Urban foraging grows in Fairmount Park

-iller, right, and fellow wild foodies Sarah Gabriel, left, and Miriam Schussler-Fiorenza chowed down on one of several edible weeds they found in Fairmount Park yesterday.

Urban foraging is a growing trend—and some of the scavengers’ motivations, made more pressing by the looming debt crisis, may surprise you.
 
“I think there’s a particular interest in the subject because of the economy. I think people feel like the political parties have not responded to environmental issues and to issues of supporting the local economy,” said Wild Foodies founder Lynn Landes. “Some people do this out of a certain amount of frustration.”

At a recent Wild Foodies meet-up behind Fairmount Park’s Japanese House, foraging expert David Siller extolled the benefits of sourwood, clover and clearweed to members, who sampled the wild edibles while discussing their reasons for attending the scavenger’s how-to.

“Fear of scarcity is very much so a motivation. I think there will be food shortages—there are now,” said Jerry Simotus, an Upper Darby retiree. “I have absolutely no faith in the way the government is handling its business.”

Elaine Mason and Lee Trabond of Depford, New Jersey shared the same logic. “I’m kind of new at learning about wild foods, but you never know when you might have to,” Mason said. “Fear does factor in. The government has no respect for nature; it’s seen as something to dominate and exploit as a resource,” Trabond added.

But will knowing how to make mead from sorrel and tea from honey locusts pods really come in handy if there is a food supply-chain meltdown?

“I think there’s a deep security if you know how to live in nature,” said nurse Hugh Brenner, 57, who leads his own nature walks. “Certainly a lot of people come to these because they think the government is going to collapse and the grocery truck will stop coming and that’s valid, but anything that gets you outside is good.”

Not everyone shares the same motivation.

“While there are some people who truly believe that they are acting in their best interest to prevent themselves from catastrophes, every time they’re trying to tell me the world is going to s—, my personal opinion is not to act in fear,” Siller said. “I feel like that is not doing it truly because you believe it in your heart.”


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