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learn to love the weeds

Come together with a foraging tour of the neighborhood

My neighborhood in Harlem has intensely good Mexican food. It has turquoise-painted beauty shops blasting salsa music, and it has a great view of the Hudson river. And my friends and I can share those things and appreciate where we live. But, there is another way to love your neighborhood for what was there before the buildings went up. Before the quaint coffee shops and dimly-lit bistros showed up, before any development at all, your neighborhood and mine had inherent beauty, worth, and bounty. We’ve just forgotten how to find it. And as we ignore the weeds and flowers around us, so too have we grown to ignore each other.

But there is a growing contingent that has not forgotten to stop and smell the weeds. These men and women, decked out in plaid and waders, boots and beards (mostly kidding), are foragers.

Now coming back to the grocery store, foods like dandelion greens, juniper berries, and ramps—items that we here in New York City can find in our backyards, are showing up all over the place when the season strikes. And the foragers who find them are becoming foodie royalty of sorts.  If you look close, you might notice the same thing in your grocer as well. Foraging in NYC has become a fascination common enough to warrant a blog on The New York Times City Room blog and is considered a hot new career in the food world.

But in this particularly dirty realm, New York is not first to the party as we like to assume. A quick Google around for foragers in a variety of locales has not disappointed for a single state or city I tested.

Here are a few:
- Foraging tours in NYC with “wild man” Steve Brill
- Northern California tours are conducted by Forage SF and Epicuring California, among others.
- Seattle has a dedicated foraging forest called the Beacon Food Forest.
- For everyone else, a forager and blogger named Green Deane has created a list of foraging instructors on his blog with nearly every state represented.

Destination foraging is great, but if you really want bring a community together, I would recommend hiring an instructor to lead you and your neighbors through the yards and woods that you probably already know.

Communal gathering might lead to communal cooking. The hike itself could spur a walking group or after school club of sorts. Maybe you’ll strike Morel gold and be able to pay for that block party that everyone wants. No matter what the end result, learning the secrets of the dirt you all share can’t help but bring people together. Who knows? Looking at your neighborhood in a new way may have you looking at your neighbors that way too.

photo courtesy of edenpictures

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  • Green Deane

    Thanks for mentioning me. By they way I teach foraging classes every week of the year in Florida.