The edible world around us

Everyone loves food.
Everyone loves free food.
Everyone loves free, locally sourced, sustainable food.
And that is why urban foraging is awesome!
Foraged feijoas and quince

Living in a city it is very easy to become completely disconnected from production systems that magically land food in the supermarket. With global shipping and cold storage, it is simple to forget that fruit and vegies have a season – and taste so much better then (my boyfriend was rather upset when I said we couldn’t have tomatoes in winter).

The intensive agriculture systems that provide much of our food can also result in pretty terrible environmental outcomes. Among others, the production (including fertiliser and pesticide use) and transportation of food result in greenhouse gas emissions. If you are interested in quantifying the emissions impact of your food consumption, the following graph outlines the emissions associated with eating $1 of each of these types of foods (data from the EPA).

So if we don’t spend any money on our food, then there can’t be any emissions! (not really, that’s not how these factors work, but in the case of urban foraging we might be onto something).

But what is urban foraging? Just a fancy way to say finding edible things in the city streets. For example, there is a rosemary bush on the nature strip just down my street. There is no point in buying a couple of sprigs of insipid rosemary for $4 from the supermarket, when it is freshly available – and free!

Similarly, the quince in the picture is from a tree down the street, and the feijoas have been growing outside the window of a friend’s apartment. They are so fresh and yummy – and because they were transported to our house by bike – zero emissions! (I was very pleased with my zero emissions quince paste, until someone pointed out that the sugar probably came from Queensland).

I’m not saying we can solve all the food problems by just eating fruit off local trees, but its fun and it might make a small environmental difference. Most of at it makes you pay attention – to the seasons, to the nature that surrounds us even in the city, and of course the free glorious food!


Related resources:

  • Ripe Near Me is a super neat website where you can share and sell your locally grown food. There is also an option to add ripe produce on public land, and it covers all of Australia.
  • Feral Fruit Trees Melbourne have a fruit tree map that anyone can contribute to. They also have some good info on foraging etiquette.
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