Who fancies eating delicious food, paying very little money, and taking some steps towards reducing food waste in our society? I know I do!
This week’s blog is about foraging - the act of searching for free food in public land, often associated with late summer afternoons, picking wild raspberries in the British countryside. However, as I am now to prove, foraging can occur in the most unlikely of places, such as Bethnal Green in the heart of East London, where I live.
Here is a simple fact; our food comes from the land. However, the power of the retail market and the megacorporations that function within it serve to blind us of this fact, teaching us to subconsciously assume that fruit originates from the fruit aisle and beans grow in tins. We know increasingly less about where our food comes from, and as a result, are increasingly ignorant or suspicious of delicious products growing outside our front door.
Foraging not only can reconnect us with the land that sustains our entire species, but can also contribute to a reduction in food waste in our society. Food is often wasted, not only on the shop floor, but at all stages of the supply chain, because of the immense pressure that the consumer puts on the market to deliver sufficient, uniform food products. Many of us have become dependent on this consumerist system. However, if we were to source a percentage of our diet through foraging, we would be less reliant on the giants of the market, and relieve some pressure within the supply chain. Moreover, foraged food needs no packaging and doesn’t get shipped around the world, and therefore has a much smaller carbon footprint than shop-bought food.
With all this in mind, I recently decided to see if I could forage anything from my neighbourhood. Now, bear in mind that I can see out of one window The Gherkin, and out of the other the Olympic Park. I am far from a quaint English village. However, I have had some surprising success.
I found an apple tree in a nearby park. It took some violent broom-whacking and trunk-shaking, but eventually I yielded a good harvest of apples and made some chutney. I also found a row of rowan trees, evident by their plump red-orange rowan berries. These grow in urban areas all over the world and it is likely that there are some near where you live. Try going out and finding them. With the apples and rowan berries I plan to make this really simple jelly; all you need is the fruit, some water, some cotton, and some sugar. Why not give it a try?
I have so much more to learn about foraging, but from what I’ve learnt so far, I have three key pieces of advice to leave you with;
1 - consider buying a foraging book - I have this one and its really helpful.
2 - check out this really cool website that might show you some good spots to forage.
3 - when you’re walking around, look up often.