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Foraging is Alive and Well in Baltimore. Can it Help Fight Hunger Too?

New research on the availability of nutrient-dense wild edibles addresses food security.

By Jodi Helmer
Civil Eats


Foraging is a hot trend, with home cooks, chefs, and craft brewers alike harvesting wild, local ingredients ranging from mushrooms and berries to dandelion greens and nettles. Now, a new peer-reviewed study is beginning to explore whether urban foraging can help reduce food insecurity.

The study, from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the U.S. Forest Service, surveyed 105 self-identified foragers in Baltimore to understand the motivations of people who seek out parks, forests, residential neighborhoods, and corporate campuses for wild edibles including berries, mushrooms, rose hips, and dandelions.

“If foraging is comprising a large fraction of your diet, there may be economic motivations for that,” said Dr. Keeve Nachman, one of the researchers of the study and the director of the food production and public health program at Johns Hopkins. More than half of the foragers cited economic benefits as their main motivation. And foraged foods made up three times more of the diets of Baltimore residents earning less than $40,000 per year than those earning more than $100,000. Moreover, for 10 percent of foragers, wild edibles accounted for 20 percent or more of their diets.

Not only are wild edibles widely available and free for the taking—most are nutrient-dense as well. For example, lambsquarters are an excellent source of vitamins B6 and K, folate, and riboflavin; rose hips are rich in vitamin C; and hazelnuts contain protein, fat, and fiber. But factors including cultural norms, potential environmental contamination, and local laws often inhibit the practice’s ability to proliferate.

Read the complete article here.