Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nerdnite Boston (November Edition): Urban Foraging

After I had so much fun at October's Nerdnite, I couldn't resist attending the next one, especially since the first topic on the schedule was food-related: urban foraging. While I don't foresee myself becoming an avid forager, or a forager at all, really, it was definitely a fascinating talk. David Craft, a cancer researcher at Mass General, shared some thoughts on foraging around Boston (and even shared some food!). According to David, foraging is "equal parts plant knowledge and mindset." Be sure to check out his book if you want to learn more.

I did something that is probably considered nerdy even by Nerdnite standards. I took notes. So, without further ado, here's a whole bunch of stuff I learned and wrote down at the event. (But I did have a strong cocktail in the other hand...so that kind of negates the nerdiness, right? Right?)

Stuff I learned 
(...but please don't run outside and pick stuff and eat it just because you read it here...make sure you know what you're doing before putting unknown stuff in your mouth. Actually, that's a pretty good rule to live by in general!)

Even as the days are getting colder and shorter and drearier, there's still a variety of edible plants around this area: burdock root, dandelion root, acorns (yep, they're edible for us as well as squirrels, but most of the ones you'll find around here are from red oak and very bitter), stinging nettles (ouch?), curly dock, evening primroses, chickweed, beauty berries ("forage-able nerds" because they're crunchy and purple), and more.

Almost every seaweed around here is edible. Cattails are edible, but the ones in this area tend to grow in oily, dirty places, so you probably should avoid them. Dandelions grow everywhere and are totally edible.

Don't ruin a crop by taking it all; limit yourself to about 10%.

Some familiar plants you'll find around here that you can eat: apples, blackberries, grapes, pumpkins (plenty of old jack-o'-lanterns sitting on porches...), violets, daisy greens, rose blossoms and rose hips, day lilies (some people are allergic), sunflowers.

The Arnold Arboretum, which has a searchable plant inventory, is a great place to learn more about plants, but be aware that the Arboretum's official policy prohibits picking and destroying plants. Should you choose to disobey this policy, use common sense and stay away from the rare specimens. David noted that there are many "munchable" trees: linden, black locust, paw paw, quince, black walnut, mulberry, yew, and more.

Other good foraging spots include all along the Charles River, Franklin Park, Mt. Auburn Cemetery, and the Fells in Medford.

One safety note: don't trust mammals. Just because you see a mammal eating something and surviving, it doesn't mean that you can eat it. Example: deer love poison ivy. Always be aware of poisonous plants that look similar to the plants you think you're picking.

Another fun Nerdnite! For more nerdnite information, check out the website, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. Maybe I'll see you at the next one!

1 comment:

  1. This event sounded so cool! Sad I didn't make it. I think foraged edibles are so fascinating. I do love burdock and dandelion greens and I'd love to try acorns, but I don't know if I could get over my fear of making a mistake and eating something totally not edible. Maybe some day. Still fun to learn about!


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