When I organized this foraging tour, I had envisioned that we’d maybe have an energetic stroll down to Lake Washington under the lovely Olmsted bridges and find some tasty forest-y things to eat. It turns out that we discussed about twenty common plants and weeds by circling our block.
I organize a neighbor community harvest project. Often called “gleaning”, our volunteers pick fruit off of trees that homeowners don’t want and then we get it to our neighborhood food bank and distribute it to our neighbors. There are many groups that do this in Seattle, but ours is probably unique for how small it is. We try to stay strictly in our tiny 3 x 8 block neighborhood, meaning, we can walk to every single tree with ladders if necessary and everyone who picks and harvests is neighbor.
Though are band of volunteers is small, one thing that is interesting is how different our goals and interests are. Some people feel strongly and pick to get food bank to the food bank. Some pick because it’s a way for their kids to connect with food. I pick because I believe it is important to understand and manage on some community level, our food sources, without giant industrial conglomerates controlling it. Not to be an alarmist, community health and security resides in our ability to have access (and the knowledge) of local food and water.
There is hardly anything more local than urban foraging. I make a distinction here because so much of what we looked are common weeds growing in parking strips and empty lots, as opposed to some wild species that have been harvested or poached into near-extinction. Chances are if you wanted to have a lovely dandelion salad or brew up some pineapple plant tea, no one is going to object!
Seattle wild-crafter, forager and herbalist, and Jackson Place neighbor, JT, led the tour. Starting with the two simples rules of foraging, know your plant with certainty and leave enough for others and for the plant to regenerate, she shared many tasty delights at during the pre-walk mingling.
We then circled the block, learning about a mixture of plants that could be edible, medicinal, and often both. While the walk was short, it kept most folks busy writing notes and was certainly easy enough that there was also ti me to hear some neighborhood news from around the different areas of Seattle’s Central District.
Our neighborhood often gets a bum rap and there are plenty of things that I’d love to see change (less crack whores and drug dealers please!), but I don’t know of any other neighborhood where we’d get such a great mix of residents out for a walk to eat some weeds! I really like our lovely, creative neighbors who trying to figure out what the future of sustainability might mean.