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Foraging in San Francisco

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Are there any resources out there that will tell me where to look for specific edible fruits or herbs in San Francisco? I'd like to know the good spots for harvesting things. Also, does anyone know a good spot to harvest a lot of wild blackberries in the summer? I've seen blackberry vines in Golden Gate Park and Lands End, but there isn't too much fruit on those. It'd be really great if I can harvest enough to make jam.

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  1. It's currently illegal to forage in SF or most of the rest of the Bay Area due to the Light Brown Apple Moth quarantine.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Please tell me more about this.

      1. re: michaelnrdx

        I found out about it when I posted a swap offer on veggietrader.com.

        http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/pdep/lba...

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Well, technically it's not illegal to forage, just to move the fruit from one place to another -- you can stand by the bush and eat all you want. :-) I wouldn't worry too much. Technically it's illegal, but state had neither the desire nor the manpower to enforce the law on foragers. And SF, the peninsula and Berkeley/Oakland are so deep within the quarantine area that as long as you stay in those areas you're nowhere near the buffer zones.

      2. re: Robert Lauriston

        I believe it's not illegal to forage in SF or in other SF Bay counties. It's illegal to transport the food (foraged from a park, or picked from a garden) across the quarantine lines. The map can be seen here:
        http://pi.cdfa.ca.gov/pqm/manual/pdf/...

        1. re: Kaytea Petro

          That's incorrect. "... 'host materials' cannot be moved within or from the area under quarantine ...." They're trying not just to confine the pest to the quarantine area but to eradicate it within that area.

          http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/pdep/lba...

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            According to the map, SF isn't in the quarantine area, so I can forage there.

            1. re: michaelnrdx

              You must be looking at an old map. Here's the current map of San Francisco County, which has been 100% in the quarantine zone for some time:

              http://pi.cdfa.ca.gov/pqm/manual/pdf/...

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                There's an even more recent one.

                http://pi.cdfa.ca.gov/pqm/manual/pdf/...

                The quarantine boundaries don't enclose San Francisco though. But regardless of the situation, I don't think anyone will actually stop me.

                1. re: michaelnrdx

                  No, the quarantine's not very aggressively enforced, which may be one reason the boundaries keep spreading.

              2. re: michaelnrdx

                The map is confusing -- San Francisco is not shown as within the red line because the whole county (as well as San Mateo County) is quarantined. That's what the red shading indicates (see the key on the bottom left).

        2. Forage SF leads walks. I have no experience with the group but hope to make it to one of their "underground markets."

          http://foragesf.com/wild-food-walks/

          1. I know several friends who grow fruit in their backyards, but cant keep up with the harvest. This site offers locations on members who are willing to share their fruit... for barter or perhaps just as a kind gesture. http://neighborhoodfruit.com/home

            There's a mycology club in SF that is really for hardcore shroom heads. You really have to be an expert in identifying mushrooms to forage yourself. They sometimes organize trips to forage wild edibile mushrooms. My father has heard stories of field trips where members struck the motherload and found pounds and pounds of morels. http://www.mssf.org/ (Porcini and candy caps are actually prevalent in SF.. if you can find them

            )

            I just read an article recently of an underground chef who does small gourmet meals in private homes. He really goes local... meaning within SF proper. Finding private gardens and even stealing chicken eggs from some backyard in the Mission. This is illegal of course, but he apparently leaves cash in the stoops. ;) Thought that was interesting.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Keesey

              Thank you for the Neighborhood Fruit website. There aren't too many listings for San Francisco though. I've heard about loquat trees near the Coit Tower, but they're not on the map, and I personally have seen many, many fruiting loquat trees in Berkeley. Next time I pass them, I will note the street and tag them on the map.

              Do you know other blackberry spots in SF? The website only lists the Buena Vista Park, but I've seen some in GGP too (though just a few vines, but there may be more where I haven't explored).

