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Foraging, Permaculture, and Dumpster Diving

Foraging, Permaculture, and Dumpster Diving

Foraged miner's greens with a vinaigrette made from foraged citrus (Photo: J.H.)

Jacky Hayward | Chef's Blade

Back to the dinner: The main course of last weekend’s meal was elk, wild boar, and venison. What I find interesting about foraged meat, besides being utterly delicious, is the dialogue around foraged meat. For some foragers, foraged meat must be found already dead, while for others, foraged meat is wild game that has been killed by the forager in its natural habitat, the sum total of hunted animals never offsetting the natural balance of the ecosystem. Thankfully, the meat at this dinner was not found dead, as I’m not sure my almost-always stomach of steel could handle the extra “gaminess” (read: bacteria) that could be found in the prior type of foraged meat.

I want to take a bit of a tangent at this point to talk about freeganism, a new food movement that has arisen in New York out of a desire to “forage” for free food within the urban environment. Freegans “reclaim waste” left by the “capitalist society” from dumpsters outside supermarkets and restaurants (also known as Dumpster Diving), as well as forage for wild foods like mushrooms in city parks. The movement is centered in New York City but, with the recession, it has become more and more popular in other urban areas. To me, eating food out of a Dumpster is strange. It’s not something I would ever do; I like to know where my food comes from and diving into a Dumpster for almost expired milk and eggs doesn’t exactly fulfill my desire to know if the chicken and cows producing my food are treated well. Still, freeganism has a core value I do understand: We, as a population, are wasteful and we don’t always take advantage of the foods that are readily and freely available to us.

For me, the foraged food movement, coupled with permaculture and freeganism, teaches a lot of lessons. As I said at the beginning of this article, the world’s population could not be fed entirely on foraged foods. This does not mean, however, that the population shouldn’t be fed partially on these foods. As our food system has become increasingly complex, it appears we have forgotten that we can grow edible plants in our backyards, our fire escapes, and flower boxes and that food sources such as wild mushrooms, greens, nettles, and other edible wild plants grow naturally in our parks and are there for the free taking.

Foraging, permaculture, and feeganism produce very different foods but all challenge us to consume the foods that are available to us and not to waste the foods we have. In addition, wild foods as well as foods grown in polyculture are certainly tastier than our average food source.

I find it hard to fathom, however, that freegan food has anything on wild boar.

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