There’s no doubt about it – these are tough times we’re living in. As more and more people join the unemployment ranks food bank users have swelled. But there are other ways to get food for free.
Foraging is an often overlooked way to access free food. Many of the plants we all consider weeds are actually edible, including the cursed dandelion. What’s great about these plants is when one of your precious vegetables goes awry, you will always have weeds. It just takes a bit of an attitude adjustment. It’s safe to say if you like arugula, kale, or endive you will like eating weeds. Foodies may get into mushroom foraging. In order to start on this endeavor you will need to locate someone knowledgeable you can learn from. Many times these sort of classes are catered to survivalists – so look carefully. A book is helpful, but a live teacher is key. (I am in search of an expert in Eastern Pennsylvania so hit me up if you have a suggestion!)
Foraging is not limited to unidentifiable plants however. How many times have you seen perfectly good fruit rot in a neighbors yard? Why not go over and ask them if you can pick some fruit. The worst they can say is no. This practice is commonly known as gleaning.
Tell folks that you are in the market for whatever people can’t use. Let them know that you’ll come over and pick and clean up. You may have to do this year after year until word gets around, but once it does, you’ll have people calling you asking if you want free food.
When someone calls and asks if you want something, always take it. If you appear particular, people won’t call you. And be sure to always say thank you. A simple note of appreciation goes far. Another logical way to say thank you is to give the person some of your spoils – applesauce, a pie or jam for example. Finding locations to glean is made easier by websites like Neighborhoodfruit.com which uses the power of crowdsourcing to identify fruit available for picking.
In addition, there are plenty of fruit trees in publicly accessible areas. Any fruit growing on a public strip, or branches hanging over a sidewalk or ally is public space and therefore ok for you to pick.
Walnuts and acorns can be foraged as well, but take a lot more work. Read up on how to prepare them properly before eating.
Although it may be tough to live on foraging and gleaning alone – it can be a fun hobby and help you save on your food bills. Happy hunting!