Urban Foraging: It’s Not Just For Chipmunks Anymore

Urban food foraging is popular, and gaining more popularity, including in the Twin Cities. On Saturday, May 12, 2018, as part of our spring sale, Ingebretsen’s will be hosting events where you can learn more about urban foraging and end the day (and start the evening) with a happy hour at Urban Forage Winery & Cider House.

For most people foraging for food involves going up and down the aisles of a supermarket along with visits to farmer’s markets and, hopefully, specialty shops such as Ingebretsen’s meat market. The idea of finding food in the wild is not on our radar until now. Urban food foraging is growing in the United States and around the world. The USDA’s National Agroforestry Center (NAC) has said that:

Community food forests may be best known as a source of fresh healthy food to local residents, but they also offer expanded social connections, reduced food costs, enhanced physical activity, hands-on outdoor learning experiences for children, and much more.

The NAC website has more information and can be found here. The USDA’s Forest Service also has information about using urban green spaces for food and foraging and can be found here.

Amittai Axelrod picks mulberries from trees overhanging the sidewalk in Boulder, Colorado on June 6, 2012. www.fallingfruit.org

There has been talk, with the impending closing of the Hiawatha Golf Course in Minneapolis, of establishing a food forest that can be used to forage for edible berries and plants. In an article in City Pages it is explained:

Put simply, a food forest is a woodland that uses native trees, shrubs, and plants that are both edible and medicinal. The city would plant everything from raspberries and blackberries to maple trees and hazelnut trees, as well as shoreline plants like katniss (also known as duck potato) and medicinal herbs like echinacea.

Intended to be low-maintenance and self-maintaining once established, the plants are designed to not only build soil but to attract pollinators. (Plants like milkweed are especially beneficial for bees and monarch butterflies.)


You can find information of where you can (can’t) forage in the Minneapolis Parks: Minneapolis Park Board Information Sheet

What is Foraging?

The blog DenGarden says:

Spring is here and a forager can find fresh, wholesome, delicious food for free just about anywhere she looks!

Credit Noah Berger for The New York Times

Throughout history, people have practiced foraging to put food on the proverbial table. In school, we learn about ‘hunter gatherers,’ tribes that foraged for wild plants and followed animal herds. In many cases, these hunter gatherer tribes faded away with the rise of intensive agriculture and sedentary civilizations, but small pockets of strict foragers remain around the world today.

Foraging is also a popular pastime in modern society. Walks through through the countryside with a basket for wild blackberries and strawberries are fantastic to imagine, but unrealistic for most city-dwellers. In recent years, a growing urban foraging movement has drawn attention to the abundance of edible plants in even though most seemingly food-bare environments.

If foragers search for edible wild plants, what do urban foragers do? Look for edible plants in the city, of course! Urban foraging is part of a larger movement towards sustainable living, urban homesteading, and guerrilla gardening. San Francisco, Portland, and New York City are leading the way with urban foraging communities and classes to help aspiring urban foragers learn what is safe to eat and what isn’t. Some of these groups have websites where users can share information and map edible wild foods. For example, the Portland, Oregon group allows browsers to search for foods by location or food type, and allows for submissions of newly-discovered items.

Mary Hirsch