Urban foraging: Free organic food

Ripe and juicy despite a few skin blemishes

A few days ago, the first big typhoon of the year blew through and the only thing I could think of was saving the biwa (loquats) from a tree I had just discovered. It did occur to me that maybe my priorities were a bit different to other folks as I stood in the wind and rain picking up fruit but as a reward I’ll be enjoying flavorsome biwa smoothies and desserts for the next week. Not surprisingly, the fruit is a little weather-beaten but can easily be peeled.

Urban foraging is a great way to add fruit and, if you are knowledgeable, greens, spring water and other good stuff to your diet. You probably won’t save a lot of money but it’s healthy, fun to do and often a community service. In this case, the tree was on municipal land and the biwa would have just rotted, attracting wasps. I made sure to leave plenty for the local birds though.

If you try this on public land, you need to make sure the plants are a good distance from any roads to avoid contamination from vehicle exhausts. Many cities also spray with herbicides, etc. so it is important to check out the area in advance. The other major rule is of course to know what you are gathering. It’s popular to hunt for shiitake and matsutake mushrooms in the mountains here and from time to time, you hear about people suffering the ill effects of mixing up their fungi.

Another option is to help neighbors harvest their trees. Less mobile people are often grateful to have someone harvest their fruit if you split the bounty with them. Others just don’t really think of picking their trees but are happy to share if you suggest the idea. It is definitely better than leaving the fruit to rot. Keep your eyes open: you may be surprised by the free, organic food that surrounds you.

Leave a comment...