With all the talk these days about organic/local/humanely raised/free range food, it’s easy to get confused about what we’re supposed to be eating and where we should be getting it. Food site Culinate features an excerpt from the classic book Stalking the Wild Asparagus that offers a novel, if ancient, solution: Forage your food.

Author Euell Gibbons’ words seem as apropos now as when the book was first published in the 1960s. With thrifty eaters talking about supplementing their diet through foraging, and a strong restaurant market in foraged mushrooms and greens, discerning eaters are thinking twice about those weeds growing down the street. A new generation of foragers is getting into the act.

As Gibbons writes:

I have collected 15 species that could be used for food on a vacant lot right in Chicago. Eighteen different kinds were pointed out in the circuit of a two-acre pond near Philadelphia. The hunter or fisherman may often come home empty-handed, but the forager, although he may fail to find the particular plant he is seeking, can always load his knapsack with wholesome and palatable food. … The fields and forests can always furnish something good to eat.

Gibbons’ opinions feel particularly timely when taken in the context of the current debates on organics and local eating.

Some readers will claim that they prefer to buy their fruit and vegetables from a supermarket for reasons of sanitation and cleanliness. This is the most illogical prejudice of all. The devitalized and days-old produce usually found on your grocer’s shelves has been raised in ordinary dirt, manured with God-knows-what, and sprayed with poisons a list of which would read like a textbook on toxicology. They were harvested by workers, handled by processors and salespeople, and picked over by hordes of customers before you bought them. … Wild food is clean because it has never been dirty.

That overgrown vacant lot down the street is looking more appealing all the time.

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