LOOKING FOR WILD FOOD is a primordial form of travel. Even if the area where you’re searching is just a couple blocks of urban or suburban park or hillside, the search can take on the feel of something almost pre-language, a vestige of some earlier time.
I first started learning about edible plants when I was seven or eight. In the three decades since I’ve found wild edibles from Colorado to California to Mexico to Central America to the Pacific Northwest to Patagonia. The more I’ve learned the more I’ve realized a couple striking things:
- No matter where you are, no matter how seemingly “harsh” the terrain is, there is always some kind of wild food available if you have the knowledge of what / where to look.
- Searching for wild foods can give you the ability to see, smell, hear, and be aware of details in the landscape — directions and slopes and shadows, for example — that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
The following is meant less as a real guide than as a point of entry into the act of foraging and learning about plants. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve focused on wild edibles in North America, although many of these plants can be found in other parts of the world. My main criteria was that the foods can be found right in and around urban areas. Please be mindful when harvesting edibles that you properly identify all plants (use a guidebook), and do not take more than you need. Most of all, take time to just enjoy moving through the landscape as you’re gathering.