Salad Ingredients Found Along Urban Sidewalks

For those who know how to look, the ingredients for salads and stir frys can be found growing freely along the sidewalks of any urban center. One woman in Chicago, Nancy Klehm, is part of a new and growing breed of citizens known as urban foragers with, in her case, a dash of wee-educator thrown into the mix to boot.

She roams the streets of Chicago with a pruning shears and a paper bag, pointing out to her small class of followers the plants and weeds growing wildly that could all by themselves transform into healthy and tasty salads or stir-frys. Although there are many weeds to choose from, one of her favorites is goosefoot or lamb’s quarters featured below.


In her own words:

“I collect a lot of this. It’s indistinguishable from spinach when you cook it. I never grow spinach or other greens, except kale. Everything else I forage. I do this to slow down, to not follow the grid, to skip out of techno-consumerism. I do this to realize that the health of my body is connected to the health of the land.”

The urban forager movement is spreading across the United States. The goal is to collect weeds and plants from city streets and gardens to use in meals and medicines. Movement members run the gamut of citizenry, everything from survivalists to environmentalists to even highly elitist gourmands seeking new and exotic flavors for their culinary creations.

Klehm conducts her Chicago “weed tour” a few times a year for small groups of about 20 people. She also teaches groups how to compost food and cook with solar ovens. In New York, a man named Steve Brill hosts walks in Central Park that attract 50 or more people every weekend.

In Brill’s own words:

“People have a lot of different reasons for foraging. They’re freegans, vegans, foodies, environmentalists. It’s definitely more middle class than working class.”

The urban foraging movement in America is one of choice rather than necessity but that does not detract from its importance. Most foragers seek both the health and environmental benefits the come as a result of eating a more natural diet.

Klehm is the first to admit that urban foraging does not come without some risks. (What does?) Some plants can be poisonous, psychotropic or laxatives and you must know exactly which weeds you are selecting and why.

One woman, a graphics artist named Stacy Peterson, went on Klehm’s recent forage tour because she was curious and loves urban gardening. She had this to say:

“There’s a big movement right now toward urban farming and slow food. I’ve been trying to eat more local, organic and unprocessed foods. I’m learning how to eat healthier and the urban forage walk taught me about the edible plants and weeds growing wild in my community.”


And so my friends, the proof is ‘in the pudding’ or in this case along most urban sidewalks.

Do you dare to partake of nature’s bounty even if it is called weeds?

For more information on Ms. Klehm and her tours, please visit her website.

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  1. Mike says:

    It's amazing to think how much food there is around us. I think these days we have been programmed to think that food only comes wrapped in plastic. I did eat nettles in Scotland years ago and they tasted really yummy.