You do not have to go to a forest to forage wild herbs. A public city park can be filled with edible plants as long as you make sure to check the pollution intensity in the area, the use of pesticides and of course always – ALWAYS – wash them before use. Yet, I heard a very good argument from a biologist yesterday where he said that if you are willing to keep an urban garden, then it should be no problem for you to forage from parks.
I do not know how the rules are where you live, but in Denmark it is allowed to pick plants for personal use in public parks and nature areas (and not more than you can carry in a hat… Haha, it is an old law). I never pick from parks, because I do not trust the keepers not to spray the plants, even though I have heard that they do not do it in the botanical garden where I usually go.
However, I took the liberty to have a look around either way to see if I could find anything edible in my area – right in the middle of the busy grey city.
Aside from many dandelions and bellis flowers, there were many nettles standing on soft ground. Everyone has used nettles in soup or pancakes. Any kindergarten with respect for itself in Denmark has taken its children outside to make nettle soup over a campfire every spring. Cosy, simple, healthy and tasty. And nettles stop stinging once they dry, get heated up or chopped in small pieces (this is also why you can make raw smoothies from them).
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolate) is also very common in parks. It is milder than ramsons and can be eaten both raw and heated. If you mix it in a paste with ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria), which is also extremely common, you will have a delicious pesto to top your bread with.
Willow flowers are sweet for the bees, but also very good in homemade schnapps. Just let them soak in tasteless cheap spirit – my mum usually uses vodka. Willow flowers give you a refreshing schnapps for the Christmas table or maybe already for late summer parties.
Birch sap is tricky to take, because it damages the tree. Yet there is a method that is better than others. Firstly, you have to make sure that the tree is producing lots of water. That can be done by leaning your ear against the trunk and listen. You will be able to hear a stream running inside of it as if someone opened for a tap. Then you make a hole into the tree, put a tube of a kind to gather the juice and then hang a bottle underneath, so that the juice will be led into the bottle. The good thing about this method is that you can cover the wound in the tree with a wooden dowel. The tree will be able to heal it in time, just make sure to not take sap from it again before at least three years has past – and definitely not from the same hole due to possible fungi contamination. I have heard that this method is much better than taking it from a branch, although it is much easier to attach a bottle to a branch.
The sap in itself is extremely delicious and so healthy! I usually drink it raw, although people make syrup or wine from it as well.
Since you damage the tree, there are many places that do not allow you to take sap from birches. I know for a fact that we have a couple of forests that have birches that are allowed to take from. Maybe you have the same thing? After all it is a good idea to check before going out and taking.
I hope you will have a wonderful Wednesday ❤