Foraging in the City: Try not to kill yourself

So I have been captivated of late with the idea of foraging for food in the city. Unfortunately, my food knowledge (when it comes to foraging, at least) is somewhat limited. I’ve been plucking the blackberries on the way to Husky Stadium since childhood, and it doesn’t take a genius to smell the rosemary that grows everywhere in the city (I always pluck a little on the way home from a run–something to smell besides my sweaty self). Mushrooms scare me because I’m a little worried about eating something poisenous. So my point is, what do you forage, MetBlog readers? Blackberries and rosemary for me, though I’ve been known to steal the occaisonal apple when passing by a tree. And I have, of late, managed to resist the urge to pick my neighbors beautiful roma tomatoes, which are growing on the STREET side of the sidewalk. Public domain? no? Okay, I won’t take them. Not really foraging, anyway.

This came up today because as I walked to work through Volunteer Park, I noticed a lot of fallen chestnuts. I told a friend of mine that I wanted to pick them up on the way home and make roasted chestunuts and other wonders of the chestnut worl, and he informed me that the kind that grows in North America are poisonous. Is this true? I picked them off the ground in Vermont, and I’m not dead, but that isn’t really the kind of logic I like to adhere to when it comes to this. So what say you Seattle, can I eat the chestnuts?

5 Comments so far

  1. samantha (unregistered) on October 12th, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

    Chestnuts are not poisonous, but horse-chestnuts are. It’s pretty likely that the ones in the park are horse-chestnuts, because regular ones are pretty much extinct in North America, but I can’t say for sure. The easiest way to tell is that chestnuts have a pointed end to them and horse-chestnuts are rounded.


  2. samantha (unregistered) on October 12th, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

    Also, the poison in horse-chestnuts probably won’t kill you, just make you sick. The ones you ate in Vermont were probably the good ones, since most of the American Chestnut trees that are left are in the northeast.
    On the other hand, they’ve tried to introduce them out here since our forests are pretty free of the blight that killed the east coast ones, and if you’re going to find them anywhere here, Volunteer park would be a good place.

    So, yes–good ones are pointed, bad ones are round.

    …I had no idea I knew so much about chestnuts. They don’t even grow in Florida.


  3. Wesa (unregistered) on October 12th, 2007 @ 6:29 pm

    I have read a few articles over the last few years that document locals scavenging for chestnuts in local yards. I’m certain that you can easily google these stories.


  4. Llyra (unregistered) on October 12th, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

    I gather:
    berries (blackberries, huckleberries, etc), fruit (apples, pears, cherries), and mushrooms, mostly.

    Actually, this is good timing — tomorrow is the PSMS (Puget Sound Mycological Society) annual Fall Mushroom Show, at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture. Get all your mushroom questions answered!


  5. Sara (unregistered) on October 16th, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

    It won’t help with the chestnuts, but there is a great French documentary called “The Gleaners and I” (Glaneurs et la Glaneuse- Agn├Ęs Varda). It’s all about foraging for food and Seattle public library has it!



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