Chronicles of an Urban Wildcrafter

The land around you is chock full of edible and medicinal plants – even in the urban landscape! What’s growing in your neighborhood?

This page is meant to help us open our eyes to the wild Atlanta apothecary!  Hopefully it will inspire you to brush up on those botany skills, and learn to identify and harvest your own medicine, safely and responsibly.

Proper ID!

First things first– Don’t eat something if you don’t know what it is!

For practice with proper plant identification, go on a guided plant ramble or use a reliable field guide such as, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by “Wildman” Steve Brill, or Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide

‼️ ☠️ Two of the most poisonous plants in Georgia are Water Hemlock and Poison Hemlock.  Poison Hemlock can be confused with wild carrot, also known as Queen Anne’s Lace.  For a special focus on this, please see this well written note by herbalist Howie Brounstein: Harvesting Umbelliferaes.  And here is another link to a comparison with excellent pictures by Gabe Garms.

 

Wildcrafting is Stewardship

Please harvest responsibly!

  • Eat the weeds! Weeds are plants that are abundant! Let’s use them!
  • Be aware of plant communities that may be under pressure. Don’t harvest endangered or threatened plants. Check the “Species At-Risk List” maintained by the United Plant Savers.
  • Harvest in a way that promotes regrowth or makes minimal impact [i.e. taking twigs and branches as opposed to stripping bark from the main trunk of a tree; respecting the seasons for when it is better to harvest different parts of the plant; etc.]
  • For more detailed information, please read the Wildcrafting Checklist by Howie Brounstein, an early teacher of mine while studying at Michael Moore’s School.  He impressed on me not only the importance of respecting the responsibility we have as wildcrafters, but the true intimacy of it all.  In order to “Wildcraft Responsibly” you must  have a deep relationship with the plant communities you wish to harvest from.   

Atlanta Forage Calendar

The Atlanta Forage Calendar was created in partnership with Rambling Creations. The plants listed here are the edible and/ or medicinal herbs available in the Atlanta metro region throughout the course of the year.  Many of these are considered “weedy” or “invasive”, which basically means they’re plentiful!

Month-by-month Photo Guide

Foraging Resources

ATLANTA FORAGING

Atlanta Herb Forage Calendar by Herbalista and Rambling Creations

Food Map for Foraging in ATL created by Concrete Jungle

This google map is an ongoing project that strives to document food sources in the Atlanta metro area.  Specifically it identifies fruit and nut trees that are on public land to increase the publics food security.

FORAGE SAFETY

mulberrymadClick here to read Christina Boyes’ article on city foraging safety as researched by a team from Wellesley College and presented at the Geological Society of America.

The way that different plants absorb contaminants is still being studied, but roots and tubers usually have the highest lead and arsenic concentrations, followed by leafy greens like spinach and mustard. Fruits and seeds, on the other hand, are literally at the other end of the plant and tend to have the lowest likelihood of contamination,” said Ciaran Gallagher, a member of the team who is majoring in Environmental Chemistry.

Here is a link to the results of a recent study done by researchers in San Francisco entitled, “Weeds growing in poor city areas more nutritious than store-bought produce” that not only described the immense nutritive value of eating the weeds, but also attests to their safety, “After rinsing in water, the plants had no detectable levels of pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or heavy metals – all toxic substances that might have been expected in local environments.”

Check out this interview with Ava Chin who has a few recommendations for urban foraging, such as foraging in elevated areas away from buildings and roads, or if you tend to work a particular area for an extended period of time, consider some soil testing.