Tue 2 Aug 2011
This past weekend I did a simple google search: wild food — and my eyes were opened to the world of food growing all around us. I decided to turn my attention to the weeds in my neighbor’s yards while walking my dog. I did not imagine I would find much among the well-maintained lawns and landscaping around Delaware and Hertel.
But even in my over-paved North Buffalo neighborhood, I was able to identify several species of wild plants (ok, weeds) that are allegedly edible. From the ubiquitous Dandelion to the easily-overlooked Plantain to the suddenly familiar Chicory, I realized that the astute urban forager could gather a meal’s-worth of food within a one-block radius. Well, a salad’s-worth anyway. Probably every day, in fact.
My delight increased as I spied Clover, Purslane, Wild Carrot, Wood Sorrel and Lambsquarters. Granted, none of these would be featured menu items at the local bistro, but they provide sources of nutrition that are routinely overlooked — in fact actively mowed over.
One vacant lot covered in Clover, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Chicory was a paved parking lot within the last decade. Nothing but neglect and the weeds’ own ambition has ground concrete to gravel and trapped soil between roots.
I wonder what could be done to fight urban hunger by simply turning a trained eye to the unmowed lawns around us? Is letting my lawn grow long a form of passive-aggressive urban gardening? Instead of grass seed, should I be sowing vegetables in my yard?
What does it say about us if even the poorest people don’t see value in food if it doesn’t have a Chiquita sticker on it?