              1. re: michaelnrdx

                On the subject of blackberries, loquats, plums etc and where they can be located in San Francisco. I have found that Neighborhood Fruit works great when these things are in season.

                As I remember, Loquats come in from late May to July, Blackberries from June to mid Aug, and plums from mid May to late June.

                Last year, I was able to locate abundant and awsome plums, loquats and blackberries growing on public land through their fruit on public land map. I think that you can toggle from "in season" to "view all trees" so that you can have a sneak preview of coming attractions.

                This winter, I've been having a great time getting lemons that people offer from their back yards. Yum!

            2. It's not the season for blackberry, and it always seems to me that the ones in SF don't grow as big as in the east bay. Maybe not enough sun in the summer months.

              Currently, in the east bay and everywhere, you have a lot of wild green onions with small white flowers on top. Stems have a distinct triangle shape, and the flavor is sweeter and more fruity than commercial green onions. Definitely a lot in Lake Temescal and Tilden Park. Grows as weeds in people's front and backyards this time of year.

              Redwood Road where it intersects Skyline in Oakland has a very popular stand of blackberry bushes late summer. Other parts of the Tilden and other parks have huge sections on the roadsides.

              Miner's lettuce grows all around. I like it.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Jumbo_Jack

                Where should I look for blackberries if I venture into Tilden? I'd like to collect enough for jam in the summer.

                1. re: michaelnrdx

                  They're usually mixed in with poison oak.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Thanks. I'll be sure to dive into them.

                  2. re: michaelnrdx

                    You might want to check on the legality of "collecting" in public parks. A lot of public parks operate on the "sure it's okay if one person does it, but it wouldn't be okay if everyone did it, so no one can do it" basis. Also, you'd be taking fruit that would otherwise be eaten by birds and other wildlife.

                    If you wander around the East Bay hills there are lots of blackberries on public rights of way.

                  3. re: Jumbo_Jack

                    How do you eat the miner's lettuce? In salad as the name would imply? There's a ton of it growing where I work, and I've been tempted to try it but wasn't sure what to do with it!

                    1. re: Constant Velocity

                      Yes, raw in a salad like lettuce. It's delicious! Try to pick the ones that haven't bloomed yet.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        What do they taste like?

                        1. re: michaelnrdx

                          A little like mache.

                      2. re: Constant Velocity

                        Good miner's lettuce is tender and juicy. It has a delicate flavor. Eat it raw or in a lightly dressed salad. I've tried it cooked, but doesn't seem to hold up well.

                        It works well in preventing scurvy.

                    2. Blackberries are everywhere. You can find them on pretty much any country road in Sonoma, Napa, or along the San Mateo coast. I don't know if there is a method to tracking down the more productive patches -- I just know they are pretty common and when you hit one at the right time you'll have gallons of fruit. Definitely bring gardening gloves and cover up since you'll have to wade through poison oak and whack through the thorns to reach the best patches.

                      1. The Oakland hills, say up and around skyline blvd or the top of Keller or Golf Links is full of wonderful fernbrake. Enough to walk through fields and be able to pick just the delicate ends and buds off. A hardworking afternoon can get you a bushel full.

                        While there are some fresh dishes to be made, it's most often dried and used in Korean gosari-namul. It's also super expensive when you purchase it, and not often seen in the free banchan at restaurants anymore.

                        There was a period, about 15-20 years ago when new fancy houses were being built in the hills, that the practice of foraging was actively discouraged. All the new rich folk weren't so happy seeing scores of Asian folk walking around on their hillside and spoiling the view. So some rangers and police were sent up there to write a few tickets and send people on their way.

                        I really haven't heard of much fuss recently. Some of the land is public parkland up there, some of it is just wild.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Jumbo_Jack

                          Here's a photo of the fiddlehead ferns that the mushroom vendor at the Santa Rosa Farmers market had for sale last Saturday. He said they grown wild on his property in Occidental.
                          http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...