The New Hunter Gatherers: Urban Foragers


My heart was nearly broken last summer when I noticed that a family member’s plum tree was so heavily laden with fruit that hundreds of beautiful plums were rotting on the ground. I decided to harvest the entire tree. Since one person can only make so much jam and I knew most of my friends were too busy to take on a plum project like this, I started surfing the internets to see if there was some way I could unload a ton of gorgeous, perfectly ripe Santa Rosa plums.

That’s when I found Forage Oakland – a site run by a woman who has mapped publicly accessible trees all over my city. She always asks permission before harvesting and she harvests everything on her bicycle and redistributes the fruit. I can’t think of a greener and more socially just idea. I met her when she came to get the plums I’d harvested, which ended up at a giant Eat In organized by Slow Food Nation, enjoyed by all.

Turns out that this urban foraging thing is a bit of a movement. There are groups springing up all over the country – not to be confused with Freegans – a philosophy I support in principal, though you’ll never catch me dumpster diving. I prefer the idea of waste diversion before it hits the dumpster. Portland, Oregon has a network, Santa Fe has a map, LA has Fallen Fruit, San Francisco has a wild foraged food CSA.

Lest you think urban foraging is just for those of us on the balmy West Coast, Chicago has Nance Klehm. And Canada has The Clever Mom.

Anybody can do it. What a great way to get to know your neighbors, build community, start a bartering circle, feed the homeless, or simply avoid the waste of fallen fruit.

Though it’s winter here in Northern California, there are still plenty of laden grapefruit, orange, and Meyer Lemon trees full of lovely fruits. Watch for Friday’s recipe using Meyer lemons and in the meantime, leave a comment on any urban foraging projects in your area.

Image: bentza

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5 thoughts on “The New Hunter Gatherers: Urban Foragers

  1. Pingback: Fun Things to Do With Friends for Free | EcoSalon | Conscious Culture and Fashion

  2. I just discovered loquats last spring. I love them! A guy was selling them on the street near the farmers’ market. He’d picked them from his own tree. Later I noticed a loquat tree in my neighborhood very near the street. I can’t wait until spring!

  3. Thanks for the nod. I’ll check out your other Urban Foraging links. To live in California would be the ultimate urban foraging experience, but here in Ontario we get lots of nice berries and fruit, mostly. I can’t wait for spring!

    The Clever Mom’s last blog post..Real Food Wednesday: Mexican Poutine

  4. When I lived in Los Angeles, there was a mysterious fruit bearing tree in the backyard. We all ignored it for a few years, but I finally decided to find out if it was edible. I saw the squirrels digging in and figured it was fine; and wikipedia had all the info I needed: it was a loquat tree. The fruit was light and not too sweet; like a very mild, juicy apricot. I developed a serious loquat addiction – could not get enough. The tree just kept producing them for months, so I got into the habit of bringing loquats along in my purse to hang out with friends and offering them as snacks. By the end of the summer no one wanted to even hear the word loquat. ;)

  5. This is awesome. Foraging is the wave of the future because it’s the way of the past.



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