Down a farm road not far from here there is a gnarled old Italian Prune Plum tree. I have anticipated it’s succulent fruit year after year; driving past, waiting for the right moment to harvest the beautiful purple yield. This past year I hurriedly harvested 8 lbs of plums. The tree is abandoned, but that doesn’t mean people were not waiting for the right moment to do the same thing. In fact there is a movement of contemporary or urban foragers who are all seeking really local food. There are many online sites dedicated to foraging both of the natural type (trees, bushes, etc.) and the man-made variety (dumpster diving). My favorite site is fallingfruit.org being that I am looking for trees rather than dumpsters, but if you are interested in finding a good dive, http://freegan.info/ and http://trashwiki.org/ look like fine places to get online resources.
I usually find foraging sites on walks or drives in the countryside. I make mental notes of trees or bushes that will bare delectable edibles, and of fields and ditches that offer healing herbs. Even in my city in the country there are many places to find free food growing.
This past year besides the plums I was able to pick a bounty of blackberries next to an industrial area’s parking lot, I found acorns to be used for tanning near an abandoned property, I picked enough dandelion petals on a vacant piece of land to brew a carboy of dandelion wine, and I dug up dandelion roots to dry for tea.
In the past I have found thimble berries and huckleberries in neighborhoods and urban woodlands as well as apples and pears along roadsides. I also have bartered for fruit from neighbors. (In exchange for a pie, one of my neighbors allows me to pick their entire apple tree.)
If I was quicker I would get a ton of walnuts and even some cherries from the neighbor’s trees but the squirrels have outsmarted me thus far. Right now there is a yucca growing on an empty piece of property that I am planning on digging up (the roots contain saponin and the leaves can be used to make fibres.) I am starting to do research on how to forage for edible mushrooms and as I expand my knowledge of fibre arts I will start looking for plants that are a natural source of dye.
True organic food isn’t just found in hoity toity grocers with government approved labeling, it can be found just down the street growing in your own neighborhood.