Foraging for Life in the Suburbs: Suggestions

Residential ares are rich ground for gathering “wild” herbs, but they also present a few hazards.

| June/July 1999

As you head out on your suburban safari, bear these points in mind.

• Avoid any plants that may have been ­spra­yed with harmful chemicals. Stop using chemicals altogether, and you’ll have a much wider range of plants to harvest safely.

• If your neighbor has a magnolia and you don’t, ask for a few blossoms. Better yet, invite him or her over to enjoy the dish you make with the blooms. Besides expanding your picking grounds, you’ll be forging connections with those who live around you.

• Pets and other critters roam the neighborhood, too. Wash all foraged herbs well before using. Some herbs, such as those growing in a dog run or splattered with bird droppings, should be avoided entirely.

• Take a moment to teach children. You’ll surely attract their attention as you gather your offbeat herbs. That is a good thing, but warn them that some plants are poisonous or may have been sprayed and teach them to respect the property of others.

Robert Henderson of Chilliwack, British Columbia, has spent most of his life chasing wild herbs and backwoods lore in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. He is currently working on a book on this subject, tentatively titled Subherbs, to be published by Chelsea Green later this year.

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