Nathanael Johnson (@savortooth of Grist) explores urban foraging, providing a point and counter-point to an incredibly interesting topic. The piece is informative and philosophical. It posits a simple question:

“What if we connected the people most in need of healthy food with the expensive, nutrient-dense greens that just happen to be growing between the cracks in their driveways?”

Johnson accompanies UC Berkeley researcher Philip Stark on his field research project, which is mapping edible plants in low-income neighborhoods. Stark’s team is trying to create a website that will help local residents find edible plants close to their home. (Stark’s research is funded by the UC Berkeley Food Institute, which is co-convening Edible Education 101, a live-streamed course featuring thought leaders such as Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Raj Patel and others. It’s offered on Monday evenings through April 2015).

What some might consider edible, others consider a nuisance. Johnson writes:

“On the second day of official fieldwork for the project, Stark told me, he and his compatriots bumped into another team looking for precisely the same plants. It was a team of city workers in hazardous-materials suits, spraying herbicide to kill the greens.”

Johnson does a superb job of exploring the complex issues surrounding foraging, including first and foremost, safety. He also offers an interesting observation about the movement:

“We’ve reached a strange moment when foraging is firmly associated with upper class food — so much so that it’s impossible to say you are serving, for example, foraged sheep sorrel or wild fennel sprigs without it sounding a bit pretentious. This is strange, because foraging was once a refuge for the desperately poor, and still is in many places.”

A useful, thought-provoking and entirely enjoyable read. Pick up a copy of Stalking the Wild Asparagusyou may want to sample that book after reading this piece.