Ever since Elizabeth and Hana each made their posts about foraging last summer, I have been unable to turn off the part of my brain that notices interesting mushrooms. This one I found poking out of some leaves along Philadelphia’s Forbidden Drive. I have no earthly idea whether it is edible. But I wouldn’t.
The urge to collect attractive natural things has always been part of my psyche. Pine cones, interesting seeds and leaves, and unusual rocks often make their way into my pockets. Even though I live in Manhattan, I am constantly finding things to collect — especially edible things.
I have had great luck in the city with mushrooms and berries. Greens (mustard, mint, herbs, etc.) tend to grow in places where dogs pee, and there is always a question of what pesticides may have been sprayed. Roots (burdock, carrot) are often not large enough to be worth digging and can be contaminated with pesticides or other soil pollution, too. Digging also can draw attention to an activity that is technically illegal in New York City.
The satisfaction of growing one’s own food can almost – not quite, but almost – be matched by the satisfaction of finding one’s own food.
For me, it began with the raspberries. Indeed, raspberries are perhaps my rampion: like Rapunzel’s mother, I crave them above all other foods. The first thing we did when we bought a house, before we painted a single wall or moved a single stick of furniture, was to build a raised bed and plant three raspberry canes. They all died by summer’s end, apparently of ennui.