Living in a city doesn’t have to limit your ability to forage. With the right identification skills and cleaning techniques, it will be hard to walk outside without seeing your next meal!
What can I forage in Halifax?
Halifax has a surprising amount of green space including wide sidewalk/road medians, soccer and baseball fields, and parks. All these are great places to go hunting for food. Even luckier, some food even flourishes in less attractive city spaces such as empty and unused lots. Our first member on this list is one of those rarities.
Japanese Knotweed: An incredibly invasive species that grows widely in Halifax, especially in unused lots. Young shoots, leaves and buds that appear in spring can be steamed and eaten like asparagus.
Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads: More commonly known just as “Fiddleheads”. These appear mid-May in Halifax and are found in shaded areas, normally close to water. One particular spot I have seen these is around Long Lake which is just a bus-ride away! A popular way to eat these is to boil briefly and saute in salt and butter.
Dandelion: A classic plant people think of when they think “Urban Foraging”. The whole dandelion plant can be eaten root to shoot! The yellow flowers are sweet and can be eaten alone or in salad. Flower buds can be pickled and used as a caper substitute. The stem and leaves have a slightly bitter taste and are great in salads. The roots can be dried and/or roasted to create a coffee substitute. This weed can be found everywhere in the city but are especially abundant in low-traffic green areas like gently used ball fields or school playgrounds.
Plantain (no, not the banana): Plantain grows everywhere in Halifax! On your next walk, check the grass by the sidewalk and you are sure to see it. This abundant plant thrives in cities and urban places. Its young leaves can be used in salads while its buds and flowers can be marinated or stir-fried. Plantain is also great for skin! Make a paste out of the leaves and use it on insect bites, bee stings or just as a refreshing face mask.
Bring a pail filled with a bit of cool water if you plan on a long expediation. The cool water prevents greens from wilting.
Keep a tupperware on you in case you find an especially edible plant on your everyday excursions. Tupperware is also great if you plant on commuting to a place to forage so you don’t have to carry a pail on the bus.
Don’t forget scissors! The clean cut can do less damage to plants than trying to pull leaves off. They are also important for invasive species like Knotweed to ensure you aren’t accidentally helping it spread by dropping plant matter.
Be Safe Out There
Foraging in urban environments comes with different issues than foraging in the ~wild~. It is really important to be aware of WHERE you are getting your food. Stay away from high traffic roads such as Robie St, Spring Garden, Barrington or any other place where constant car exhaust or industrial waste could be an issue. It is also important to wash everything you forage..super well. There will most likely be some residue from car exhaust if you are foraging in the city, not to mention dust kicked up by pedestrian and bikers.
Make sure you are actually foraging and not stealing. Taking dandelion leaves from a local ball park is much different than “foraging” strawberries from your neighbours yard. But hey, if your neighbour does have an excellent dandelion crop, why not ask if you can share in their bounty?
If you are unsure if you can identify the plant DON’T EAT IT. This goes for any type of foraging, urban or otherwise.
Happy foraging 🙂
~Mackenzie Thornbury – DUGS Treasurer