Suckling Nature’s Tit

If you live by a park or near wilderness areas, nature can provide all the food you could ever need. We have, after all, lived off of nature’s bounty since the dawn of existence. If our Homo sapiens ancestors can hunt and gather, so can you. Gathering is great. It’s like hiking except you collect food along the way. Even if you don’t live near a forest replete with nuts, berries, routs, tubers, or mushrooms, urban foraging can yield a surprising amount of edible goodies. Consult Falling Fruit to find the best spots for wild produce in your area.

Surprisingly, many weeds (the common dandelion and mallow, for example) are chocked-full of nutritional value. Better yet, they are plentiful and grow virtually everywhere, be it an unkempt lawn or a crack in the asphalt. Not only are they commonly used to provide flavor and texture, urban-sourced edibles can also be steamed, boiled, sautéed, or tossed into a multi-ingredient weed salad. Don’t have the time to forage? Have your kids do it (assuming you have kids). Identifying wild edibles is so easy a toddler can do it. In many cases, kids are more inclined to eat something they found over a nasty piece of store bought spinach. If you’re really entrepreneurial, you can sell or trade your surplus items. Otherwise, excess food can be preserved through drying, canning, or freezing.

Similar to foraging, gardening is a great way to get free, healthy, food. All you need are seeds, water, soil, and a little sunshine (NB, if you compost, the soil is free as well!). If you catch and use rainwater, you can pretty much garden for nothing but sweat-equity. In some climates, gardening is as easy as throwing seeds down and waiting for them to grow. Don’t have enough room for a garden? No problem. Visit Shared Earth to be connected with people who have land, but no desire to sow it themselves. In exchange for some of the harvest, individuals with empty lots, backyards, or otherwise unused parcels will let you tend their land like a feudal serf.

Like gardening and foraging, hunting and fishing can also help you capitalize on the fruits of Mother Nature’s loins. Although both activities require equipment and permits, once the fixed costs are paid, the marginal costs are next to nothing. If you don’t have the time, willingness or wherewithal to hunt or fish, you might consider trapping. Even if you’re within city limits, traps, pellet guns, blow guns, and even sling-shots can be used to collect wild game. Rabbits, birds, squirrels, raccoons, the list goes on and on. In addition to harvesting the meat, you can also use the pelt to make clothing, blankets, or other accessories. Hunting within city limits may be illegal, so make sure you do it sneakily and with the utmost stealth.

There are a few caveats to urban hunting that you should research before you begin. Fish caught in urban lakes and streams can sometimes contain toxic heavy metals such as mercury or cadmium. Further, rabbits and other small mammals are known to carry francisella tularensis, a group of bacteria that causes tularemia. Aside from cooking the meat thoroughly, it might be wise to wear gloves when handling a carcass. You should also examine the liver of your catch. If it is covered with white spots, it has a condition known as Coccidiosis. This disease is more common than tularemia and is also commonly found in domestic farm animals and pets . The disease resides in the intestinal tract, so you can still technically eat the meat if you are careful, but I wouldn’t suggest it.

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