Eat what you find: Community-supported foraging takes wildcrafting legit?


There is such a thing as a free lunch, if that lunch is blackberries and lemon balm tea. I've long been a fan of the concept of wildcrafting; in other words, picking wild stuff in public lands and right-of-ways, and taking it home to eat. A local guy takes interested foragers out on wild expeditions, in the city and out further afield (his clamdigging excursion is particularly popular), to eat food as the native ancestors did; by finding it and putting it in their mouths. And until today, I thought that was the only way anyone had devised to make a living from lovage, and other wild, freely-available stuff.

Until today. When I learned about community-supported foraging, a wildcrafter's take on the increasingly popular community supported agriculture, or CSA, in which consumers pay upfront for a portion of the harvest -- typically veggies and fruits, but growing in popularity to include all forms of agriculture, including eggs, dairy, beef, bison, you name it. The concept is this: by taking a share in the farm, you're just like an investor in a start-up; you provide capital to fund operations in the hopes that you'll reap an abundant payout (in carrots and tomatoes and blueberries). If spring is late or buggies eat the crops, your share may be little or nothing, but that's the "risk" part of risk/reward.

Iso Rabins has devised a truly different sort of CSA, part co-op, part farmer's market, part wildlife concierge. Through a "network of individual foragers," the ForageSF program delivers a bi-weekly box of wild stuff -- miner's lettuce, fish, wild mushrooms, wild onions, sea beans, New Zealand spinach, and "foraged oranges" were in last week's box -- to subscribers. (Don't worry, recipes are included.) Other than transportation costs, there are really no capital expenses for foragers (well, except for ocean fishermen), so the CSA concept seems a little mis-applied here. But it's a way of supporting the wildcrafting mission, without getting your hands dirty.

Is it authentic? Is it sustainable? I'm skeptical, but I guess if it helps the foragers pay their Bay Area rents, it works for them.