity to make it more inhabitable for other plants. This has been especially important in helping refresh tobacco fields, which can get extremely acidic in nature. Wild blueberries are a little harder to find nowadays, since they sell really well, but check out some of the more overgrown parks in your area and you might get lucky!
Parts used: Berries
Blueberries can be harvested anywhere between early spring and early fall, depending. A taste test is probably the easiest (and most fun) way of telling you when the blueberries you come across need to be harvested.
Cooking suggestions: Blueber-
ries are delicious raw, by themselves or in salads, or cooked with any number of meats, or in any number of desserts. They can also be dried, or made into jam!
Dandelion Dandelion is one of those plants that can pretty much be found anywhere. Everyone considers it a weed, but it’s actually a great source of iron and vitamins (both the leaves and the flowers). Dandelion is native to North America, Asia and Europe, and is an extremely important source of pollen for bees (so don’t kill them; weeds are awesome). Check for it especially in sidewalks, alleys and gardens, but they shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Leaves, root Dandelions should be harvested in the spring and summer.
greens make a great base for salad, and can also act as any other green in your diet for the most part. Dandelion flowers are great as edible salad decoration, along with violets. Dandelion roots can also be roasted to make dandelion coffee, which doesn’t really have any caffeine, but certainly looks and tastes similar if you’re looking for an alternative. The placebo effect is quite strong sometimes, and dandelion is great for your liver.
Black Walnut Tree They look like giant green tennis balls, really. But inside lies an actual walnut. Black wal-
nut is known primarily for its wood, but black walnuts have a really intense, complex flavor that’s worth the *tremendous* amount of effort it takes to crack them. Black walnut trees are used extensively for urban planning, and can often be found in those same tree lawns!
Parts used: Wood, fruit (inside of
which lies the actual walnut) Black walnuts are ready to be harvested when they’ve fallen off the tree. Grab the little tennis balls while they’re green, let them dry out for a while, then put them in a bag and run them over with your car. I’m not kidding. That’s pretty much the only way to open these suckers. But again, worth it!
Cooking suggestions: I mean,
they taste really good just by the handful, or sprinkled on salads, but that seems anticlimactic considering how hard they are to harvest. That being said, black walnut ice cream is the best flavor ever.
Pawpaw The pawpaw is a fruit that is pretty notorious for being delicious. When ripe, the inside is like a really delicious custard, that can pretty much be eaten straight. Pawpaw is native to Eastern North America, and has been used a lot for habitat restoration, because it grows really thick roots. Pawpaw is an undertsory plant, which means it grows underneath thick forest canopies, so check in dense parks and forested areas, especially where a lot of mosquitos are. They are attracted to a similar climate.
Parts used: Fruit.
Pawpaw should be collected in mid-August, which is their peak ripening time.
Cooking suggestions: I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really have
any, to be honest. I mean, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a pretty cool ice cream recipe in here, but honestly I would just eat it straight.
Passionflower is the plant from which we get passionfruit. Which I always thought of as a super tropical fruit, but it can be found across North America. However, many passionflower plants do not bear fruit, unless they are in the more humid parts of North America (like Florida). Passionfruit like humid environments, so check for them in more densely
forested areas, where the soil retains more moisture. It might take a bit of looking to find some passionflower, but they’re not hard to spot; the flowers look kind of like little UFOs, which is cool.
Parts used: Leaves, fruit Passionfruit should be collected late summer; however, passionflower leaves (which make a great addition to lavender and chamomile in tea) can be collected throughout the spring and summer
Cooking suggestions: Passion-
flower leaves are edible, but are mostly used medicinally as a calming aid, much like lavender and chamomile. Passionfruit itself is pretty liquidy on the inside, with a lot of seeds, so I would suggest maybe mixing it with some yogurt or spreading it on something; it’s both really sweet and quite tangy!
Lemonbalm Lemonbalm is another calming plant, known mostly for itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s medicinal use. However, the
leaves are both edible and
lemon-y, so they make a great food in my opinion. Multipurpose plants are the best plants, really. They look almost exactly like mint, but if you rub one ofthe leaves, they smell quite lemony and refreshing!
Parts used: Leaves
Lemonbalm should be harvested early to mid summer.
Cooking suggestions: The leaves donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need to be cooked too much, or theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll lose some of their calming properties; a handful chopped and stirred into a pasta adds a lot of tang, and will probably make you feel a lot better.
Another member of the balm (or mint) family, Beebalm is fantastic because bees love it. And bees are super important right now, for a lot of ecological reasons (check the resource folder for more info). It is also an important herb among the Blackfoot, Ojibwa and Winnebago people, because it makes a great antiseptic. Beebalm grows in dry, sunny locations, like fields.
Parts used: Leaves (medicinally), flowers
Beebalm should be harvested throughout the summer, as the flower petals start to hang down
Cooking suggestions: Beebalm
tastes just like oregano. I mean, *exactly* like it. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not lying. Try it.
Find them here! https://docs.google.com/document/d/14qUCxbFpddd8wZuPZ9e0nXGGjl9PgCbFRzkzEnhYTTs/edit?usp=sharing