Urban Foraging in San Francisco: Fruits and Veggies in the City

Food Lovers, San Francisco — By NileGuide staff on May 18, 2009 at 10:36 am

Foraging for food is one of the most amazing things ever. You connect spiritually with your hunter-gatherer ancestors, you understand where your food comes from, and you eat locally and seasonally. Urban foraging, however, is disgusting. Especially if you live in a gritty city. Like, say, San Francisco. Okay, so not all parts are gritty, but you definitely don’t want to pick any fruits or vegetables growing at or below waist level, especially if you don’t like the flavor of pee (sorry, it had to be said).

But for you less hygienic types, here are a few things urban foraging is good for:

Nasturtiums: These pretty little orange and yellow flowers grow out of pavement cracks and in medians.  They have a lovely peppery taste and are delicious in a salad. You could even impress your friends by  throwing one in a cocktail. But wash them well. Very, very well. Nasturtiums tend to grow where dogs like to mark their territory.

Blackberries: In San Francisco, these grow wild all over Golden Gate Park, Buena Vista Park, and in the Presidio, and can be very sweet. Aim for the higher branches when you find a bush, and mind the thorns.

Dandelion Greens: These are a real find at a city park. You’d pay good money for dandelion greens at a vegetable market. They are a bitter green, and lovely sauteed in olive oil with maybe some potatoes.

Sage and Rosemary. These two very fragrant herbs can be used to flavor pasta or a meat dish. What’s more, they are very easy to find. Rosemary bushes grow all over Twin Peaks. And I think I’ve seen sage at Ocean Beach.

Random bits of hummus, pita corners, tortilla chip crumbs, sandwich crusts, pieces of pizza topping: If you don’t like nasturtiums, blackberries, dandelion greens, or sage and rosemary, simply go to Dolores Park on a sunny Saturday or Sunday and look for bits of food between the overwhelming number of sunbathing bodies. You’re sure to find some discarded or forgotten picnic treats. A couple of tips though: 1) Remember that dogs love Dolores Park. And, 2) if you dress/speak/act like a hipster, you might even ‘find’ some beer. Now that’s what I’d call urban foraging.

Photo courtesy of audreyjm529/Creative Commons
Tags: Dolores Park, Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, San Francisco, urban foraging


  • Alexi says:

    I’ve also “liberated” a lemon or two from my neighbor’s always over-laden lemon tree. I figure, better to be baked into scones with me than to rot in the gutter, right?

  • Graham Master Flash says:

    You can also snag some lemons from the lemon tree in the backyard of El Rio when no one’s watching. Careful because they’re kindof high up and it only seems like a good idea after you’re a few beers in!

  • Jasper says:

    Don’t forget fennel – it grows everywhere and is delicious. – Also, there’s a strong movement in San Francisco right now for Urban permaculture such as the lot at 18th and Rhode Island, http://18thandrhodeisland.org – There’s just been a bumper crop of Fava beans which were very tasty and they’ve just planted fruit trees. Most of the food grown at this location goes to The Free Farm Stand.

  • Brad says:

    I picked a snap pea out of what looked to be human excrement, washed it off, and had it with a 2005 Bordeaux. Can you say ‘YUM’?! For those in the know, there is a stretch of terrain under the 101 off-ramp near Cesar Chavez where there is a homeless city. OMG is the plant life rich in there. Sure, I run the risk of being stabbed, not to mention contracting a gut-stripping disease or ingesting rat poison, but it’s worth it for that half-Tupperware portion of carbon-coated leaves that takes me 90 minutes to gather. Thanks, Urban Foraging!


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