Urban Foraging: B-a-n-a-n-a-s
Gathering, the less contentious and less romanticized half of the "hunting and gathering" equation, predates fast food restaurants, supermarkets, agriculture, tools, language, and most of the other qualities that we use to define us as "human". When we were apes, we gathered. When we were rodents, we gathered. When we were reptiles, amphibians, and fish, you guessed it, we gathered.
Out of our approximate 2 billion year evolution, the only time we have not directly acquired food from our environment (in this case, sedentary foods such as plants, fungi, and shellfish) has been the past 50 or so years. Thanks to the modern food production system, colorful packages full of mouth-watering, popularity, fun, and entertainment are predictably available at just about every street corner. As a result, something that has been part of the fabric of our existence from time immemorial has been rendered quaint at best and obsolete or even impossible at worst.
The knowledge of what wild foods are good to eat has been drowned out by the noise of so many I-pods, flickering screens, and rumbling engines. Our day to day efforts no longer provide food, rather, they provide "value", to a corporation, a customer, or to some other agent that rewards our labor with a piece of paper that holds the promise of something worthwhile. We trust in the system because we have no choice. Or do we?
In the middle of the land of McDonald's, the people are stirring. In the past few years, there has been a blossoming interest in ancestral foodstuffs (Paleo), self-sufficient living (Homesteading) and food-gathering (Foraging). I have personally been moved to stretch outside of the comfortable aisles of the grocery store and have ventured forth to gather my own food.
On this particular day, I decided to explore a patch of banana trees growing in the back of my neighborhood. To my delight, I discovered several bunches of bananas, with a primal thrill, proceeded to harvest them and haul them back to my house.
The fruits were smaller than those from a store and with thicker skins, but they were definitely bananas. A week or so after harvesting, some of them had ripened to a nice yellow, and I found the fruit to be sweet and delicious. My conscience too was enlightened as these bananas could be enjoyed with the knowledge that they were not the product of multi-national conglomerates (such as the company formerly known as United Fruit), slave labor, and environmental degradation.
Of course, one must exercise a degree of caution when foraging. Taking food, fruit, or anything else from someone else's property without permission isn't "foraging", it is stealing. Also, be aware of the possibility of contamination from passing cars (roadside dandelion greens for example) and other pollutants. If you're not sure what is edible in your area, a quick internet search will often yield useful results. Keeping in mind, however, that certain things, such as mushrooms, are best left to experts to identify. Numerous clubs, books, and other resources are also available.
If you have a foraging story that you would like to share, I would love to hear it. Feel free to use my Facebook page or the comments section below.