The Best Places to Forage Your Food are the Worst Places to Buy It
Is foraging an activity best left to professionals? It's tempting to say yes: After all, the dishes at Rene Redzepi’s Noma (the gold standard of forage-focused dining) aren't exactly simple, and then there's the question of whether what you're picking is actually safe to eat. But two professors from Berkeley have a project that will help make foraging both easier and safer. Philip Stark and Tom Carlson work with the Berkeley Food Institute studying edibles growing in the wild, and they have created an interactive map that novice foragers can use when they go hunting for ingredients.
Stark and Carlson went in search of foragable food in the Bay Area and began noting what they found and where they found it on a constantly updating Google map. To use it, simply click on one of the green dots to find out what was discovered there, along with a photo so you’ll know it when you see it in the wild.
One thing that Stark and Carlson discovered was actually quite surprising: Wild food was most plentiful in poorer areas generally considered food desserts—neighborhoods that have little in the way of grocery stores or restaurants. The two professors actually found entire meals growing in the sidewalk cracks. They explained to Bay Area Bites that it’s because “people in wealthier neighborhoods tend to spray their lawns with pesticides and fertilizers or hire gardeners to trim back any unwanted plants in their gardens.” A lot of those unwanted plants could make excellent additions to your salad.
To see use their map and see all the places they've found wild edibles, head over to inaturalist.org. You’ll also find a detailed photo guide to what weeds are good to eat. It might not make you ready to hit the line at Noma just yet, but it seems like a good place to start.