I was craving green salad but a bag or head of lettuce costs 2-3 dollars lately. So I did what any self-respecting “urban forager” would do- I strolled the 2 blocks over to Golden Gate Park (GGP) and picked a bag of Miner’s Lettuce. Miner’s Lettuce grows in the Western regions of the U.S. specifically in the wetter months, so there are lots of patches of it in the park right now. I know about it from my dad, who fancied himself a mountain man to the extent that he sometimes went deer hunting dressed in home-made clothes made from animal skins. Cool guy.
I brought the Miner’s Lettuce home, washed it well and ran it through my salad spinner, ushered a small spider out the window, and whipped up a little olive oil and mustard as a savory dressing. It went very well with my baked potato for dinner tonight. If you are wondering, it tasted more like spinach than a crunchy romaine or iceberg lettuce. As a bonus Miner’s Lettuce has Vitamin C in it, so the good news is that I am not likely to die of scurvy anytime soon.
I would have been eating more free things from the park, but March/April is not the best season for finding edible plants and I’m not going to chance liver or kidney damage by experimenting with some unknowns. Summertime though, is a different story because blackberries are in abundance in Golden Gate Park. Last September I picked GALLONS of blackberries, and had enough to store in my freezer for smoothies and sorbet during the winter.
There are plenty of people in my city who could use fresh fruit and Miner’s Lettuce (and dandelions are also edible), so I wonder how many hungry people take the bus over to GGP to forage for edibles? Smart people in Portland, Oregon created a website that informs people where to find edible fruits and plants on public lands (e.g. apricot tree at 4th and Main Streets)
Last summer (when I admittedly got a little free berry crazy) I never saw anyone else picking the berries, but I think there is something to this idea that if you know what to look for there are ways of eating healthily and adding a few wholesome foods to your diet. For free.