By guest blogger Jeanette Ankoma-Sey
Foraging by definition is not sexy: it is plant material eaten by grazing livestock. When the term is applied to humans, the phrase “eating like a cow” can truly have new meaning to the forager!
I have come to realize that many of the plants that are considered generic weeds throughout the regional landscape are actually well loved, functional, and sustaining foods in other parts of the world. Call it the hunter-gatherer African in me, perhaps, but here are some observations and thoughts on foraging.
Foraging and its possibilities have been gained a new renewal following on the popularity of the 21st century edible food movement over the last 5 years. As Thomas mentioned, groups have set up maps and websites dedicated to the art of foraging. When considering foraging in public spaces, some common questions swirl: what is considered public, and when is it not ok? There is no exact answer other than applying common sense practices and asking the authority in question. But foraging can be and is a wonderful thing!
[Tomatoes and Flowering Parnsip, a combination for beneficial insect control]
Our property is a corner lot, everyone passes by, and thanks to the invention of chain link fence everyone can see our growing abundance and garden oasis: birds, squirrels, adults, and children. We have plants on our fence that happen to extend into the sidewalk from time to time. And on occasion our yard has become a foraging opportunity for the neighborhood, and that is ok. We have met new friends and shown some neighborly face time behind our garden. The Irish twins rush the sidewalk in late -May when they know the raspberries are sneaking on in. Our Asian neighbors eye our daylily flowers as they too get included as ingredients in some delightful recipes.
One group, Fallen Fruit, http://www.fallenfruit.org/, capitalizes on public space edibles. They take an organized and civil guerilla gardening approach with food! The art of fruit mapping is great and works, of course with the consent of the homeowners and neighborhoods. Communities can become better acquainted by allowing foraging to occur. If you have too much of something, spread the word and share with others. Allow those willing to pick in unkempt or ignored locations to pick them and share. Some folks make a living this way! Another similar group includes http://www.neighborhoodfruit.com/ where the “share and share alike” mentality for foraging flourishes.
In closing, foraging can lead to many benefits such as the creation of more productive public spaces or the strengthening of community bonds. Even if it means a small corner of your own space (or a client’s yard) can be dedicated to sharing a random pint or 3 of blueberries with family, friends, visitors alike. I like to think foraging can keep neighborly love (and healthy palettes) alive!
Jeanette Ankoma-Sey is a D.C. based landscape architect and a planting designer extraordinaire. She specializes in landscapes that provide sustenance, children's gardens, and school and botanical gardens. She teaches planting design at the George Washington University's Landscape Design Program.