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Bush Food

Create community around edible indigenous plants already growing in and around the city.

Photo of Joanie Tobin

Written by

Building on urban harvesting and the inspiring comments posted, the idea of foraging could be enhanced by emphasizing identifying and educating about native edible species. What they are, where and how to find them and what to do with them once you do. 

The idea is not new. This website about Bush Food ( describes it like this:

"Australian aborigines selected food which was available and ate it for nutritional purposes. There was no refrigeration or storage containers. Local knowledge of which plants were edible, palatable, or delicious, as well as the best time for harvest, harvest and preparation methods, were passed down by word of mouth to the next generation. Some plants or their fruits are less toxic at cetain times.
Aborigines generally did not boil water, so their cooking methods (and hence their menus) were different from those used by the early settlers and modern users. They did not have pots or pans, although northern tribes were known to have used bailer shells. They did not make tea or coffee, nor similar drinks. They did not make jams, jellies, or chutneys, and made little use of flavourings.
Apart from Bunya nuts they only used food from their tribal area and did not trade."

A website and mobile app on urban harvesting could include a section devoted solely to finding, preparing and eating wild local food and the stories behind it. As Kimberly Fisher commented on urban harvesting, it could be open source, allowing people to share their knowledge about all facets of each food, down to images with which to identify things and multimedia stories about their history, current use etc. Curation could help present this info in a clear and visual way.

Local restaurants could feature menu items based on locally foraged food and hand out a mini recipe/plant guide with info about what they used and easy ways for customers to find and use it themselves. The guide might look a little bit like the second image above, and people could collect them at different restaurants and go to the website to find more info, recipes, images, stories, etc. 

The blog Brisbane to Bogota has a great post about the idea:

A few more links:

What do you think?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Laci

Providing educational material about native edible flora is an excellent concept! If done tactfully, this could have a broader appeal that goes beyond forager & survivalist cultural niches. By exposing the cultural/historical narratives of these plants, such as Peter Del Tredici has done for his region of the world, might allow this concept to speak to wider audience.

Photo of Joanie

Wow, his book looks so awesome! Maybe a good way to broaden the appeal would be to work with local restaurants to distribute some kind of print piece like that in smaller form. They could feature menu items based on locally foraged food and hand out maybe a mini recipe/plant guide with info about what they used and easy ways for customers to find and use it themselves...something kind of like this:
People could collect the cards at different restaurants.
Where did you hear of him? Just saw he worked in the Arboretum, my favorite park in Boston ;)

Photo of Laci

He taught in my graduate program. Although I never had him as a professor, I had a few chances to see him speak about his work and that book. Many of the stories about the featured plants were absolutely amazing, and often very funny. If I am to make comparisons, his work has the rigor of John McPhee, and humor & accessibility of Michael Pollan.

Photo of Joanie

I'll have to look out for him when I'm home!

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