Foraging the Urban Landscape in Winter

Sometimes I worry that I paint an overly romantic picture of foraging. I'm so excited by what I find, and I feel like the best way to share that enthusiasm is to take a pretty picture and make my forage look gorgeous and inspiring. My concern is that perhaps that is part of what keeps people away from forging, when they look around, and don't see those same lush and beautifully presented foods, it is discouraging.

So, here's the reality.
By far, I do the vast majority of my foraging in an urban environment, mostly along irrigation ditches and bike paths. It's true that I'm a wood nymph and spend as much time as I can manage wandering around in the mountains. But day to day, I spend most of my foraging time scanning the ground closest to home.

And right now, so close to winter, you'd look around my home and think that there's no food to be found. Everything seems a shade of brown. But take a closer look. There are glimpses of green tucked into warm pockets, next to underpasses, in low-lying areas, and fed by springs. They are there, a whisper rather than a scream, but calling you nonetheless.

Look at the picture. Do you think that's a good foraging location? Turns out, that's the spot where I found quite a bit of horehound last week (gonna make my Gran's cough syrup). Every week, I continue to learn, to find new plants, and to expand my ability to read my environment. Just today, with just a dried flower head, I learned to identify wild carrot! So in much the same way that my bike riding has evolved from destination-driven rides to open-ended journeys, foraging is less about finding specific plants than it is a process and possibilities. It's about an openness to the evolving process of understanding my place in the world.

So, here's the thing. Foraging itself can be a beautiful thing, quietly wandering through the woods, and serenely filling up a basket of food and herbs as you go. But a lot of the time, foraging is a dirty sweaty deed and takes place in less than glamorous locals. Think about farming or hunting - obtaining food is hard work. However, the end result is always a thing of beauty. To have the finest and the freshest food and medicine, picked with your own hands is nothing short of music. Sing!

I'm sharing this post with Real Food Deals. Foraging is a great way to save money on your food bill. If you like a bargain, too, click the link.


  1. I am just always amazed at what you find and where. You have turned the idea of eating and procuring food upside down for me.

  2. I am like you when I get out onto the road, always scanning the road sides for tell tale signs of forage or herbs! Even things like chickory and sumac make me happy because when I was a little girl, I went to a national park and the park ranger gave a talk on forage and we learned how to make chicory coffee and used sumac berries to make a lemonade like drink. So, when I see these common "weeds" I know that even they are useful. Nature sticks up a tendril of green where ever there is a crack in the human world and if you know what to look for, you can share abundantly in the bounty that is hidden from the rest of the world! Lovely post butter! :) Alex

  3. Christy - There's food everywhere, even where you live. Especially where you live. I'm gonna get you out picking in the spring!

    Alex - All I had to do was learn the language, learn to read my landscape, and then it was so easy.


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