Last June, my partner discovered a raspberry bush straddling a parking lot and a church garden, which have both since been bulldozed and turned into an apartment building we cannot afford to live in. We went out picking after work when the evening sun filtered through the leaves and cast long shadows. The first time, we brought the fruit home in our summer hats. The second time, we came with containers.
The loss of the raspberries has troubled me more than I expected.
For us, urban foraging is one of city life’s small pleasures. (I say this, recognizing that for others, finding free food is a necessity, not a hobby.) Losing a parking lot isn’t typically framed as a social problem, except we’ve seen what it’s done to Capitol Hill, a neighborhood that lost its parking lots to housing developments for rich folks; not having free/cheap and easily accessible parking affects workers priced out of Seattle who have to drive, people who work when public transit isn’t running/consistent, and folks for whom public transit isn’t accessible. The loss of this raspberry bush is just another reminder that neighborhood is being swallowed whole by the developers who priced us out of Cap Hill, and that it is likely we’ll lose some of our blackberry bushes to the other new developments. Replacing our neighborhood brambles with manicured, inedible hellstrips for luxury apartments and businesses we can’t afford to patronize is a constant reminder of the fear we will be torn out, too.
The apartments we can’t afford almost never have balconies, either. Our balcony, my prized possession, is filled with pots of edible flowers, herbs, (the slowest) strawberries, and anything else that seems like it might grow here. My ideal potted plant is any weed or hardy herb that will keep on producing food year after year–mint, rosemary, chives–mainly because I’m still learning. Tomatoes flourish. Peas are questionable. We try to plant flowers and support our local bees since we cannot keep any. (Prior to dating, we thought we might retire together after outliving our past partners and keep bees. Now we are together, but bees aren’t covered in the lease.) My partner plants seedlings, taking great relish in handling the dirt. I prefer to water and weed the plants. The partial shade is mostly due to other buildings instead of trees. I miss owning a garden hose.
Thinking more about foraging, urban gardening, and food politics here:
Terrence McCoy. “After the Check is Gone.” The Washington Post. 16 October 2017.
The underground economy of foraging for roots in West Virginia to try to survive on insufficient disability benefits.
Natalie Dupille. “The Northwest Homegrown Guide to Urban Foraging.” The Seattle Weekly. 6 May 2017.
I just started listening to Seattle Urban Farm Company’s podcast Encyclopedia Botanica to learn more about small-scale gardening in the PNW.
The Beacon Food Forest in the Beacon Hill Neighborhood and is free for harvest.
Brett Hamil. “With 5,000 to feed every week, Cherry Street Food Bank seeks new home.” The Capitol Hill Blog. 16 March 2018.
Due to Trinity Parish Church selling the land to a condo developer…
Northwest Harvest is looking for community support in their quest to find a new home for the Food Bank. If you have information on a property, please contact Jordan Rubin at 206.923.7426. If you would like to make a monetary donation to help Northwest Harvest find a new home, please visit northwestharvest.org.
Melissa R. Poe, Joyce LeCompte, Rebecca McLain & Patrick Hurley (2014): Urban foraging and the relational ecologies of belonging, Social & Cultural Geography. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261758873_Urban_foraging_and_the_relational_ecologies_of_belonging [accessed Mar 25 2018].
Since my basil plant doesn’t produce enough leaves for large batches of pesto and pine nuts are expensive, I’ve been experimenting with alternative pestos. This also gives me the chance to try to use up extra herbs and greens, use more local ingredients, and to cut costs. The first one is not one of the cheaper pestos I’ve made, but it is stunning and local, utilizing two PNW ingredients: hazelnuts, which are grown in Oregon, and nettles, which are foraged here in the Puget Sound area. Nettle season is right around the corner, so tuck this in your Pinterest or back pocket for when you can buy or pick nettles.
This pesto is gorgeous in this pasta, but also goes well on pizza with spicy sausage and borage.
Pasta with Hazelnut-Nettle Pesto and Fresh Peas
Adapted from Nettle and Hazelnut Pesto Recipe,” The Practical Herbalist.
Yield: ~1 cup pesto
½ cup (75 g) roasted hazelnuts + extra for garnish
1 cup blanched nettles (~4 cups [100 g] fresh)*
¼ tsp sea salt
¾ cup (180 mL) olive oil
¾ cup (75 g) grated Parmesan
5 cloves garlic
Blender or food processor
- Blend all ingredients in the food processor or blender.
- Use ½ cup for the pasta; for the other half, put in a container, pour olive oil on the top, and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
16 oz (450 g) fresh beet pasta (go for a thicker noodle like linguini, pappardelle, or tagliatelle) OR ~12 oz (340 g) dried pasta
~1 cup (160 g) fresh peas
1/2 cup (125 mL) hazelnut-nettle pesto
- Boil pasta according to directions, and add peas in the last 2 minutes.
- Drain and rinse, then toss the pasta and peas with the pesto. Add more olive oil if needed.
- Garnish with crushed hazelnuts.
*Don’t try to boil the nettles, pasta, and peas together or in the same water. Nettles tend to have some debris (and bugs) attached, so I always boil mine separately so I can pour off anything that I didn’t rinse off the first time.
Other Nettle Recipes
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