Edible plants (woodruff and bear’s garlic) spotted on a foraging tour in a Berlin park.
The New York Times chimed into our discussion on urban foraging this weekend with an article about the New York City Parks Department enforcing park rules about foraging: namely, that it is not allowed.
In an article titled “Enjoy the Greenery, But Not as Salad,” Lisa Foderaro writes that the Parks Dept. rule against foraging is nothing new, but until this point, interest in foraging had been low enough that rangers did not need to actively chase away foragers. However, according to the Times, a perfect storm of different causes – the locavore movement and the bad economy, for example – has caused a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking food among park plants. In response, the Parks Dept. is now training its rangers to crack down on foraging.
The Parks Department’s argument, that allowing a city of 8 million to forage in the limited area of the parks would lead to decimation, makes sense in a way. On other hand, long-time foragers argue that most foragers are nature lovers who are informed about which plants are invasives, which are local but abundant, and which are rare, and will gather or not gather, accordingly.
What do you think of all this? Personally, I have mixed feelings. Most of my urban foraging has been done in Berlin’s city parks, rather than on abandoned lots or private property, and I learned to identify these plants during publicly advertised tours by the local environmental coalition that were held quite openly in city parks. I would be quite upset if I was forbidden from gathering elderflower or bear’s garlic on the grounds that if everyone does it, everyone loses. The fact is that here, only a few people do it, and even at the height of Bärlauch season, when a dozen people were foraging in the park at a time, everyone gathered modestly and respectfully, leaving the park forests had plenty of plants to spare. On the other hand, of course parks should be protected so they can enjoyed by all.
Those of you on the ground in New York, is over-gathering really a big problem in the parks? Others, what about in your cities? What is a reasonable approach to preserve public plants, but not let their bounty go to waste?